It was only a few shorts months ago back in December when reports initially hit the global scene detailing the tragic reality that many of New Kingston, Jamaica’s LGBT youth were living in the city’s sewer systems after being kicked out of their homes and discarded by their communities.
Making matters even more grim was the fact that the homeless youths were being routinely arrested and harassed by the police as well as angry homophobic mobs, who could attack them at any time.
Now, after months of raids and attacks, a Kingston court has ruled that youths can legally stay in the sewer systems.
Activist Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, who is chair of the planned LGBT shelter Dwayne’s House, gave an account to 76crimes.com and explained that the last raid occurred, ironically, on March 5, Ash Wednesday, when New Kingston police entered the sewers and demanded that the youth leave. The youth, however, refused and some put up a struggle as they simply had nowhere else to go. Some of the youth were arrested for resisting eviction and some were even charged for using swear words, which is illegal in Jamaica.
Police had previously gone so far as to try and burn the youth out of the sewers and had even run them out of the abandoned buildings they were occupying when they weren't in the sewers. Police have now completely torn those abandoned buildings down to stop any chance of the youths coming back. Sadly, that's also helped to keep the youths in a permanent state of homelessness.
When the youths appeared in court two days later, a judge fined them for their “calumnious language.” However the judge also advised the police that the sewers are a public space and therefore the youths have a right to reside there.
Dwayne’s House paid the small fines for the youths, and in what could only be described as an utterly bizarre and tragic victory, the youths have now returned to the sewers with the hope that they will be left alone by police.
As I wrote in my original article on this matter, this scenario frighteningly mirrors the plight of the fictional X-Universe group The Morlocks, a bizarre, unique and discarded group of mutants who lived in the sewers of Manhattan because they didn't fit in with either humans or human-looking mutants.
Like these youths in Jamaica, The Morlocks were constantly criticized and discriminated against when they walked into the light with the rest of the world and even when they stayed underground in the sewers, they were susceptible to attacks from anti-mutant groups. Sadly, in the X-Men comics, help came to late for the The Morlocks and their group was brutally massacred in their sewer home by, of all things, a group of mercenary mutants.
It’s mind blowing that in the real world a group of young men and women are so oppressed and unwanted by their community that the main issue surrounding the governments response to them isn’t how they can be aided before even more disastser strikes or how to change th mindsets of citizens to allow for a society that values human life over judgment and irrational hate, instead it's how and where the powers that be in New Kingston can dump these youths off and relieve themselves of responsibility in the matter.
The shining light in the matter is the tenacity and resilience of these youths to stay alive as well as the efforts of a activists like those at Dwayne's House who are trying to create a safe space in Jamaica for these youths and advocate for their rights and their existence.
I just hope that life doesn't imitate art first and that these youths don't end up massacred and forgottten before real help arrives.
If you'd like information on how to donate to Dwayne's House you can check out their website here.
Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK