Monday, March 7, 2011

good deeds ~ shoot 'dem like birds

this week's good deed is coming to you from one of my dear friends here in los angeles, and is a cause which is very close to my heart.  the hatred and prejudice which gay, lesbian, & transgender people regularly experience was recently brought to the world's attention when multiple young people committed suicide in reaction to their awful experiences.
in response, thousands of it gets better videos immediately sprung up, telling people to hang in there, that life really does get easier.  i loved seeing how many people rallied to support their fellow men & women, and we are so lucky to live in a place where it DOES get better.

but what if it didn't?  what if you were living in a culture and a country where, instead of getting better, it got worse?  
what if you had to keep who you were a secret because if anyone found out you were gay, you would be publicly stoned and mutilated in the streets while the entire city rejoiced?  and what if there was no one to help you because the people who would care, don't know this is happening?

this sort of horrific place that i'm talking about is not a "what if," it's real.  this place is jamaica.

one of my good friends, leslie, a documentary filmmaker, is currently raising money to shed light on this darkness.  he's planning a trip to jamaica this spring to begin working on a film, shoot 'dem like birds, which will show the world what is happening there.

 leslie was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his film:

can you give a brief description of what shoot 'dem like birds is?
Shoot 'Dem Like Birds is a documentary that will tell the story of LGBTQ Jamaicans and how difficult and dangerous it is to be gay in Jamaica.

what does your title, shoot 'dem like birds, mean?
The title of the film "Shoot 'Dem Like Birds" comes from the lyrics of a reggae song by Elephant Man. The entire line goes: "Battyman fi dead!/Please mark we word/Gimme tha tech-nine/Shoot dem like bird." "Battyman" is a derogatory word for gay men; we felt that the title was especially poignant in its imagery and the fact that "birds" is also a slang term for gay men. Jay Horniouchi, our illustrator, did a fantastic job of interpreting this as a metaphor. We've been using his image of two wounded birds intertwined as the logo and title  for the film. 

what inspired you to make this documentary?
There were a few factors that really convinced me and my film collective, Traveling Muse Pictures, that this was an important story to tell. I mean, for one thing, most people have no idea that this is happening in Jamaica. I certainly had no idea until around 2004, when I read an article in The Guardian newspaper about gay activist Brian Williamson, who was brutally murdered. What made his death even more sickening is that after his body was found, a mob gathered around the body dancing and singing. 

Our film collective's goal is to tell the stories of people who don't have a voice--to give them a voice. What better opportunity than the LGBTQ community in Jamaica to do that?

are there any complications or dangers with making the film?
We've been warned about the dangers of telling this story by folks living in Jamaica. This is the first time I've ever created a budget where the "emergency funds" aren't there just in case a camera breaks! We may have to slip out of the country if we make the wrong people angry. But at least we can leave! Imagine how it is for people who don't have the money to escape and seek asylum in the UK or US.

what are you hoping will happen as a result of making shoot 'dem like birds?
We hope that more people will know about these amazing and heartbreaking stories, that the voices of these courageous people are heard by more and more people, and that we can be part of a movement to change what has gone on for so long in the dark.

is there anything else you want people to know?
First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to read this, that's so important to me and the rest of the team. If you can, please donate, we need your help to be able to create this film. Please spread the word, and if you know anyone who wants to tell their own story, who is connected to this story, please let us know!


what you can do:
please take a minute and head over to their fundraising page.  while you are there, you can check out the promo video, get more information, and donate to the cause. there are options to donate $5 and $10, as well as higher amounts. when you think about it, $5 is just a morning latte, or a magazine, and $10 is a quick lunch out.  but to a good cause, it's one step closer to making the world a better place.  every little bit that you can give counts!

you can also help leslie give voice to these unheard stories by...
* spreading the word to others who may want to help fund this project.
* spreading the word to your company/job, which may be looking for tax-deductable charities.
* contacting traveling muse if you have questions, want to share an encouraging word, or have your own story connected to this film.

 i'm sure in a couple months i'll be hitting you guys up for your positive thoughts and prayers when leslie leaves for jamaica.  we're all holding our breaths in the hope that he'll be safe as he makes such a controversial, but important film to help those who are being .


  1. Wow thanks so much for letting us know about this. Jamaica has a big spot in the hearts of myself and my family. Good luck to Leslie!!

  2. I think it's so wildly important that filmmakers are doing films like this. There's so much that goes on outside the public eye that people really do need to know about. Once we know we can try to help change things. I'll spread the word.

  3. It's always great to see others working hard and speaking up about what they care about. So often people just don't know what's going on in the world. And if only Jamaica was the only place like this, but there are so many countries where it is illegal to be gay. When they started the "It Gets Better" campaign I kept thinking,... no, it doesn't, not always/for everyone. Keep us filled in!

  4. I have a few gay friends but I guess it's the society's perspective that makes them hold back.Things that related to religion and stuff like that but I just don't want to go deeper. Religion is always a sensitive issue to start with.

    I know it's not easy for them to fight for their rights but as long they are happy, I'm happy for them.

  5. It always breaks my heart to see such hatred in the world. I get it- some people don't have the same beliefs as others but why is one life of more value than another? And who ever gave them the right to judge if a life is valuable or not. Makes me so sick and sad.

    I hope Leslie comes back safe.

  6. it is heartbreaking that this kind of discrimination still lives and thrives. but it is encouraging that people are trying to shed light on it and STOP IT.

    will head over and give a little dinero -- it is the least i can do.

  7. what a wonderful cause for such an awful realization and fate. i admire your friend and will be praying for him in his efforts. it's because of people like leslie that peace and hope exist in this jaded world. have a beautiful week:)

  8. What a great project. Such an important pov to be included in the conversation.
    Oh, I can not phantom why people are so nasty because someone loves someone of the same sex/gender! It is truly heartbreaking. However, it is so positive for people to be speaking out and telling their stories(especially in a intolerant space). I will definitely check this out and keep it in my prayers.

  9. There are - unfortunately - too many places in the world where you *can't* be openly gay/lesbian/transgender/bisexual.
    Your friend's documentary sounds great - a worthy subject.
    p.s Did I ever mention to you that my own boy is a filmmaker? Therefore, I think its wonderful that Leslie is able to gain the support - the financial support especially - for her cause. Its so expensive to make actual films.

  10. i love that you constantly remind people to do good... congrats!!

  11. I am saddened that the hatred and discrimination still thrives in this day and age. Good for you that you post about it, and amazingly brave of Leslie. Will watch this space for more updates.
    A xx

  12. I'm interested in seeing this documentary. I guess Jamaica wouldnt be the first place I would think of when sexual discrimination comes up. So I am shocked. I'll be keeping an eye open for this. Thanks!

  13. Many moons ago I was working as a content writer with a travel agency and I remembering hearing this about Jamaica (also b/c two girls I am very good friends with were told by their agent that they shouldn't book a trip together and stay in the same room. And yes, they are gay). I'm so glad your friend is raising awareness for such an important cause.

    All my best wishes to him in his efforts to make this important documentary.