U.S. Em­bassy hosts in­ter­ac­tive pro­gramme to pre­vent LGBTI hate crimes

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

On June 14, U.S. Em­bassy Bridgetown hosted an in­ter­ac­tive pro­gramme aimed at pro­mot­ing tol­er­ance and pre­vent­ing hate crimes against the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der and in­ter­sex (LGBTI) com­mu­nity.

The pro­gramme fea­tured a screen­ing of the award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary Matt Shep­ard is a Friend of Mine, fol­lowed by an in­ter­ac­tive we­bchat fea­tur­ing the U.S. De­part­ment of State’s Spe­cial En­voy for the Hu­man Rights of LGBTI Per­sons Randy Berry, film­maker Michele Jo­sue, who is the di­rec­tor and writer of the doc­u­men­tary, and Ja­son Mars­den, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Matthew Shep­herd Foun­da­tion. They dis­cussed the chal­lenges, as well as the progress, of LGBTI is­sues around the world, how the U.S. gov­ern­ment and ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Matthew Shep­ard Foun­da­tion ac­tively pro­mote the hu­man rights of LGBTI per­sons, and how dia­logue can be en­hanced through cul­tural ex­changes such as sto­ry­telling.

Matthew Shep­ard was a 21-year-old stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Wy­oming who was bru­tally at­tacked and killed for be­ing gay in a hate crime in 1998. His death sparked a dis­cus­sion across the United States about how to end hate crimes against mem­bers of the LGBTI com­mu­nity.

Dur­ing the in­ter­ac­tive ses­sion, which was held at the U.S. Em­bassy in Wildey, St. Michael, an au­di­ence com­posed of mem­bers of the LGBTI com­mu­nity, gen­der spe­cial­ists, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, and other mem­bers of civil so­ci­ety par­tic­i­pated in a global we­bchat on ways to pro­mote tol­er­ance, end dis­crim­i­na­tion, and pre­vent hate crimes.

Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mis­sion to Bar­ba­dos, the East­ern Caribbean, and the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of East­ern Caribbean States Laura Gries­mer de­liv­ered brief re­marks to the au­di­ence, saying, “The tragic shoot­ings in Or­lando two days ago re­mind us once again how quickly even the small­est spark of ha­tred can ig­nite a firestorm of vi­o­lence and ter­ror. Across the United States and the world, we can and we must ex­tin­guish this ha­tred with love and ac­cep­tance.”

Ms. Gries­mer re­it­er­ated that so­ci­eties around the world must do more to end vi­o­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion against the LGBTI com­mu­nity.

“Through grant fund­ing and tar­geted pro­gram­ming, U.S. Em­bassy Bridgetown part­ners with civil so­ci­ety groups to pro­mote equal ac­cess to op­por­tu­nity for all marginal­ized groups,” Ms. Gries­mer said. “Events such as this in­ter­ac­tive pro­gramme and the dis­cus­sions they gen­er­ate are ef­fec­tive ways to pro­mote the kind of in­te­gra­tion and in­clu­sion that foster more eq­ui­table and just so­ci­eties.”

Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mis­sion to Bar­ba­dos, the East­ern Caribbean, and the OECS Laura Gries­mer (stand­ing) de­liv­ers re­marks to par­tic­i­pants at the U.S. Em­bassy’s in­ter­ac­tive pro­gramme to pre­vent LGBTI hate crimes.

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