Friday, November 23, 2012

My life as an activists in Belize

Posted November 23rd, 2012

I wrote as from back as 1997 in my personal diary, that I wanted to get my bachelor degree by age 30 and be a historical figure in Belize.What I did not know at the time was how it would happen for the latter. When I started this wor,k it was back in late 2004, with PASMO or the Pan American Social Marketing Organization. It was there, as a health educator I learnt quickly that HIV prevention, Care and Treatment issues for the men who have sex with men population required an organized voice. The first phase of developing the voice came with the effort to conduct a multi-centric study that was being led by the Ministry of Health. Then epidemiologist Paul Edwards brought a person from the CDC and he explained to the guys the concept of a MSM organization. We didnt know at the time, but we were setting the foundation of an organization. Persons like Fernando Novelo, Alex Avalos, Willaim Smith, Jerry Mendoza were the first be exposed to the Ministry of Health information on the research and the idea of developing an organization. The results, led to the creation of Unidad 96, through my connections with PASMO, we did activity centered education at Fernando Novelos house for the first time.

As time past and individuals changed addresses, we eventually moved the work to Belize City, in 2006. At a meeting on February 16th, 2006 at the National Development Foundation of Belize Building on Coney Drive, with the help of the UNFPA coordinator Arnulfo Kantun, 16 gay men came together to frame the idea of an national organizations for LGBT persons. The name became UniBAM or the United Belize Advocay Movement. At the time we used Allaince Against AIDS resources to arranage the meeting. Ronnie Bradley, Dennis Belgrave, Alex Avalos, Delbert Quilter, Edision Flowers, Bra was there and many more persons. As a group, they recognised that we needed a group that could represent everyone.

After the meeting, the Arnulfo Kantun led the way to do lasagna, the result of that effort was the rasing of the first $300 that was saved towards legal incorporation. The rest came from Arnulfo Kantun, Norman Bonnel, Elisa Castellanos and Dr. Paul Edwards. Together with my sister who worked at the Law firm of Lionel Welch, she gave me a precedent documents, directions about the Company Registry and costing for registration. I then pulled the documents together using the PASMO legal documents as reference and filed the papers at the Company Registry in April, 2006. This took one day to get done, but the non-governmental status took a few weeks to be completed as the person was on vacation. When this was done, my brother, Jared Orozco, borrowed money to buy a computer, an office table and he got an office chair donated from  Belize Telecommunications. He did not stop there, he paid directly, internet for three months. This allowed me to search for funds and in October, we have never looked back.

In 2007, the work of section 53 began with Tracy Robinson of the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project. This meeting took place in Santo Domingo in 2007 at a human rights meetings with UNDP. There, she shared they had worked on a constitutional assessment and found that Belize had the most liberal constitution in the Caribbean. She explained they needed a claimant and I said I was ready like " yesterday." We used ovoo to video chat on the papers that needed to file and on strategy while they were in Barbados. The only side effect was that they spoke to me on a bad hair day.

We emailed back and forth documents, and eventually found a local lawyer to support the process. This was Lisa Shoman, who met with a larger regional human rights group in Port of Spain at the UNAIDS office. There we strategiesed further on the issue. Fastforeward to 2010 when the first set of papers where filed and then the trouble started, with PlusTV vilification of the LGBT community using bad science and logic to create an intensification of hate in the community. Prior to this, we had been quietly accumulating non-binding resolutions at the OAS, writting shadow reports, attending regional meetings in Washington, the Caribbean, documenting statements from the political reform commission and lending support to UN resolutions etc. We used the local spaces at the National AIDS Commission to ensure that our message was heard.

The personnal cost was intense social isolation, threats, imitations, daily insults and knowing that I had the evangelical screaming at the Battlefield park and the Churches involved with my case was now an issue of David verses Goliath.  Knowing that I cannot walk in large crowds in Belize City, like Carnival, go to clubs, or walk the street without worry about who would stone me or do some other physical harm. My car has become the center of my security. So when that does not have gas, I worry. Having a bike is the next mobile plan. I worry that my organization will fail and thatI will not be able to get any money and that i would be poor and broke in my old age. So I just pray that I can live comfortably and in good health and simply hope  I could reach age 50. As bold individuals like me dont reach 50 without being killed. Harvey Milk is such an example. My mom watches me each and every time as I walk into my gate and my sister Golda is a fire cracker who defends me like no other. The one good example was her grabbing her crutch and telling a man who was yelling homphobic remarks at me that his mouth worse than she "poke." The sad thing is we dont know if she poke is pretty or ugly. I also noticed my mom does not like me to go to shops which is often right around the croner. Still, as an almost 39 year old to be on December 5th, 2012, such fears cannot freeze everything. Though I will admit that buying toilett paper sometimes is a chore to do.

Relationships, are non-existent as I have no love to call my own and I am not sure if I will ever fine love that is honest and reciprocated. This really is the true cost of the work, as I may be sick or be dying and will have to do it alone. While I am sure family will be next to my side, it seems feeling alone and being alone has a degree of difference. I am now called UniBAM by the ignorant, but may never be called with the comment," this is my partner, my love!" I suppose I may have to accept that sleeping next to my pillow is the most consistent thing in my life right now, but it would have been nice to have had someone I knew loved me and could love me back simply by being there. It seems to be the most famous gay person in this country can also mean that it is the most lonely place to be. As I have my haters and I have my supporters. It can be a bit much trying to decipher how to response and remain grounded. Yet I do!Yet I do!

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