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

A woman speaks to a group
DCM Laura Griesmer opens the session

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

The program 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 Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, 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 must do more to end violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community — in the United States, the Eastern Caribbean, and around the world.

“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 program and the discussions they generate are effective ways to promote the kind of integration and inclusion that foster more equitable and just societies.”