What would be the implication for, or interpretation of, Kenita Placide winning that poll? Just asking!” was one of the early comments to be posted on the STAR website poll for the People’s Choice Person of the Year. It came from one of island’s most opinionated, cyber-garrulous Facebook-pinez, but I thought it was a fair enough question.
One response very concisely stated and captured the type of evolving attitudes we need to see more of in Saint Lucia, the most succinct of them being: “I hope it would be an indication to the wider community that she is not alone in the causes for which she advocates.”
Simple but so very important in a region where many countries wouldn’t even entertain including an gender rights advocate like Kenita Placide in such a poll.
Another comment read: “If Kenita wins, it’s the voice of the silent majority that’s not represented by any other person or political, media or religious group in our society. Ignoring one spectrum of society creates disillusion and the problems continue to manifest. United and Strong is a body seeking to create an awareness within our society, not a political movement, not for fame or cash. It’s a body that will stand up for the rights of individuals that make up our community. Speaking up does not categorise you, but ignorance exposes the ills of a nation.”
The STAR Editorial team was really interested to see how our shortlist of Peoples’ Choice potentials would go, but I’ll admit to being surprised when Kenita went ahead of the poll early on, and stayed there quite consistently. Her closest
rival at first was the very deserving Gaspard Henry of Feed the Poor Ministry, who was later overtaken by UWP leader Allen Chastanet in a late flurry of voting.
Her name is not unknown in Saint Lucia and she is becoming very well-known in LGBTI advocacy circles further afield, but in all our conversations over the past year, Kenita Placide’s attitude has been humble, and she insists it’s not about her name or her personal contribution, but advocating for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Intersex people, and the fight against discrimination of people just because of who they love.
In a brief interview after the poll ended and results were final, it was a modest but determined Kenita who sat down and chatted about what the STAR People’s Choice award meant to her personally, and the ongoing advocacy of United & Strong Inc, of which she is Co-Executive Director.
STAR: What has it been like watching the poll, and were you surprised at the result?
KP: I was in Suriname at a meeting of a women’s group, and everyone seemed to know about it. It made me realize that many people knew about the work that we are doing in Saint Lucia at United & Strong Inc. We had an evening where persons were saying to me “it’s an honour to meet you – we’ll be voting for you”, so the news really went around the region.
STAR: There was a lot of positivity and support online, but did you get any negative feedback?
KP: When someone on Facebook asked what it would mean if I won, a lot of other people answered for me. It’s one thing for Kenita Placide to be nominated, but it’s really important that the work United & Strong does locally has been recognised – the fact that we have been educating and sensitising people on the issues, for me it feels like now it’s not totally falling on deaf ears, it means that some persons are understanding what we are saying.
I realise that although we get a lot of negative comments, by educating and informing, we have helped to make some of their lives much, much easier. It’s one thing to be afraid of what you do not know, it’s another to take some time to understand about the issues.
STAR: I know you are humble and emphasise that the win is about United & Strong, but how do you feel about it personally?
KP: No really, in my heart it is (about U&S). Sometimes I have to put ‘me’ aside and remember it’s not all about my intent. Yes I have the passion to drive it, but
that energy and synergy comes from the community I’m in, and wanting to ensure that some of the ills happening around the world don’t happen here. Even with some of the ills we do have here, how do we change it, engage (people) and make it better? Right now I feel in a transition and am like, wow, this is more than me – because really and truly it’s the community that has pushed me to be here and I can’t take the credit.
STAR: What strategy and activities do you think we’ll see from United & Strong in 2014?
KP: Once I heard the PM speak at a youth conference about collecting data and evidence when we’re doing work, and one thing we can do is carry out more surveys, gather more data, analyse it and present it, so when we speak, people will know we’re not talking out of thin air.
When a crime against LGBT is reported people say “well it happens to everybody, so why are they special”, but you know we should never be comfortable with any crime happening, regardless of who it happens to. This is some of the thinking we need to change.