PRIDETT supporters spoke and sang their praises of murdered playwright Raymond Choo Kong at a celebration of his life at Little Carib Theatre, Woodbrook, on Friday night.
Organiser Rudolph Hanamji said, "At last year's Pride, Raymond, for the first time in his life said he was finally comfortable to say publicly he was a gay man."
Hanamji said he looked up to Choo Kong as an elder of the LGBT community, just as Godfrey Sealy, Cyrus Sylvester and Denny James. He recalled the quest to ask LBGT elders to publicly "come out" so as to inspire younger individuals. "Raymond was in two minds about it." Hanamji said LGBT youngsters need to know more about LGBT elders, even as he himself was tired of living in a society that only posthumously honours its achievers. While many young LGBT people have considered suicide, now they can see there exists an LGBT legacy and that there is hope. "Pride is about spotlighting that positive contribution we make to TT. Raymond and others took that final step to know their truth, helping young people." The event saw two clips of Choo Kong.
Firstly, in a friendly group chat, he spoke about coming to terms with with homosexuality which he had kept secret until his mid thirties. "I never felt a need to 'come out,'" Choo Kong said, "And no need to apologise for my existence." Saying he was "a hot boy in Arima" with many girlfriends, he said he acknowledged his homosexuality to himself when he travelled the world, having his first gay experience in a park in Brisbane, Australia one rainy night.
"I regret the hurt passed on to all those girls who had felt I was in love with them," he said in the video-clip. "I just lived my life. I had not needed to explain anything to anyone. Live smart. Live deliberately. Embrace your good and bad experiences." The second clip showed Choo Kong in the play Norman Is That You? emotively saying,"To think my son, Norman, is a bullerman."
Hanamji saluted Raymer Diaz for crafting a memorial decoration for Choo Kong, months after Diaz had been bereaved by the drowning death of his husband Edwin Erminy, National Drama Association head.
Jeanine Clarke, who sang, I know where I have been, by Queen Latifah said Choo Kong had taught her since age six. "He was more than a director. He was a mentor, a father figure. He explained to me it was okay to 'come out." I'm bisexual. I was married for three years and came out 12 years ago." Janine said Choo Kong's had left behind grandchildren and a great grandchild. "I was angry the whole week. I'm in shock. We are all still trying to deal with it." A man known as Rainy Weather described Choo Kong's edginess. "He could smile when cutting you down, and you'd say, 'It's just Raymond.'"
Jabari Taitt regretted not taking drama lessons from Choo Kong, but was glad to have worked as a theatre technician. "He was really amazing and the kindest person. He was very respectful. He actually cared." Elijah said Choo Kong had accepted him for who he was. "I don't know how to deal with this. The week has been a blur. This has been a selfish week; I am angry. Raymond is love. He taught us how to live in the moment."
One speaker introduced as Jake had met Choo Kong just weeks ago. "He sparked an energy in me that I didn't know I had. Raymond was courageous and brave and the first to do many things for the community, before I was born."