‘Inclusion’ Aims To Support LGBTQ+ Youth

August 25, 2022 | 3 Comments

[Written by Stephen Wright]

When Onuri Smith set up Inclusion Bermuda – a non-profit organisation empowering and inspiring the island’s LGBTQ+ youth – he imagined how he as a youngster could have benefitted from greater guidance and support.

Still only 19 years old, Mr Smith admits he experienced homophobic abuse growing up in Bermuda and hopes Inclusion can “help build a rainbow of hope” for those teenagers still “living in darkness” because of their sexuality.

Although Inclusion is very much in its embryonic stages, Mr Smith has exciting plans for the organisation – which aims to provide education, awareness, advocacy and opportunities – including a weeklong retreat and support group for LGBTQ+ youth.

“I came up with Inclusion based on my own experiences being born and raised in Bermuda, under an oppressive society and having experienced verbal and physical abuse [because of my sexuality],” Mr Smith told Bernews.

Inclusion Bermuda August 2022 (1)

“I was thinking about how I could turn my own story and passions into an initiative. I wanted to create something where I could show up for the previous version of myself and help those who may be experiencing the same things I did.”

While Mr Smith believes there has been a gradual positive shift in attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community on the island, he said homophobia is still far too prevalent, including the common use of derogatory slurs and outdated ideologies passed down from generation to generation.

“There’s still a long way [for Bermuda] to go, especially as it relates to the LGBTQ+ youth and sex education,” said Mr Smith, who attends the prestigious Italia Conte Academy of Theatre Arts in London.

“Growing up, I experienced a lack of acceptance, bullying and blunt homophobia. Grown men, especially, made me feel very unsafe and unwelcome. I remember being at the bus terminal, wearing my school uniform, and having a man using gay slurs towards me and telling me to leave. That scared me.

“It’s hard when people only see you based on your sexuality because there are so many more layers to me than that.

“Since moving overseas, I’ve realised the treatment I received as a teenager was not just.”

Inclusion Bermuda August 2022 (2)

Mr Smith, a former Warwick Academy student, will be attending his first Bermuda Pride this week and believes the event sends a strong “subconscious message to the LGBTQ+ community that we are accepted, there is space for us, and we are worthy of being loved.”

He adds: “Pride is such an important outlet for the LGBTQ+ community. This will be my first Pride Bermuda as I have been overseas [for the previous events]. I’m excited about volunteering at Pride Parade on Saturday.

“Before Bermuda Pride [which started in 2019], there was no acceptance, no [positive] signals for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Many people have had to hide that side of themselves and never come out. As a result, it has a negative ripple effect on their lives.”

Mr Smith said there will be Inclusion merchandise available at Bermuda Pride, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, with all funds going towards upcoming youth development programmes and initiatives.

Any organisation interested in partnering with Inclusion Bermuda can message Mr Smith on Instagram @inclusionbda and you can also visit the website to learn more.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Community First says:

    I admire this young man’s vision and courage to step in and support inclusion in Bermuda.

    We see too many examples of exclusion in our politics and our wider community. I hope he is able to attract support and that everyone has a wonderful, safe meaningful PRIDE weekend.

  2. Geoff says:

    ..inclusion.. but them people do the most to stand out

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