“A few months ago Trinnie told me that he would die in Kakuma, I hoped that he would get to a place of safety and would be able to live his life in the way that so many people take for granted. I despair that he has suffered such a cruel brutal assault and that Trinidad’s life has been cut short by homophobia and neglect. I am thinking particularly of his friends in Kakuma who are now grieving while living in fear for their own lives.
Rest in peace Trinidad Jerry ?”
– Gareth Lee, 14 April 2021.
I’m only thirty years but have seen some life,
A far cry from the worst and yet so close to it
I know the pain,
Of getting heart broken and the honour,
Of being entrusted with handsome boy’s virginity.
I know how it feels to score,
One hundred percent in an exam and how it feels to score,
Zero percent in the same exact subject just a few years ago,
I know how it means to transition from being a golden son to being a family embarrassment
I know how it feels about suicide and romantacize about it,
To actually consider it and finally try it out,
And I know what it means to spend the rest of your life waiting,
For something you do not understand …I know the narrow path.
I know first hand about depression, anxiety and PTSD,
And I know how enough time might heal those wounds,
And I know how how to have a mountain moving faith and how you can lose it,
And I know the intensity of the grief you experience when you lose loved one
If I ever say that I need to know how it feels to pass the gift of life,
Please do not ask me why
Because I do not have a such idea how to answer a such question
– Trinidad Jerry, last posting on Facebook
Before being attacked with firebomb.
On 3 May 2021, US President Joe Biden announced that he was raising to record levels the number of refugees who would be admitted to the USA. This is a highly commendable, humane and civilised act. I commend the President for this announcement and I offer my humble support as a world citizen for the honouring of such humanitarian principles. I hope that Biden’s nobility in this matter teaches other, less enlightened governments – including Australia’s Parliament, or the UK Parliament – how to treat vulnerable refugees in ways that befit civilised human values.
Tragically, however, Biden’s announcement came too late to save the life of a young poet and human rights activist in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Trinidad Jerry was one of some hundreds of LGBTQIA+ refugees detained in Block 13 at Kakuma, surrounded by ignorant, prejudiced, traumatised, embittered, religiously motivated violent homophobes. I have seen phone film footage taken shortly before Trinidad was attacked, in which another refugee pointed and appears to have declared, “I will burn you alive”. That night, Trinidad and others were attacked with a firebomb as they slept.
I understand that #UNHCRKenya took days to transport Trinidad and his friend J to hospital, despite their terrible and extensive burns. And as far as I know, the #KenyaPolice have not prosecuted anyone for murder. It appears that #BlackLivesMatter unless you are LGBTQIA+ in Kenya, Uganda, or some other African nation.
We Live for Justice
In the traumatised, violent world of refugee life, it is often necessary to gather together in groups for mutual protection. Trinnie was a leader in Block 13 at Kakuma, and as such, his understandable loyalty to internal camp politics sometimes interfered with our internet friendship, but we retained an undercurrent of mutual respect – just as another person similarly testified after Trinnie’s death:
“Gone from our sight, but never our hearts. We are really sorry for your loss, Trinnie, everybody is thinking of you during these difficult times. Words can’t express how saddened we are to hear of your death. As brothers, we sometimes had misunderstandings and fought, but our hearts stayed connected with love, courage and we all hoped for goodness for the entire queer community in Kakuma.”
In my case, I got to know Trinnie through Facebook because of his interest in books. He was reading the novel, ‘Lord of the Flies’, and asked me if I had read it. I told him that as a former school teacher, I had taught the book. We spoke at length about the story of young people cut off from civilization, and of their daily choices to follow Ralph or Jack and thereby choose between laws and lawlessness, good and evil, rationality and fear. We agreed that one must avoid at all costs sharing the fate of Simon, a kind boy and gentle-natured leader who lost his life due to the cruelty of others.
“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend…”
― William Golding, Lord of the Flies
How tragically, heart-breakingly ironic that Trinnie aspired to be Ralph but became Simon. Trinnie’s final message to me was sent about a month before he was fatally attacked; he had heard that I was in hospital and he sent me a get well wish. My final message to him, after his attack, was to send much love, and he responded with a ♥. I am thankful we had that opportunity for a small, silent farewell.
The poet may be gone, but his poetry lives on:
IF TRUTH COULD BE REVEALED
We are at the crossroads,
Mirrors reflecting our faces,
We doomed where to head,
Could it be the dead end.
Born free, minds fresh, hands chained,
Is our life nature,
It’s what we where meant to be.
It’s a curved ball,
Oh yeah a curved box,
No where to run,
Short of ideas, with our God mother
A judgement befalls, on the cross roads,
Where should we go!
It’s a dead end,
Yet the world watches!
The silent island appears.
The sparkling light dims,
We are good as dead,
If could only we could resuscitate.
But who could be the saviour,
The saviour lost in fake paradise,
We are our own saviours,
Dad taught me that!
Believe in myself,
Never them, Trust myself,
Only me can.
The world should know,
We are black-brothers,
Thou shalt live,
By help of one another,
And aim at justice,
For we live for justice,
And shall die for injustice.
– Trinidad Jerry
16 February 2021
As a friend of his states: “He was a great activist who had something to live for, but unfortunately he suffered terrible injuries that made him leave this world at a tender age.”
A Narration Full of Love
Trinnie’s funeral drew the grief, mourning and regret of thousands of people across Kakuma Refugee Camp, and further afield across Nairobi, all of Kenya and Uganda, and around the whole world. Watching the event live, I wept along with hundreds of my African friends.
This is how I will master the art,
Of tearing open all my heart,
Exposing all of the dirt,
Embracing the divine hurt.
If I meet a Muslim Allah akhbar,
When I meet a Christian hallelujah,
If I meet a Buddhist I will bow,
For the Dhaoist there no words!
I meet a lot of homophobes on a daily,
I wave and some pretend to wave back,
With all mystics I see through everything,
And with shamans, I go completely nuts.
But do not anticipate his next move,
He delights in taking you by surprise,
Life is a narration full of love,
Mystery, mayhem and murder of course,
I used to be confused by the source,
Of some of the most intricate thoughts,
The thoughts slowly became a voice,
Then came visions and dreams,
Not everything is how it seems,
But it seems that is not how everything is,
From today this source has become anonymous!
Not feeling mentally fine, so thought of anything to write about
3 February 2021
Lucretia, a friend of his in Kakuma, speaks of Trinnie with fond love and memories:
“He was an inspirational, encouraging, self-made, outspoken activist. He taught me a lot, telling me that , ‘the power belongs to the people’. He told me: ‘If you are standing for the truth, you’d better be ready to stand alone’. He told me, ‘For the sake of – – – (a 9 year-old kid), we should fight until our last breath to get Block 13 folks to safety’. He was always inspired by Miriam Makeba’s A Luta Continua.
“He would risk everything when it came to ensuring the safety and freedom of those around him. He stayed more hours late in the night looking over us, acting as our watchman, but unfortunately one night, we weren’t able to watch over him as someone threw a petrol bomb.
“Trinidad was a great leader. He was exemplary. He could mobilise us, encourage us, whenever we were weak and feeling hopeless about ever moving out of the camp to safety. He used to report to the UNHCR every attack we suffered, every death threat, but the inaction and silence of the UNHCR murdered him.
“Trinidad’s death was preventable from day one in the camp, until the day he took his last breath. He should have been protected as he always asked – as we were all asked. He shouldn’t have been left to sleep outside any more, as this left him exposed and at risk until the day he was burnt. He should have been assigned care givers while under UNHCR care in Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi (instead, he was restrained, and he couldn’t feed himself, even while he was on strong treatment). All this neglect led to Trinidad’s death.
“Trinnie, wherever you are, in power you rest. You have left a big gap in African and international human rights. Sometimes I feel too small to do anything without you, I feel like I have nobody to lean on, I feel like you left me hanging in space, like a piece of paper blown in the air to the highest and most distant part of the sky.
“You owe me, comrade, and I will make it up for you. I promise that. Trinnie, forever, rest in power.”
I agree that with Trinnie’s death, all of African and world human rights have been diminished. I feel that Trinnie would feel jointly amused, honoured and embarrassed if I acknowledged the reason why, paraphrasing luminary poet John Donne:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
[Africa] is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Trinnie’s death was avoidable, and came as a result of an ongoing series of homophobic attacks that were ignored by #UNHCRKenya and #KenyaPolice and the world beyond. His friend Lucretia asks why the wider world only seeks to humanise the stranger after tragedy briefly pricks our collective conscience, but why the rest of the time such attacks are ignored:
“The reason we’ve been ignored is simply because the world considers queer lives dispensable, more so when you are a queer African, and even more so when you’re a queer African refugee.”
It’s A New Day
Indeed, the question might be asked why George Floyd is known around the world and Trinidad Jerry is not. I suspect it is not merely a matter of simple geography or nuanced racism and homophobia, but also of complacency: the wider world does not care about Trinidad and his peers – how many churches, organisations, societies, friendship groupings, schools or benevolent societies actually do anything to help refugees across Africa, Asia, or even in Australia? How many politicians actually care about the disgusting, barbaric, homophobic laws and the backward religious customs that fuel hatred and death in families and communities and UNHCR offices across Africa? How many LGBT churches or community groups actually pay anything more than lip service to loving their neighbour? Intolerance and complacency begin right here, in the heart of every individual. The bell tolls around the world, every day, non stop.
As this year commemorates the centenary of the Tulsa race massacre in the USA, and while some of Australia lives in denial of its frontier wars history, we should also ponder a larger question: does the Maafa (African Holocaust) continue today, in the form of complacency and apathy from much of the western world in response to the terrible living conditions faced across Africa? Will future generations judge us as disapprovingly as we judge slave traders or apartheid proponents?
Trinidad reads one of his poems online, late in 2020.
Meanwhile, following the murder of Trinidad and the subsequent death of Arnold in Kakuma from unknown medical problems, thousands of LGBTQ refugees across Kenya now struggle with grief and fear. We must try to make something good come out of this tragedy, such as helping his friend J who suffered similar burns in the same attack, or helping LGBTQ refugees in Block 13 and elsewhere at Kakuma.
After the demons get tired of chasing you.
And the ghosts get wasted and blue,
With beams of beautiful dreams.
As darkness crawls away.
The colors of love emerge.
It’s a wonderful world.
Lets clean up the debris…..
And heal humanity
Its a new day.
14 March 2021
Trinnie’s valiant fight in the face of terrible injuries is testimony to his strength of character, and must inspire us all to keep fighting injustice and evil whenever we can. Trinidad Jerry was a strong and inspiring and poetic and humble and educated and compassionate and friendly person. The world has lost a hero and a future to which he could have contributed – but his legacy lives on in the hearts of his friends in Block 13, across Kakuma and Kenya, and around the world – and they will not forget him or his fight. He continues to inspire us, and therefore his greatest contribution may be yet to come.
Rest well, Chriton (“Trinidad Jerry”). Your struggle is over but your fight continues; your influence lives on in the hearts and lives of all those who knew you. Those in #UNHCRKenya and #KenyaPolice who neglected you and your rainbow family in Kakuma will one day, somehow, face poetic justice.
(Poetic License: Trinnie was not thirty years old as one of his poems suggests. He was younger.)
Public disclaimer: I have used poems from Trinnie’s Facebook page by permission of his close friend in Kakuma. I make no claim to the copyright on poems written by Trinidad Jerry, and include them here solely so they can be collected and displayed publicly in his honour. All rights for that poetry are returned to Trinidad Jerry or his beneficiaries. I ask readers to please honour his talent by donating money to his rainbow family (see links to J, Block 13, or elsewhere in Kakuma as listed here and above, or use the links below).
And hey UNHCR, let’s get those human beings out of hell.
I am part of a group that has been started in response to the ongoing LGBT+ refugee crisis across Kenya and Uganda, and I invite readers to contribute to the building of a better world: Humanity In Need: Rainbow Refugees.
This presentation © 2021 Geoff Allshorn. All rights to his poetry are returned to Trinidad Jerry or his appropriate beneficiaries.