BLOOM FREEDOM FESTIVAL
My Hedo trip ran concurrent with the eighth-annual Bloom Freedom Festival, the brainchild of founder/author and motivator Olubode Shawn Brown, a New York resident who stresses that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual-orientation, should belong to a Tribe of Love & Celebration. "We created a community aimed at connecting and awakening the heart, mind and spirit of all humankind," it says on the BLOOM website. "We are a global movement of people who are creating alternative social structures that allow for unique self-expression, personal growth, visibility, connection and belonging.
"Our purpose is (to) facilitate safe spaces for individuals and communities to explore their spiritual, leisure, work, relationship and communal life areas in ways that inspire, inform and celebrate our humanity."
BLOOM started as a New York City party in 2008 and has evolved as a brand that serves the diverse needs of people who are called BLOOMERS.
"We are a celebration of well-being, fun, adventure, creativity, inclusiveness and community," according to BLOOM.
BLOOM attracts mostly gay African-American men, with some I met from New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto and as far away as Helsinki, Finland. Local Jamacians also ran the BLOOM trip during my time at Hedo. The kindness and friendship of the BLOOM bunch, when mixed with my small crew, was special to say the least. We danced, drank and certainly enjoyed the late-night hot-tub fun. Race was not an issue, at all – just the race to have fun. Heck, some of the BLOOMERS were quick to fill my vodka-anchored drink or surprise me with shot, just as I did for them.
Thanks to social media I really look forward to keeping in contact with the BLOOMERS who I met.
"It's always a pleasure working with Olubode and hosting (the) Bloom Freedom Festival," said Randy Russell, director of sales and marketing at Hedonism II. "I enjoy seeing the growth and evolution of this group, as well as those new and familiar faces it brings in each year."
There were plenty of BLOOM first-timers who I spoke with, along with some who have been attending year after year after year. Some met their significant-other at BLOOM, and they too were enjoying the 2018 event.
"Word-of mouth is very effective for Hedo," Russell said. "Guests love sharing their experience on property with friends. Social media has proven to be a successful tactic in marketing to specific groups. We also spend money online with specific keywords and phrases and we search for relevant backlinks that focus on (the LGBT) market segment.
"LGBT guests staying at Hedo should feel very safe. We're welcoming to all. It is true that Jamaicans are generally more conservative in their views, but travelers shouldn't shy away from the destination because of that."
In five days, I saw one man who gave off a vibe that he wasn't gay-friendly, or that he wasn't comfortable around gay men. Do I know that for sure? Not at all. He might have just been having a bad day, or maybe my vibe was way wrong. But, with 300-plus people around when I was at Hedo, to say there might have been one bad-apple speaks volume to how accepting Hedo and its visitors are. There were three gay and four straight people eating together at Harrysan one night, and no issues whatsoever, just a few rounds of 'Cheers!' among everyone.
"We consider every market an important one at Hedonism II," Russell said. "As many of our repeat guests will tell you, there are no labels required here. Providing each person who visits the property with an unforgettable experience regardless of race, religion, or sexuality truly is at the core of what we do."
That definitely is a fact, or should I say, the naked truth!