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Reggae Concert with Anti-Gay Musicians Cancelled
by Andrew Davis
2006-08-01

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A reggae concert featuring artists who sing anti-gay lyrics has been cancelled—resulting in Black LGBT activists declaring victory.

LIFEbeat, an AIDS organization that is connected with the music industry, has cancelled its Reggae Beat Jumpoff, which was scheduled for July 18 at New York's Webster Hall. According to a statement from the group, ' [ w ] hile the organization's staff and board believe very strongly in the positive purpose and intention of this event, the possibility of violence at the concert from the firestorm incited by a select group of activists makes canceling the event the only responsible action.'

LIFEbeat was criticized by Black gay activists and bloggers after it was announced that Jamaican dancehall artists Beenie Man and the group T.O.K. were scheduled to perform, according to the Washington Post. A Beenie Man song calls for a lesbian hanging, and T.O.K suggests in a song that gay men be burned. In statements released in mid-July, T.O.K. said it had 'matured over the years,' and Beenie Man said, 'AIDS is an epidemic that doesn't discriminate. It's not a gay or a straight thing, it is a fight for life.'

The concert organizer had rejected the anti-gay lyrics, but said including the artists would help reach a larger audience thanks to the popularity of their music.

Jasmyne Cannick, one of the bloggers, indicated in a statement that although the activists are thrilled with the cancellation, 'no threats of violence were ever made against LIFEbeat's staff and board of directors, nor the concert.' Activists are now urging LIFEbeat to stage a new concert with gay-friendly artists and to donate the proceeds to J-FLAG, The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays.

Indeed, in a statement issue later by LIFEbeat, John Cannelli, the group's executive director supported Cannick's assertion: 'We also want to clarify the concerns of violence we felt. Those concerns didn't stem from any threats from activists or members of the Caribbean American community. They stemmed from threatening phone calls our office received from random individuals that led to concerns for the safety of our staff and others.'

In the same statement, Cannelli added, 'In our desire to do something positive within the Caribbean-American community, we didn't realize the depth of the hurt in the GLBT community around the lyrics of these artists.'

Among the activists/bloggers who participated in the protest were Cannick, Keith Boykin, FemmeNoir, Troy Notorious, Woubi-Yossi Collective and The 7 Magazine.


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