Reggae Tips – Stars Dump Anti-Gay Lyrics

The Guardian – Comment Is Free – 2 August 2007

Four of the world’s top reggae / dancehall singers have renounced homophobic hatred and condemned violence against lesbians and gay men. Jamaican artists Buju Banton,Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton had previously released murder music songs inciting the shooting, burning, hanging and drowning of queers.

See their “kill queers” lyrics here:

In a dramatic about turn, they have now signed the Reggae Compassionate Act (RCA), agreeing to halt their homophobia.

The deal was brokered by the UK gay rights groups OutRage! and the Black Gay Mens Advisory Group, together with the Jamaican gay rights movement, J-Flag and the UKreggae promoter and PR, Eddie Brown of Pride Music International.

It follows the three-year-long Stop Murder Music campaign, which resulted in the cancellation of scores of concerts and sponsorship deals; causing the singers a loss income inthe region of £2.5 million. We hit them in the pocket. The boycott campaign worked.

Following publicity about the deal in Jamaica, Buju Banton and Beenie Man have denied signing the Reggae Compassionate Act.

The two singers have, it seems, buckled under pressure. They’ve suffered a homophobic backlash from their fans in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, over the factthat they signed the deal. The singers could not take the flak.

Their denials are nonsense. We have their signatures on the agreement. They signed under their real, legal names (as opposed to their stage names). The signatures havebeen authenticated as genuine.

See the RCA and their signatures here:

This attempt to deny they have signed the Reggae Compassionate Act only makes the artists look dishonest and duplicitous.

Their signatures were obtained by Eddie Brown. Last week Buju’s and Beenie’s management reconfirmed to Eddie Brown that the two singers had signed and that theirsignatures are authentic.

Much more important than the non-issue of the signatures is question whether the artists signed the agreement because they recognise that homophobia is wrong. Manypeople are sceptical. They say the real motive is money-making. With so many of their concerts axed, the singers realised that promoting violence against gay people wasbad for business. They have now, it is suggested, cynically and opportunistically changed their tune to save their careers and their concerts.

But even if the artists did sign the Reggae Compassionate Act for self-interested commercial reasons, it is still a major achievement if they cease their murder music. Thedeal is already beginning to have a positive impact in Jamaica and the Caribbean, reducing the performance and airplay of homophobic lyrics.

Moreover, the media coverage of the agreement has generated lots of public awareness and debate about homophobia; helping to break down ignorance and prejudice.

Having these major reggae stars publicly renounce homophobia will, over time, influence many of their fans and the wider public to rethink bigoted attitudes.

This view is mirrored by my fellow Stop Murder Music campaigner, Dennis Carney of the Black Gay Mens Advisory Group. Of Jamaican descent, he helped negotiate theReggae Compassionate Act. He observes:

“I am thrilled that Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton have signed this historic agreement … We welcome their commitment to not produce music or make public statements thatincite hatred and violence against gay people. This is a giant leap towards restoring peace, love and harmony to reggae music. These performers are sending a clear messagethat lesbians and gay men have a right to live free from fear and persecution – both here in the UK and in Jamaica,” said Mr Carney.

In the Reggae Compassionate Act the four singers pledge to:

* “respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender.”
* “there’s no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia.”
* “we agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community.”

In others words, the artists agree to halt all expressions of hatred and violence against lesbian and gay people. This is what we wanted. In response, for a trial period, we aresuspending the campaign against these four performers. If they abide by the agreement, we will make the suspension permanent. If, however, the singers renege on the deal,we will resume the campaign against them.

Sadly, four other murder music artists – Elephant Man, TOK, Bounty Killa, and Vybz Kartel – have not signed the Reggae Compassionate Act. The campaign against themtherefore continues. These singers have repeatedly incited the murder of lesbians and gays. People who advocate the killing of other human beings should not be rewardedwith concerts or sponsorship deals.

The Stop Murder Music campaign is now intensifying its campaign to cancel these four singer’s concerts and their record, sponsorship and advertising deals. They have openlyencouraged the murder of lesbians and gay men, which is a criminal offence in every country – including Jamaica and Britain. The law against incitement to murder should beenforced.

This is not a free speech issue. Free speech does not include the right to encourage murder and to wilfully put the fear of violent attack into the hearts of others. The criticswho accuse us of trampling on freedom of expression are total hypocrites. They don’t dare defend the right of Hitler to advocate the extermination of the Jews or the rightof race hate fanatics to incite the lynching of black people. Oh no, racist and anti-Semitic incitements are beyond the pale. But they somehow think that urging the murderof queers must be defended on the grounds of free speech and artistic freedom.

We call on people everywhere to boycott the four “kill queers” singers who have refused to sign to Reggae Compassionate Act; and to campaign against them with the samedetermination that they would campaign against racists and anti-Semites. These four unrepentant homophobic performers are the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. They preach violence and murder.

Gareth Williams, the black co-chair of the Jamaican gay human rights group, J-Flag, endorses the Reggae Compassionate Act agreement:

“This statement against homophobia and violence is a move in the right direction,” he said. “We hope it is not commercially motivated by the singers’ desire to maintain their concert revenues, but a sincere commitment that will encourage an end to homophobic violence and to all violence against everyone. The four artists who have notsigned the statement should now follow this lead and declare their support for universal human rights, including the human rights of lesbian and gay people,” said Mr Williams.

The Stop Murder Music campaign consists of more than 60 organisations in over a dozen countries in Europe, North America and the Caribbean. It won the Best AdvocacyAward at the Black LGBT Community Awards 2007 in London.