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As Reggae Stars Renounce Homophobia



Monday, June 18, 2007.



By Keith Boykin



Three prominent reggae and dancehall performers have renounced homophobia and condemned violence against lesbians and gay men. Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton, each of whom have recorded anti-gay hate songs, have now signed onto a deal to stop the hate and stop the protests. The agreement, called the Reggae Compassionate Act, was brokered with top reggae promoters and Stop Murder Music activists.


The statement reads: "It must be clear there's no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia...We do not encourage nor minister to HATE but rather uphold a philosophy of LOVE, RESPECT and UNDERSTANDING towards all human beings as the cornerstone of reggae. We agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community."


I am cautiously optimistic about the agreement. As I recall, another agreement was reached years before and then violated. I can only hope that the artists will be true to their word this time.


The agreement comes after a three-year campaign by a British-based group called Stop Murder Music. The campaign had resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of concerts and sponsorship deals in the U.K., and helped spurn the movement in the U.S.


As a result of the agreement, the campaign against the three artists will now be suspended, but organizers are urging journalists and other observers worldwide to monitor the performances and statements of Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton.


Meanwhile, five other artists who have recorded anti-gay music are still targeted. Elephant Man, TOK, Bounty Killa, Vybz Kartel and Buju Banton have not signed the Reggae Compassionate Act.


Gareth Williams, co-chair of the Jamaican gay group, J-Flag, hailed the statement as "a move in the right direction." He also said he hoped it was "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."


I think that's optimistic. Actually, it would be ideal if the artists signed onto the agreement because they've seen the light, but in the end I'm not sure they have. On the one hand, I want the artists to do the right thing, regardless of what motivates them. If it takes money (or the loss of money) to inspire them, then so be it. On the other hand, money motivation only lasts so long.


The problem with being motivated solely by commercial interests is that those interests could change and their actions could change. The best solution is to keep pressing the artists by educating them and others so that they understand that violence against gays and lesbians, or against any group of people, is not acceptable behavior in society. Our reggae and dancehall stars need to know that all humans deserve dignity and respect.



Keith Boykin is a writer, broadcaster, journalist and political commentator. He blogs at Keithboykin.com


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