don’t usually address international issues in this space, but I
couldn’t pass up commenting on this one just for the sheer pomposity
of it all.
Unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere for the past year then
there’s no way you could have missed the controversy that’s
been brewing around reggae, or Jamaican dancehall music.
Jamaican culture for decades has been rife
with homophobia and gay-bashing has frequently been commonplace in
the country — which often touts
itself as one of the most popular tourist destinations for the U.S. (see
related articles in Q-Notes issues dated 12/6/03, p.15, 2/14/04, P. 1;
8/14/04 p.19 and 11/6/04, p.1).
Performers like Beenie Man, Cappleton, Sizzla’ and Bounty Hunter,
among others, have consistently recorded and performed songs that call
for violence and sometimes outright killing of gay men (don’t worry
lesbians — although you don’t get mentioned too much by dancehall
artists I’m confident they’re not overly fond of you, either).
Over the past year queers around the globe
proved they’d had enough
of the offending artists and their hate-filled lyrics and organized a campaign
that led to arrests of performers, numerous performance dates being cancelled
and uncountable revenue being lost.
The fight against murder music — as Outrage, the British LGBT civil
rights group that originally organized the campaign calls it — even
came to the Carolinas last year as protestors showed up for a performance
by Cappleton at Amos’ South End.
More recently, Outrage announced they had
brokered an “agreement” between
the various artists that performance of the anti-gay material would cease.
Beenie Man says he’s part of that
Yes, we’re talking about the same Beenie man who once reportedly
said (on the eve of a new CD release, ironically): “While my lyrics
are very personal, I do not write them with the intent of purposefully
hurting or maligning others, and I offer my sincerest apologies to those
who might have been offended, threatened or hurt by my songs. As a human
being, I renounce violence toward other human beings in every way, and
pledge henceforth to uphold these values as I move forward in my career
as an artist.”
Then days later he took to the stage performing the anti-gay material again,
announced to the audience that he never issued an apology and that it was
concocted by publicity agents at his record label.
Now, according to a story that recently appeared on the BBC, Beenie Man
says gay rights campaigners and his own people have misconstrued his lyrics,
and he also insists that he would never incite violence against gay people.
“Jamaican people are taking our lyrics and translating them to people
in the wrong way ... a batty man is a child molester, anyone in Jamaica
tell you the same thing,” he told the BBC.
“A gay man is a man,” he added. “It is very wrong to
incite violence against anybody, any group of people … I don’t
Nevertheless, protests and denouncements of Beenie Man have continued to
lead to cancellations of concerts across Europe and the U.S.
“Outrage and the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group were looking
forward to meeting Beenie Man and building bridges with reggae artists,” Outrage
spokesperson Brett Lock said.
“We want to work with them to explore ways that dancehall music can
be a positive social force against prejudice and for the upliftment and
of the black nation, gay and straight,” he said.
Alright, alright. We have to move on from
a bad place to a better one and I’m always one to forgive so
I definitely applaud Outrage.
But wait a minute — Beenie Man says that his lyrics were never anti-gay — that
they were all about child molesters and anybody in Jamaica can tell you
Beenie, just how stupid do you think we are? Did you hit your head?
I’m not buying his lame attempt to try and slide his violent, anti-gay
rhetoric under the radar. Find me one reference anywhere that says a “batty
man” or a “chi-chi man” is anything other than a negative
reference for a gay man.
Do we look like we were born yesterday?