(Jamaica Observer) Gay and transgender organisations in Belgium have promised to end their protest at Reggae concerts featuring acts who are known to have recorded songs bashing their lifestyle. The commitment was made in a joint statement between gay and transgender organisations, the promoters of reggae concerts and reggae festivals and the reggae community in Belgium, days after Beenie Man issued a video recording apologising for his anti-gay songs and admitting that he respected all human beings.
The gay and transgender organisations have staged numerous protests against the planned concerts of some controversial Jamaican artists. This pressure has resulted in the cancelling of concerts by Beenie Man, Bounty Killa and Sizzla among others.
The following is the commitment:
The concert and festival promoters and the reggae community recognise that some Jamaican artists in the past have performed homophobic lyrics, and are still doing that in their own country or elsewhere in the world. It goes without saying that hate speech and incitement to violence against people (legally) do not belong on our stages. But reggae music has since many years been a fixed presence in the concert world, with a faithful and in all respects very tolerant audience. These people can not be left standing in the cold, neither can a whole generation of artists be banned from our stages, the release stated.
“The signatories agree that this impasse can not continue. Rather than confront again and again to a head float, we opt for a constructive dialogue and fitting information and awareness campaign. We are convinced that the gay issue far more benefits from a harmonious relationship with the reggae world than in the current conflict. We are more fellow-travellers than opponents.
The signatories are also aware that they can not change the homophobic legislation in Jamaica (or any other country where gay rights are a distant utopia) by banning reggae music off our stages. On the contrary, our experience shows that the artists who have performed here, are inclined to expand their views on the subject and subsequently spread these in Jamaica. Reggae music as a catalyst for gay rights in a traditionally homophobic society: wouldn’t it be nice? The actions of the gay and lesbian movement, the Reggae Compassionate Act (2007) and the consistent attitude of the concert and festival organizers have already made sure that no Jamaican artist performs any more homophobic lyrics to the European stages. With this charter, we want to take the awareness in Jamaica and other countries a step further.
- To eliminate homophobic hate speech finally – and preferably worldwide – from reggae music, the signatories commit themselves to the following:
- We start with a clean slate. For hate speech and homophobic statements in the past, there is a one-time amnesty. Artists that persist in performing offensive lyrics after the publication of this charter (May 2012) anywhere in the world will no longer be welcome on our stages and in the communication of Reggae.
- The promoters of reggae concerts and festivals where reggae music is regularly programmed, commit not to invite or promote any artist who – on stage or on record – uses hate speech, especially against gays. The ban on homophobic and offensive lyrics, including comments during concerts, will be contracted with a uniform formulation.
- The promoters also commit themselves to talk to the artists in person and make them aware of the problem. Karel Michiels (Reggae.be) makes himself available as an intermediary, and has already had several meetings with artists before the publication of this charter.
- The organisers will not hesitate to interrupt the action and file a complaint if the artist does not comply with the agreements.
- The gay and transgender organisations cease to boycotting reggae concerts or lobbying for that purpose.
- The gay and transgender organizations promise to acquire information about gay emancipation in Jamaica, and to support and advise activists on the spot.
- The signatories of this charter will put together a thorough information campaign on this theme. The texts are jointly prepared and distributed at concerts and through websites, under the umbrella of the CGKR (Centre for Equal Opportunities and the struggle against Racism.)
- The signatories will share this charter with all stakeholders and partners in Europe to create a uniform European approach.
- The signatories of this charter will jointly evaluate the situation in October. Artists who ignore the contractual agreements in Belgium or any other country and keep using hate speech or homophobic statements, will be put on the ‘pink list’, and will consequently not be programmed for the period of at least two years. To avoid misunderstandings, the texts will be analyzed carefully.