J-FLAG Applauds Kartel On Signing Compassionate Act (Gleaner)

In today’s Gleaner the J made news even though the Reggae Compassionate Act was signed by Vybz Kartel from as early as September 23, 2010 in France following stepped up action by Tjenbre Red and others to pressure Capleton and Sizzla who were there on tour.

I am just upset again at JFLAG’s lateness as usual on following up on happenings and interventions.

Meanwhile the dancehall superstar was said to be dismissed in a huff calls from journalists inquiring on this news, he was said to have asked so what’s the big deal if he signed it? thus fuelling more specualtion and interest in the story by virtue of his actions as he is known to be very open and receptive in interviews with media representatives before.

Let us not forget the accusations as well about his own sexuality and was evidenced recently in the skin bleaching drama and the cake soap response and the Tag/Fag T-shirt controversy.

See: Out a Road: DJs who “hit out” hiding something? ……

See: Vybz Kartel in FAG shirt?

See: Reggae Compassionate Act signed by Vybz Kartel ……. courageous move by the DJ on Gay Jamaica Watch and the press release from Tjenbre Red France.

Here is the Gleaner article on the issue

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) has acknowledged that Vybz Kartel’s signature affixed to the Reggae Compassionate Act is a step in the right direction of the dancehall artiste claiming responsibility for his music.

However, Dane Lewis, executive director of J-FLAG, said the next step is to hold artistes accountable for their lyrics.

“Considering what the act calls for, this is a step, as long as the signature is not just a token.

“Signing the act is one thing, but it’s important to stand up for it.”

The Reggae Compassionate Act was drafted in 2007 as part of the Stop Murder Music campaign, a human-rights groups coalition, which advocates for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-identified persons.

The act speaks to positive social changes and upholding the rights of all individuals regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or gender.

Take responsibility

News reports circulating online claim that Vybz Kartel, whose real name is Adidjah Palmer, signed the Reggae Compassionate Act late September, just days before he was set to perform in France.

Kartel would not confirm the details but questioned why there was a brouhaha over his signing the document.

“Yes, I did. What’s the big deal? So what if I did?” he asked before hanging up the phone.

Lewis said the ‘big deal’ is to make sure performers adhere to the act’s strictures.

“Artistes should be aware of the influence their music could have on society,” Lewis said.

According to the J-FLAG executive director, there were approximately 400 cases reported since January involving hate crimes against persons who identify with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“They range from raping lesbians to physical assault,” Lewis noted.

He also recounted an incident when a person was killed in a dance hall as Buju Banton’s controversial anti-gay anthem, Boom Bye Bye, was played.

Jamaican dancehall artistes such as Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton have been chastised for several years by LGBT groups in North America and Europe for their anti-gay lyrics.

We need to speak up against homophobia in music

By V King Macdona

Several concerts by reggae artist Buju Banton were recently cancelled in America, amid controversy over notoriously homophobic lyrics which incite the murder of gay people. The cancellation was brought about following a campaign organised via website change.org. Six hundred and fifty people complained to Live Nation, who own the House of Blues venues where Banton was scheduled to perform next week, and his planned shows were scrapped as a result.

But the fight against anti-gay lyrics in rap and reggae music has been going on for some time and this is simply the latest chapter in a tale involving the blurred boundaries around notions of freedom of expression, the right to express personal opinion through music, and what counts as homophobic hate crime with the potential to influence listeners towards a homophobic set of beliefs. While some lyricists argue that their words have been misconstrued and defend their music, there is no doubt that some artists are effectively committing criminal offences with the abusive content of their songs.

The recent pressure for the cancellation of Buju Banton’s shows was not the first time that action has been taken against performers who use music as a weapon. In 2003, reggae star Bounty Killer was forced to cancel concerts in Birmingham and London after OutRage! gay rights group spoke out in opposition. They wrote a no-holds-barred letter to the Metropolitan police, urging them to arrest Bounty Killer on charges of inciting violence with his lyrics, which advocate the burning, drowning and stoning of gay men. Police then warned the concert venues’ owners that they may be aiding and abetting a criminal offence if the reggae star performed his homophobic lyrics on their premises, and his gigs were duly abandoned. Peter Tatchell, who helped bring about the cancellations said at the time: “Our aim is to make Britain a no-go area for singers who incite violence against gay people and other minorities. We hope this victory will encourage people in other countries to campaign for the cancellation of these singer’s concerts. Hit them in the pocket where it hurts financially. Once they start losing money they’ll soon drop their homophobic lyrics.”

Another successful reggae artist, Beenie Man, who has duetted with Janet Jackson amongst others,has also been accused of verbally abusing gay people with his choice of lyrics. Via his music, he has not only expressed his wish to cut the throats of all gay men, but also suggested hanging lesbians with a piece of rope. A planned UK performance in 2004 was cancelled directly due to his lyrics, after he was prevented from entering the country by police. Beenie Man had also been expected to perform at the MTV Music Video Awards the same year, but was dropped from the line-up of possible acts after protests from anti-homophobia campaigners. Fearing that more cancellations might follow, he issued an apology, which was subsequently dismissed by gay groups as insincere. The Stop Murder Music campaign organised a petition entitled the Reggae Compassionate Act, which Beenie Man allegedly signed, and by doing so agreed to stop writing and performing songs with homophobic content. He was praised for this new stance, but later went back on his word by denying that he had ever made the agreement.

Perhaps the most mainstream rapper in the world, Eminem, has also been criticised in the past for his homophobic lyrics. In a song entitled Criminal on his second album, The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem’s lyrics include: “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge/ That’ll stab you in the head, whether you’re a fag or lez/ Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest/ Pants or dress? Hate fags? The answer’s yes”. The fact that much of Eminem’s audience is under the age of 18 has called into question how much influence his words could be having on young people. However the rapper has since appeared on stage with Elton John, apparently to dispel rumours of his homophobia.

Censoring artists is always a controversial act, but campaigns like Stop Murder Music and change.org are crucial in helping to police the actions of lyricists whose words have the potiential to wield a great deal of influence amongst listeners. If a person who homophobically abuses or threatens a gay person in the street can be arrested for it, then it is only right to confront musicians whose homophobic abuse reaches hundreds of thousands of people every day.