Hasani Walters, Gleaner Writer
Pressure from the Jamaica Association of Gays and Lesbians Abroad (JAGLA), a Canadian gay-rights group, has led to the removal of dancehall/reggae artiste Queen Ifrica from the roster of performers at the Rastafest International Reggae Concert which was held at Downsview Park, Canada, yesterday.
Early last week, a Facebook campaign was launched by the group in an effort to prevent Queen Ifrica from performing at the stage show.
“The campaign was started because we discovered that Queen Ifrica was slated to perform at an event called Rastafest in Toronto. Off the heels of her recent homophobic outburst (at the Grand Gala) days after the death of Dwayne Jones, our members felt disrespected that she would be allowed to perform in our country. It’s a gross double standard on her part, to even travel to Toronto, one of the most diverse countries in the world, to perform for money,” a representative from JAGLA told The Gleaner prior to the show.
In a press release to The Sunday Gleaner, the group expressed their support of the move by the promoters to withdraw the entertainer from the line-up.
“This is a welcomed move by the promoters. We have to send a clear message that persons who make comments that jeopardise the well-being of members of the LGBT community in Jamaica will not be welcomed in Canada. We hope that other homophobic persons will use this instance as a reminder that acts that incite hate will have negative consequences. We hope as well that the Government of Jamaica will move swiftly to put in place measures to protect members of the LGBT community,” the release stated.
Efforts to contact Queen Ifrica proved unsuccessful. However, in an earlier interview, when asked about her utterances at the Grand Gala, Queen Ifrica said that she had only expressed what she believed in.
“Like myself, I think they are exercising their right to speak for what they believe in. However, I think it is unfair for them to incriminate me when there is no incrimination there. I simply spoke for what I believed in. They should simply speak from what they believe in but not try to tarnish my character in the process,” she said.
The Government was also hush-hush on the matter, as efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna only returned an emailed response from Sasha-Gay Lewis, the senior communication officer at the Ministry of Youth and Culture, which read, “We have no comment.”
A statement by Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) stated that the group took “note of recent local and international developments subsequent to Queen Ifrica’s performance on August 6, 2013 at the Grand Gala”.
J-FLAG also acknowledged that less explicitly anti-gay music is being produced and broadcast in Jamaica. They believe, however, that dialogue is important in order for a greater understanding about the impact of anti-gay sentiments on the exclusion of and hostility towards LGBT people in Jamaica.
also see: Queen Ifrica’s “Freedom of Speech” & advocacy found wanting it is indeed sad that yet again the guardians of the local struggle have become so impervious to the population that another group overseas has had to step in in frustration it seems on the face of it with JFLAG’s stewardship especially after the exclusion of the homeless men from the symposium on homelessness in Kingston on May 17th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia since then many persons have been up in arms about that and have been very critical of the J’s overall advocacy some of whom were once staunch supporters. So pronounced is the discord that JFLAG own staff especially the Programs Manager have been removing themselves from engaging the community on a whole on social media. It is sad that this new group although with good intentions have left us with a black eye and another layer added to the struggle that of the lobby now stifling free speech. Persons overseas who have our interest at heart NEED to take the lead from persons on the ground as there are consequences for such agitations, indeed all public agitations have such and are to be expected but care must be taken and proper communications and strategising be done prior to execution.
JFLAG’s initial reaction was what actually set the stage for this latest impasse for all intents and purposes their continued over intellectualized style of crisis communicating has landed us in drama again. The very first sentence in their press release labelled Queen Ifrica and Tony Rebel as vitriolic and carrying some anti gay animus; for God’s sake will the J just get direct with the cynical public that they want to convince so much so that Tony Rebel in that ill fated interview on Nationwide Radio where Mr Rebel humiliated the ED of JFLAG Dane Lewis as he asked Dane where did he Tony said any anti gay remarks that were suggesting violence and Mr Lewis could not then came the laughter and ridicule of the use of the words “vitriolic and anti gay animus” and he basically mopped up the floor with the press release and Dane fumble while cleverly forcing Mr Lewis to an apology, however Dane stopped short of a public apology and instead suggested they meet face to face but even that was met with laughter yet again as Mr Rebel suggested meeting in private may have some sexually suggestive undertones. It was that sequence of events it seems that have caused this new Canadian based group to be formed and acting on their own devoid of the real thrust that is the Stop Murder Music Campaign. Queen Ifrica and Tony Rebel are in my eyes second tier homo-negative reggae acts and not as vitriolic as labelled by JFLAG landing us with a backlash we may yet to recover from in years to come.
Peace and tolerance