HIV awareness concert cancelled following protests

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A concert to raise awayness of HIV and AIDs due to take place next week has been cancelled after protests relating to the homophobic lyrics of two of the performers.

The gig, due to have been held in New York was to feature Jamaican reggae acts Beenie Man and TOK sparked protests from black LGBT campaigners outraged at the inclusion of the two acts. Concert organisers LIFEbeat said they had to cancel due to “the possibility of violence from the fire-storm incited by a select group of activists.”

Beenie Man said last week: “Aids is an epidemic that doesn’t discriminate. It’s not a gay or a straight thing, it is a fight for life.”

Tokes Osubu, executive director of Gay Men of African Descent, wrote to LIFEbeat executive director John Canelli saying, “To have unrepentant homophobes perform at a benefit for an organisation that is ‘dedicated to reaching America’s youth with the message of HIV/AIDS prevention,’ is simply perverse. “You and I are in the business of saving lives, Mr. Canelli, not threatening them,” he wrote.

Dwight Powell, editor-in-chief of black gay magazine, Clik, said he was “speechless and utterly disappointed in LIFEbeat’s insensitivity.”

Neil Lowe, president of Phoenix Global Communications and Media Group, which publishes Ballroom Rock Star Magazine, said: “As a Jamaican-American who is proud member of the LGBT community, I am offended when any artist or group whose core message encourages bodily harm against members of my community, is allowed to represent our community.”

LIFEbeat said in a statement, “LIFEbeat’s mission is to utilise the power of music to raise awareness and educate in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Caribbean American community has been tremendously affected by the HIV/AIDS virus and has long kept silent about the epidemic’s effect on their community for fear of being stigmatised.

“When planning the upcoming Hearts Voices Reggae Gold concert, LIFEbeat’s staff and board knew this event might raise concerns by some in the gay community and required careful consideration before proceeding. LIFEbeat’s staff and board do not condone anti-gay lyrics or violence against anyone; they are an organisation dedicated to promoting life. The staff and board also strongly believe that dialogue opens doors, creating the opportunity for enlightenment, growth and change amongst all involved.”

A Brighton music venue last week caved into pressure from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community, Brighton and Hove City Council and Police by cancelling a performance by singer Buju Banton, who has refused to apologise personally for his notorious 1990s hit ‘Boom Bye Bye’ which appears to incite the burning, shooting in the head of gay people and pouring acid over their faces.