Gay and lesbian activists are planning to protest the performers outside of the Reggae Carifest in New York today (Saturday August 25) to educate sponsors and concert goers on the dangers of anti-gay lyrics.
The festival which will be held at Randall’s Island was created to promote peace among cultures is being denounced by gay and lesbian groups for allowing performers with a history of anti-gay lyrics.
Today’s event will feature performances by Buju Banton and Bounty Killer, among several other acts at the day-long event.
Rashad Robinson, a spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said the performers have a right to free speech, but so do protest groups. "We as an organisation value free speech. It gives us the right to stand up to vulgar anti-gay lyrics which promote violence," he said.
The City Parks Department, which operates Randall's Island, said in a statement yesterday that all performers signed a code of conduct agreeing to refrain from performing anti-gay lyrics at the promoter's request.
The issue of anti-gay lyrics in reggae and other Jamaican music surfaced years ago when Banton released “Boom Bye Bye,” which glorifies the shooting of gay men. The Beenie Man song “Han Up Deh” calls for a lesbian to be hanged, while TOK's song “Chi Chi Man” suggests the burning of gay men.
A concert last summer at Webster Hall was cancelled after a similar uproar over performers Beenie Man and TOK. Also last summer, British concerts featuring Banton and Beenie Man were cancelled after activists said the artistes refused to stop using anti-gay lyrics.
Reggae Carifest first launched in 1998 at the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens and has been held at Keyspan Park, Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium and, most recently, Randall's Island. Promoters call the show an "explosion of West Indian exhibitionism".