The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

LIFEbeat’s Anti-Gay Death Concert

There are some things that defy imagining. For example, why would an AIDS organization that calls itself LIFEbeat promote a benefit concert where half the headliners are artists who’ve advocated anti-gay violence in their music?

lifebeat-beanieman

Can’t think of a reason? Neither can I, but LIFEbeat is doing just that with a concert featuring reggae artists Beanie Man and TOK. Beanie man is infamous for lyrics like those from “Han up Deh,” which advocate hanging lesbians. Not to be outdone, TOK’s “Chi Chi Man” advocates the killing and burning of gay men. And these are the artists LIFEbeat choses to headline their HIV/AIDS benefit?

It would be easy to write the whole thing off to someone at LIFEbeat just now knowing what’s up with these performers. It would be nice to be able to do that. Nice, but not even remotely possible. For starters, just this month a Beanie Man concert in the UK was shut down over protests about his lyrics.

It would be nice to think that, even if the folks at LIFEbeat somehow didn’t know about the violence these artists advocate in their lyrics, they would take appropriate action once they were informed. Wrong again. Keith did just that, and the response he got was just as mystifying as the line-up chosen for the concert.

When I first heard about the concert, I decided to give LIFEBeat the benefit of the doubt. I figured they just didn’t realize what a mistake they made. So I sent a letter (shown below) and placed a phone call to LIFEBeat’s executive director John Canelli. Mr. Canelli returned my call today and the response was shocking, insulting and extremely disappointing.

Canelli admitted that his organization knew that Beenie Man and TOK were homophobic artists but decided to do the concert anyway. “We didn’t make the decision blindly,” he told me. “We knew there would be controversy.” So why did they do it, I asked. Canelli told me his organization wanted to reach out to that segment of the community by using artists who could connect with them. Perhaps that makes sense, but why not use LIFEBeat’s leverage to encourage the artists to repudiate their homophobia. “It’s not my job to do that,” Canelli said flatly. I strongly disagree.

When asked why he couldn’t use his influence to get the musicians to renounce their homophobia, Canelli said that all the performers at the concert are performing for free, and because of the nature of the event, “I’m not in a position to make a demand like that.” He tried to assure me that there would be no “offensive lyrics in that venue.”

I’m sorry, Mr. Canelli, that’s not enough. Beenie Man and TOK are two of the worst homophobes in the music industry. For LIFEBeat to give a platform to them is unacceptable and intolerable. Their mere presence is offensive enough unless and until they renounce their homophobia.

“It’s a tough decision,” Canelli told me. “Look at the numbers of people getting infected,” he said. “My job is to save lives.” I doubt it. If your job were really to save lives, you would never give a platform to two artists who encourage their fans to take the lives of innocent gays and lesbians.

Whose lives, Mr. Cannelli? I’m guessing lives more important of those gay men who are and would be victims of the kind of violence your artists advocate in their lyrics. Lives more important than those of the men who are driven so far underground and into the closet by the threat of such violence that they’re unlikely to access information that might prevent them from becoming infected.

Whose lives, Mr. Cannelli? Your concert will take place in a city where black gay men have been victims of anti-gay violence like that advocated by your headliners.

Whose lives, Mr. Cannelli? Lives more important than that of Kevin Aviance who just last month endured an attack by four young black men who called him “faggot” as they kicked and beat him while bystanders just watched, leaving him hospitalized with a broken jaw? Your headliners would probably have joined in the attack. Since they can’t, maybe they can at least perform their anti-gay lyrics and dedicate the performance to Aviance’s attackers.

Whose lives, Mr. Cannelli? Lives more important than that of Rashawn Brazell, a young gay man murdered in New York last year, and whose dismembered remains were found in New York’s subway tunnels? The murder hasn’t been caught, but when he is, I’m sure your performers would probably like to shake his hand. Why not have them autograph CD to give to him if/when he is caught?

Whose lives, Mr. Cannelli? Lives more important than that of Marvin Page, who was found in his burning apartment in the Bronx, stabbed to death and with his throat slashed? Your performers are probably just sorry they didn’t get the light the match. Make that two autographed CDs, so Page’s killer can get also get one when caught.

Whose lives, Mr. Cannelli? Lives more important than that of Dwan Prince, who was left near death by a gay bashing like those depicted in your artists’ lyrics? They’re probably only sorry that Prince survived. How about a shout out to his attackers, telling them to finish the job next time? Maybe even a jailhouse visit to raise their spirits? If their schedules permit, of course.

Whose lives, Mr. Cannelli? Lives more important than that of Sakia Gunn, a teenager stabbed to death in Newark, because she was a lesbian? Would your artists mind autographing pictures for her attackers?

And those are just the cases from the area surrounding the venue. There’s a father in Florida and some men in West Virginia I’m sure your artists like to congratulate.

Mr. Cannelli, the artists you’re featuring would almost certainly cheer the next event these to happen in and around New York. As you’re bringing them to the city, and giving them a platform to spread the kind of poison that perpetuates attacks like these, will you also proudly share credit with them when the next black LGBT person is inevitably victimized by the violence these artists support? You might as well.

Whose lives are you trying to save, Mr. Cannelli, and at the cost of what other lives? If you thought it would reach the “right demographic” would you put Prussian Blue in the line-up as well?

I’m sending the above to Mr. Cannelli, and I’m joining Keith, Jasmyne and others in asking readers here to contact LIFEbeat and Cannelli. If you’re outraged, let them hear from you.

Concert Details
REGGAE GOLD LIVE 2006 SUMMER JUMPOFF
Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street between 3rd & 4th Avenues
Doors open at 9pm

Promotional support provided by BET, Vibe magazine, Music Choice and Power 105.1

Emil Wilbekin, the openly gay former editor-in-chief of VIBE magazine, is on their board of directors. Hilary Rosen, the openly gay former head of the Recording Industry Association of America, is on their board of advisors.

LIFEbeat, Inc.
630 Ninth Avenue (between 44th and 45th Streets)
Suite 1010
New York, NY 10036
http://www.lifebeat.org/

Telephone: 212.459.2590
Toll-free: 800.AIDS.411
Fax: 212.459.2892

John Cannelli, Executive Director, x101, jcannelli@lifebeat.org

Sarah Peters Manager, Operations, x119, speters@lifebeat.org

27 Comments

  1. Thank you for pointing out the blatant homophobia in the entertainment industry as well as in our own AIDS community. I wrote to Cannelli and am spreading the news that this kind of bullshit is not to be tolerated.
    Thanks for letting us know.
    Victor G
    NYC

  2. FYI,

    Not that Beanie Man is a champion of the gay cause, but Boom Bye Bye is a song by Buju Banton, not Beanie Man

    Roger
    DE

  3. These artists also talk about burning “babylon” which is all white society… I personally love TOK “Chi Chi Mon,” but Beenie was way better when he was younger.

    I think its funny how selective this site is complaining about gay bashing while completely ignoring the blatent racism from either artist…. I guess the world looks different from turd colored glasses.

    Anyways I’m white, but I dont find it offensive when Beenie or TOK talk of burning babylon- I also like death metal, but I dont get offended when Slayer talks about satan. I like Jazz and dont find it offensive when there is a extra long guitar solo.

    I hate country music since the shit-kicking inbreds that listen to it, not because it gives me a headache. But I’ve never written a letter over Garth Brooks playing in my city because hicks will be hicks. Get it? Jamaica is Jamaica, and you can get all offended and huff and puff, but nobody wants to go to a Elton John concert. Its 2006….

    Jah- Rastafari!

  4. I totally get Mr. Canneli’s point. Sorry it is lost on you. Your “my-way or no way at all” attitude is not going to make the world a better place and will do very little to reduce violence against homosexuals. It isolates you from people who are different from you.

    I think Mr. Canneli is being “open-minded” and “idealistic”. If we devolve into cynicism then there is no hope for a better world.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that statistically, more homosexual people die from Aids than from hate crimes.

  5. I’m a bit surprised that you find this behavior by an AIDS organization unexpected. These are the same folks who used to sponsor circuit parties, with rampart unsafe sex, and are currently opposing FDS approval of home AIDS tests because it would interupt their gravy train. The AIDS groups are exclusively intersted in more money and more bureaucratic growth.

  6. This is very disturbing. I’ve lived with AIDS for almost 20 years and have lost track of the number of friends I’ve lost to the disease, but I have to disagree with Zak: hate crime is a far more serious problem for gay people than AIDS. Medication can keep you alive when you’re HIV . Nothing can protect Jamaican boys and girls from being sadistically tortured and murdered by people like these “performers.”

    I’m writing down the names of all the organizations, publications and organizers who are associating themselves with this shameful event so that I can be sure I never make any donation to any group that includes them. Shame on them for collaborating with hate.

  7. Host a concern with rabidly antigay artists to raise AIDS awareness. Who do you think funds these organizations? Brilliant!

  8. Gee, Zak. Maybe you’re right. Maybe being isolated from people who want to kill me is a bad thing.

    Tell me, how can I work with them?

  9. to mr. canelli: your attitude reminds me of the old expression: ‘I think the man protests too much.’ i wonder if your closet door is locked and you have lost your key! or do you keep it hidden? come on. out with it. admit you are gay too. lf your are. its not the worst way to be except to have to try to live in a world of homophobes.
    pray you don’t get found out by the likes of ‘beanie man and TOK.

  10. All of you who are in NYC- Please join us for a press conference and protest on Thursday !!!

    Black Gay Community Demands Homophobic Reggae Artists Pulled From AIDS Benefit; Hold Press Conference in Front of LIFEBeat Offices

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    July 11, 2006

    CONTACT: Kenyon Farrow, New York State Black Gay Network, 212.828.9393 ext 138, or cell 917.627.0853

    What: Press Conference

    When: Thursday, July 11, 2006 – 10:00am

    Where: LIFEBeat Offices, 630 9th Avenue (bet 44th & 45th Sts), Manhattan, NY 10036

    Who: Guest Speakers include: Keith Boykin, Black Gay Author & Board member, National Black Justice Coalition; Christine Quinn, NYC Council Speaker; Marjorie Hill, GMHC; Kenyon Farrow, New York State Black Gay Network; Tokes Osubu, Gay Men Of African Descent; Bishop Zachary Jones, Unity Fellowship Church; and others.

    Why: To demand that LIFEBeat cancel performances of homophobic artists Beenie Man and Tok at the upcoming Hearts and Voices Benefit Concert.

    New York, NY – Responding with shock and outrage, Black gay and lesbian community leaders and allies will convene a press conference in front of the offices of AIDS awareness organization LIFEBeat on Thursday, July 13, for hiring homophobic dancehall artists Beenie Man and Tok for their July 18 benefit concert at Webster Hall.

    The Black gay community began to mobilize when Black gay writer and activist Keith Boykin blogged about the concert on his site http://www.keithboykin.com. Boykin wrote he had phoned LIFEBeat Executive Director John Cannelli, and was told that LIFEBeat knew about the artists and their lyrics but proceeded anyhow. Boykin writes in his letter to Cannelli “to use Beenie Man and Tok at an AIDS benefit is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of Black gay men, bisexuals and lesbians who have died of AIDS.”

    The community leaders and a host of Black LGBT bloggers across the country are demanding that LIFEBeat either dis-invite the two artists, or demand the artists make public statements disavowing their homophobic remarks. LIFEBeat issued a public statement acknowledging the many phone calls, letters, and emails they have received about this issue, but still refuse to comply with the community’s demand for accountability.

    “It saddens me to have to confront an organization I once considered a real ally in the fight against AIDS,” says Mark McLaurin, Executive Director of NYSBGN. “But hiring artists who sing about setting fire to gays and lesbians for an AIDS benefit is reckless and irresponsible.”

    The New York State Black Gay Network will be launching The Campaign For Black Gay Men’s Lives later this summer, targeting NYC Black Communities to help curb violence against Black gay men in NYC. To learn more, visit http://www.nysbgn.org.

    To read the Human Rights Watch Report, Hated to Death: Homophobia, Violence, and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic, visit http://hrw.org/reports/2004/jamaica1104/.

  11. Pingback: Radio Left

  12. Wow, truly outrageous. I had never heard of this organization before, and they have made a very poor first impression!

  13. Protest too much? We lead the fight against AIDS for 20 years and now we’re bashable while rap stars use the organizations we sweated and bled to set up in order to reach out to “that segment of the community” which endured slavery, discrimination, and plenty of bashing of their own… and nobody makes the frikking connection: what they really think is you can only move up by stepping on someone else.

    Ask Nita Aviance.

  14. Why is it that some members of the gay community insist on claiming ownership of the issue of HIV. Do you honestly believe that HIV is a predominantly gay issue? Do you realize that you share the Jesse Helms perspective of HIV. Sure, HIV is less of an issue for upper middle class people, but for economically marginalized people, it is still a very serious problem.

    The event is about HIV NOT Homosexuality. This disease does affects Hetero and Homosexuals. By focusing on the disease, and not sexuality, we come together with the people who differ from us. It is putting aside our differences and working together for a common good. If these artists agree to perform for free, they will help ALL people regardless of sexual orientation. They will be helping people they have suggested killing. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  15. I’m supposed to “put aside” that somebody thinks I should be killed?

  16. Zak says: The event is about HIV NOT Homosexuality.

    Ultimately, the event is about life — hence the name LIFEbeat.

    Promoting life by booking a number of artists who use their creative talents to imagine ways in which gay people can be killed is indefensible.

  17. Yes, Terrance. It is all about YOU. You are the only person with legitimate control over your actions. I have no control over you. I can merely suggest a course of action.

    If I worry about what other people think about me and about people who want to harm me, I am giving them control over me. I have my priorities. You are entitled to yours.

    Scott, I suppose you are correctin a syllogistic way, but using the same logic, you are against helping people with HIV.

    You become no better than the artists you object to. You condemn an event that could help save many lives that will be lost to HIV because some hot head writes an inflamatory song. If the artist is going to perform gay bashing music at the event, then I can see a reason to object, but that is not what is happening. The organizers of this event looked for common ground to bring to desparate entities together for a common good.

    If you want to slag it, suit yourself, but you are making a choice about how you see the event and the world in general.

    In my experience, we reap what we sew.

  18. I meant disparate not desparate. :-)

  19. Why is it that embracing the common good always, to hear some people tell it, always seems to require embracing my own annihilation?

  20. Come on, Terrance!

    The Lifebeat concert does not require embracing your annihilation. If beanie man wanted to kill you, don’t you think he or his legions of homophobic fans would have done so by now? You’d better be on the look out for teenage boys in rastawear.

  21. Hey, Zak.

    Look, let’s put it in plain terms: there are artists out there who do advocate violence against homosexuals, and there are artists out there who don’t. In fact, there are artists in all genres who don’t go out of their way to instruct their listeners in the finer points of killing gay people, and, though it is not widely known, some of them are even just as popular as the ones who do! And in the same genres, even! (Who’d’a thunk, right?)

    Given that, and given that there are, in fact, a lot of homosexuals with HIV, wouldn’t it have been politer to have given the job of semi-official spokesman for the organization for a day (and yes, that’s how it comes out looking, and in this case perception is reality) to someone who has not in fact expressed the wish to kill a large portion of the people who the event is supposed to benefit? Given that there is no downside, since you could still bring in the same crowd with other, just as popular artists?

    Oddly enough, I see a major downside to insulting a large chunk of your current donor base (gay people, people who are sensitive to gay issues, people who don’t like music that encourages murder, people with taste (oop, sorry, are my prejudices showing?) and so forth), when there’s no real reason to.

    -fred

  22. Pingback: links for 2006-07-13

  23. Hi Fred,

    You make a well structure argument, but I still disagree with your reasoning. I appreciate the effort you put into it though. It has given me food for thought. Thanks!

    First of all, the event is a Reggae concert and that limits the number of available acts to Reggae musicians. Also, from a promoters point of view, it is advantageous to have acts with name recognition. This will draw more attendees. I will grant that the offended/gay sympathetic segment will decrease the net attendance. It will attract the audience of the “offensive” artists. Will this offset the attendance lost by offended potential attendees? I don’t know. That is a gamble the promoter has taken.
    I suspect that Beanie Man and the others probably have fans that aren’t homophobic nut-jobs. This is probably a significant demograhpic. I think they are an important demograhpic to reach out to in AIDS awareness because they are probably proverbial fence-sitters with regard to AIDS and related issues.

    Second, about the issue of spokesmanship. What message does it send when Beanie Man & Co. take a stand that is supportive of the HIV population?

    If these people purport to want to kill homosexuals, why are they donating their time to perfor for a cause that will help so many homosexuals live? What are they communicating to their impressionalbe fans?
    Don’t you think this blunts some of their former anti-gay rhetoric? Why would this be such a bad thing?
    In my opinion this brings us together. I honestly think this is a healing rather than hurting event.

    With regarding insulting ALL gay people with money,I suspect that you are over generalizing. While there is a significant number of opposition from the gay community, it appears to me to be the vocal minority.
    Besides, I think this event is targeted at young people (teenagers and college-aged folks), not middle-aged professionals.

    About the hate crimes Terrance listed, how many of them are actually motivated by anti-gay sentiment. In a lot of them there is enough ambiguity that these crimes would have happend regardless of a persons sexuality, but the victim happened to be gay.

    I am ,by profession, a crime policy analyst. To the best of my knowledge incidence of Hate or Bias crimes are grossly exagerated.

    Anyway,
    Peace out!

  24. I’m astounded by the selfishness of the homosexuals complaining about the musicians. This isn’t about people who can’t seem to accept the consequences resulting from their inability to control their behaviors. There are plenty of non-homosexuals in this world who have AIDS due to no fault of their own.
    It seems to me that offended homosexuals should step back and let other affected people benefit from the concert.

  25. Underdog,

    Sit on a tack!

  26. There are many HIV/AIDS groups that do not advocate the killing of ANYONE. Those are the organizations that get my money, not those who give free publicity to scum who advocate murder. I have never heard of a gay-based advocacy group that condones the murder of black people.

  27. Lifebeat likely doesn’t care about much more than money. The use of homophobic racist bigots in their venues proves this. What’s next? Will they book prussian blue?

    The problem with AIDS prevention is that many groups have no intent on preventing or curing AIDS. The money is too sweet to their tastes and they are too cold hearted to care about the millions who are dying.

    Any organization that promotes hate groups should be denied permits in the city. Let them go out in the middle of nowhere and hate their promotion of hate concert.

    -Alexandra

%d bloggers like this: