The campaign to make LIFEbeat live up to its name, and stop promoting violent homophobic artists, continues. (Thanks, by the way, to John, Matt and Kos for their help in spreading awareness.) As Pam noted, yesterday LIFEbeat issued the following statement.
LIFEbeat Statement on Reggae Gold Live Event
We have received numerous calls of concern about LIFEbeat’s involvement in the upcoming Reggae Gold Live concert. In the interest of responding to any questions or concerns, what follows is a statement from the organization.
LIFEBEAT STATEMENT ON REGGAE GOLD LIVE
LIFEbeat’s mission is to utilize 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 stigmatized. 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 organization 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. We all have an opportunity to look to the future, not the past, and join together in solidarity to educate, enlighten, be a part of positive change and save lives.
Talk about a whole lot of noise, signifying nothing. Where to begin?
Let’s start with the notion of "being stigmatized." Does music that celebrates violence and murder against gays and lesbians contribute to people "being stigmatized"? Does it stigmatize people like murdered Jamaican AIDS activists Lenford Harvey and Brian Williamson? How does promoting artists like Beanie Man and TOK — without even so much as asking them to repudiate the anti-gay violence in their music — help eliminate stigmatization? It doesn’t, if you ask me. It just creates more.
Now, on to "dialogue." LIFEbeat has refused to engage in a dialogue on two fronts. First, they completely turned down Keith’s modest request that LIFEbeat — short of canceling the concert or uninviting Beanie Man and TOK — simply use its influence to urge the artists to repudiate their violently anti-gay lyrics. So they effectively refused to have a dialogue with their artists and with those concerned about the message this concert sends.
Let’s talk about "promoting life" for a minute. How does music that advocates murdering gays & lesbians advance LIFEbeat’s supposed mission of "promoting life"?
Don’t get me wrong. As a gay man I’ve spent most of my adult life involved fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in one way or another. I spent my college years doing hundreds of hours of HIV prevention education. Afterwards I spent years in various organizations, working to fight the epidemic, especially among people of color.
I need LIFEbeat telling me about the importance of fighting the epidemic in all of our communities about as much as I need a hole in my head; like the one artists like Beanie Man and TOK sing about putting there. The truth is that their music, and the poison it spreads, are likely to drive underground some of the very people LIFEbeat claims its trying to serve.
All the education and services in the world won’t do me any good if I’m so afraid to come out of the closet, because I might be killed, that I can’t even begin to access LIFEbeat’s services. And LIFEbeat’s services won’t do me a dam bit of good if I’m dead at the hands of people who take music like TOK’s and Beanie Man’s to heart. Nor will expressions of concern and outrage after the fact.
Finally, there’s no evidence of LIFEbeat’s "careful consideration" in sponsoring this concert and promoting these artists. Careful consideration might have yielded some dialogue with the community beforehand. Careful consideration might have lead them to use their influence to talk with their artists about the anti-gay violence in their lyrics, and encourage them to repudiate their previous stances. Careful consideration might have at least led them to issue a disclaimer.
Doing even the little suggested above would have enabled them to at least have a statement prepared to deal with the inevitable outcry over the concert. But LIFEbeat didn’t do even that much. There’s no evidence of "careful consideration" on LIFEbeat’s part. And no attempt at dialogue either.
And there’s an astonishing silence from their board and contributors, which include well known gays and lesbians like Emil Welbekin and HIllary Rosen. There’s an astonishing silence from gay organizations like HRC. Keith has posted the contact information for LIFEbeat’s boards and contributors, and Pam has done likewise for HRC and GLAAD. LIFEbeat isn’t listening. So, it’s time to take it up the ladder.