I’m working on a post summing up the LIFEbeat campaign and putting it in the context of the web’s organizing potential. In the meantime there are a couple of things that have been buzzing around my brain and I wanted to get some feedback on them here.
There’s been some discussion among some of us who were part of the LIFEbeat campaign on how to keep the momentum up and do something positive with it. Because the truth is stopping one concert doesn’t eliminate the core problem. Beenie Man, for example had another engagement in New York on Friday. And then there’s DMX.
Man, cats don’t know what it’s gonna be
messin with a dog like me, D-to-the-M-to-the-X
Last I heard, y’all cowards was havin sex, with the same sex
I show no love……
Empty out, reloaded and throw more slugs
How you gonna explain born in a man?
Even if we squashed the beef, I ain’t touchin ya hand
I don’t mess with chumps, for those to been to jail
That’s the cat with the Kool-Aid on his lips and pumps
I can’t deal with brother that think they broads
Only know how to be one way, that’s the dog
I know how to get down, know how to bite, bite
Bark very little, but I know how to fight, fight
I know how to chase a cat up in the tree
man, i’ll give you cowards the business for messin wot me
And “Touch It” with Busta Rhymes.
NIGGAZ AIN’T BUILT FOR NOTHIN BUT FRONTIN
COME THROUGH, FAGGOTS HIT THE SECURITY FRONTIN (Keep goin X)
Get that do, What that do? How that do?
Fuck you faggot, I shot at you
And what? You and you mans butt, you in your man’s truck
But your chance is up, not get up
So what to do about it? While, LIFEbeat’s egregious choice of artists warranted strong action, artists who perform lyrics like these are going to continue to get gigs, and even trying to get all of them cancelled isn’t remotely feasible or even necessarily advisable depending on what our goals are. And I think our goals should include creating more awareness of LGBT people and issues within our communities as a catalyst for a broader sea change.
The reality, I think, is that even if we could get concert after concert cancelled, doing so would end up alienating so many people in our communities that it would outweigh any perceived victories or immediate payoff our efforts. When it comes to the day-to-day lives of LGBT people in our communities, it won’t help much if there isn’t a broader change in attitudes in those communities. It might even make things worse.
So maybe the next step, rather than shutting down the concerts of artists who celebrate anti-gay violence in their music, is to change our communities so that fewer people see that violence as something to celebrate or merely dismiss. To that end, I think these events provide us with a unique opportunity to do that, particularly in the wake of media interest around the LIFEbeat campaign.
What could we do? Well, rather than trying to get a concert shut down, we could organize direct actions. I wouldn’t even call them protests necessarily, but maybe “vigils” intended to underscore the presence and contributions of LGBT people in our communities, to put faces on the abstract lyrics of these artists.
Maybe we organize to hand out literature to attendees as they enter or leave these events. Maybe we organize community meetings or forums where LGBT members of the community can come forward and talk about the realities of their lives and how they’re affected by the attitudes perpetuated by lyrics like these. Depending on the venues maybe we invite survivors of anti-gay violence, and/or their family members, to speak; again to put faces on otherwise abstract lyrics. Depending on the scale, etc., maybe we even invite artists like Kanye West to speak out.
Maybe we use the publicity around these performances to also make local media aware of our stories and counter-events. Maybe we get organizations like the National Black Justice Coalition involved. Maybe we coordinate with LGBT-friendly churches in our community to host these community forums. (Yeah, I know. I actually suggested working with churches. Hey, it’s not my thing. But if it works for people in our communities I’m not against trying it.) Maybe it becomes a way of creating safe spaces for black LGBT people to come out in our communities.
It doesn’t have the sweep or excitement of a campaign in the national media, or the immediate payoff of getting a concert cancelled. But it occurs to me that it might change a few minds here and there, and cause a few more to reconsider or look at things in a new light. And given time, maybe eventually there won’t be a market for lyrics that advocate violence and murder against gays & lesbians, because too many people will see us as their friends, neighbors, and family and won’t see violence against us as a form of entertainment.
Anyway, these are just my ideas. Thoughts?