Some of the speakers and participants at this morning's press conference calling on LIFEbeat to own up to their mistake in hiring Beenie Man and T.O.K. for a benefit concert without taking into consideration their rabid homophobia. The concert was cancelled yesterday but, in a press statement, LIFEbeat opted not to take responsibility for their actions and blame black gay bloggers instead.
From top to bottom: Caribbean gay activist Colin Robinson; Blogger and New York State Black Gay Network Communications and Public Education Coordinator Kenyon Farrow and blogger and author Keith Boykin; Jamaican-born lesbian poet and performer StaceyAnn Chinn; Farrow and Bishop Zachary Jones of the Unity Fellowship Church.
Other speakers and participants included Tokes Osubu, Executive Director of Gay Men of African Descent; Joey B. Pressley, Executive Director of the New York State AIDS Coalition; blogger Bernard Tarver; blogger John K., blogger and photographer Donald Agarrat, blogger Andre Lancaster and Clarence Patton, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.
Additional photos here
In addition, the New York City Anti-Violence Project has just sent out this press release:
M E D I A R E L E A S E
For Immediate Release
Contact: Clarence Patton
July 13, 2006
Anti-Violence Project Applauds Cancellation of Concert Trading AIDS for Violence
Says Work Still to be Done "Educating" and Creating "Dialogue" with LifeBeat
New York – Clarence Patton, the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project's Executive Director issued the following statement after learning that a concert with planned performances by Dancehall artists Beenie Man and TOK, who have incited violence against gays and lesbians in their lyrics, had been cancelled. The event was to benefit LifeBeat, the music industry's leading AIDS charity:
"We were greatly dismayed that LifeBeat, which has such a powerful mission, initially elected to include in its lineup artists that actively and generally without apology or a stated intent to change their messaging advocate violence against lesbians and gay men. At the Anti-Violence Project, we have long seen the way in which the AIDS pandemic has been used in the US and around the world as further justification of violence against our community.
Additionally, assertions made by at least one LifeBeat representative that 'almost everyone in that segment of the industry is homophobic, so it would be difficult to find someone who isn't,' were incorrect and ultimately insubstantial. Even if that statement were true, there remains a distinct difference between a generalized distaste for a community - homophobia in this case - and actively encouraging the violent beating and immolation of its members as Beenie Man and TOK have.
Just this week, the bodies of two murdered lesbians were found in a roadside pit in Jamaica. Here in New York City, the LGTB community spent much of June - Pride Month - mobilizing in response to a number of incidents which left victims hospitalized and neighborhoods on-edge. This is clearly not the time to turn a blind eye to rabid homophobia.
And while we're pleased that LifeBeat, following the lead of a number of other organizations and venues around the world in recent years, made the choice to re-think its decision to provide a forum for those who have actively called for violence against a population so impacted by the AIDS pandemic, it is clear that there remains a tremendous amount of work to be done between LifeBeat, and LGTB and anti-violence organizations.
We find LifeBeat's concern about possible "violence" from those unhappy with scheduled performers baffling given that the focus of the scores of calls and e-mails received by our organization in the last several days focused on opposition to and concern about the violence espoused by performers scheduled to be at LifeBeat's own event.
Nevertheless, we see this entire episode as an opportunity to do just what LifeBeat indicated in its earliest responses to the community uproar over their concert plans: educate and create dialogue. This is now the time for LifeBeat to build stronger connections with the LGTB community to ensure that the tacit or active endorsement of violence against LGTB people is not given for the sake of AIDS awareness."