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LIFEbeat cuts and runs, cancels concert and blames activists

The new spelling for cowardice is L-I-F-E-b-e-a-t.

LIFEbeat has decided to cut-and-run and blame people who called for the organization to address its invitation of artists who advocate violence against gays — Beenie Man and TOK — to their benefit concert. Look at this press release:

LIFEbeat Cancels Reggae Gold Live Jumpoff

LIFEbeat – The Music Industry Fights AIDS, has collectively decided to cancel its Reggae Gold Live concert, scheduled for Tuesday, July 18 at New York’s Webster Hall. While the organization’s staff and board believe very strongly in the positive purpose and intention of this event, the possibility of violence at the concert from the firestorm incited by a select group of activists makes canceling the event the only responsible action. Dialogue is important and LIFEbeat’s staff and board respect the opinions of those who came forward to make their feelings known. We have always and will continue to support the GLBT community.

It is very unfortunate, however, that the intended good that could result from bringing this community together around this potentially ground breaking event will not be realized. The Caribbean American community needs our help in bringing attention to this unspoken and often stigmatized illness. We hope in the wake of this decision that those who came forward and spoke out will now come forward again to do something positive for the Caribbean American community and help bring attention to the devastation this disease has wreaked in that community so awareness, prevention and healing can follow.

People who care about the link between encouraging homophobia through music, driving gays into an environment of closeted unsafe sex (therefore encouraging the spread of HIV) are the cause of potential violence. Right. This is ridiculous and represents cowardice of the highest order.

It is a sad state of affairs when an organization with a mission to educate and advocate for tolerance regarding HIV/AIDS has to smear those in the gay community who asked that they not endorse artists who foment the spread of homophobia in the name of “outreach.”

There are many ways to choose to reach the Caribbean American community on HIV/AIDS, including holding the concert with artists who don’t advocate the killing of gays and lesbians. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

In this case the answer is, the folks at LIFEbeat couldn’t answer the serious questions about the organization’s poor judgment to invite Beenie Man and TOK. Beenie Man has shown that he doesn’t take the calls to stop promoting homophobia seriously. As I said earlier, when faced with a boycott in the UK, he agreed to stop singing “death advocacy” songs, then broke that truce and began performing the same old hate-filled music calling for the deaths of gays all over again.

LIFEbeat couldn’t reconcile its position, so it canceled the whole event and blamed it on people who actually care whether a public venue is given to those who are clearly not friends of the community. Even worse, the organization’s above statement attempts to drive a wedge between the LGBT community against the Caribbean American community as it scrambles to do damage control. Sad, sad, sad.

If LIFEbeat truly wanted to show that it cares about the power of music in educating the Caribbean community about HIV, it could put on a gay-affirming event and donate the proceeds to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, AllSexuals & Gays (J-FLAG).

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding