London – 13 June 2007
Three of the world’s top reggae / dancehall singers have renounced homophobia and condemned violence against lesbians and gay men.
Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton had previously released anti-gay hate songs, including incitements to murder lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
They have now signed up to the Reggae Compassionate Act (copy below), in a deal brokered with top reggae promoters and Stop Murder Music activists.
The agreement follows the three-year-long Stop Murder Music campaign, which resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of the singers’ concerts and sponsorship deals, causing them income losses estimated in excess of five million dollars.
“The Reggae Compassionate Act is a big breakthrough,” said Peter Tatchell, of the British gay human rights group OutRage!. Mr Tatchell is coordinator of the worldwide Stop Murder Music campaign. He helped negotiate the deal with the three singers.
“The singers’ rejection of homophobia and sexism is an important milestone. We rejoice at their new commitment to music without prejudice,” said Mr Tatchell.
“This deal will have a huge, positive impact in Jamaica and the Caribbean. The media coverage will generate public awareness and debate; breaking down ignorance and undermining homophobia.
“Having these major reggae stars renounce homophobia will influence their fans and the wider public to rethink bigoted attitudes. The beneficial effect on young black straight men will be immense,” he said.
This view is mirrored by fellow Stop Murder Music campaigner, Dennis L Carney, Vice-Chair of the Black Gay Mens Advisory Group (BGMAG) in London. Mr Carney is of Jamaican descent, and played a leading role in negotiating the Reggae Compassionate Act. He added:
“I am thrilled that Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton have signed up to this historic agreement with the Stop Murder Music campaign. We welcome their commitment to not produce music or make public statements that incite hatred and violence against gay people”.
“This is a giant leap towards restoring peace, love and harmony to reggae music. These performers are sending a clear message that lesbians and gay men have a right to live free from fear and persecution – both here in the UK and in Jamaica,” concluded Mr Carney.
In the Reggae Compassionate Act the three singers pledge to:
In this declaration the artists promise to not sing lyrics or make public statements, in Jamaica or anywhere else in the world, that incite prejudice, hatred or violence against lesbian and gay people.
“By signing the Reggae Compassionate Act they are stating that, in future, they will not release new homophobic songs or authorise the re-release of previous homophobic songs,” added Mr Tatchell.
“They also agree that they will not make homophobic public statements.
“They recognise that prejudice, hate and violence have no place in music – that singers should unite people, not divide them. They are now committed to opposing homophobic prejudice, discrimination and violence.
“This commitment is a major blow against homophobia in the Caribbean and in popular music.
“The Reggae Compassionate Act applies worldwide. If any of the three singers break this agreement anywhere in the world, we will resume the campaign against them.
“As a result of them signing this statement, for a trial period we are suspending the campaign against these three performers. If they abide by the agreement we will make this suspension permanent.
“The other five murder music artists – Elephant Man, TOK, Bounty Killa, Vybz Kartel and Buju Banton – have not signed the Reggae Compassionate Act. The campaign against them continues. These singers have incited the murder of lesbians and gays. They should not be rewarded with concerts or sponsorship deals.
“The Stop Murder Music campaign urges organisations worldwide to intensify the campaign to cancel these five singer’s concerts and their record, sponsorship and advertising deals. These artists have openly encouraged the murder of lesbians and gay men, which is a criminal offence in every country. We call on all people of good conscience to boycott these promoters of hatred and violence; and to campaign against them with the same determination that they would campaign against racists and anti-Semites.
“These unrepentant homophobic performers are the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan,” said Mr Tatchell.
His views are echoed by Gareth Wiliams, co-chair of the Jamaican gay human rights group, J-Flag:
“This statement against homophobia and violence is a move in the right direction,” he said.
“We hope it is not commercially motivated by the singers’ desire to maintain their concert revenues, but a sincere commitment that will encourage an end to homophobic violence and to all violence against everyone. The five artists who have not signed the statement should now follow this lead and declare their support for universal human rights, including the human rights of lesbian and gay people,” said Mr Williams.
Brett Lock, an OutRage! member and key organiser in the Stop Murder Music campaign, reiterated:
“We have never accepted any agreement whereby an artist agrees to not perform homophobic lyrics at concerts in Europe and the US, but continues performing them in the Caribbean.
“The idea that these singers can incite the murder of gay people in Jamaica and then come to Europe and be accepted as legitimate artists is morally sick and indefensible.
“The only agreement we will accept is an agreement that they will not incite homophobic hatred and violence – in lyrics or in public statements – anywhere in the world, including Jamaica. This is what the Reggae Compassionate Act says, and this is the pledge made by the three singers who have signed it,” said Mr Lock.
The Reggae Compassionate Act was negotiated by Eddie Brown of Pride Music UK, with the support of the promoters Michel Jovanovic (Mediacom France), Klaus Maack (Contour Germany), Peter Senders (Panic Productions Holland), Fabrizio Pompeo (Tour de Force Italy), Julian Garcia (Roots and Vibes Spain) and Tim Badejo (Dubble Bubble Scandinavia).
“We would not have secured this agreement without their helpful contacts, input, patience and commitment. We thank them for their hard work,” added Mr Tatchell.
Note to editors:
To test the singers’ sincerity, we urge you to publicise their pledges in your media and to assign your journalists to interview them to make sure they personally confirm their commitment to renounce and oppose homophobia.
We are concerned that some singers are only signing the Reggae Compassionate Act for business and commercial reasons – not because they genuinely believe that homophobic hatred and violence are wrong.
With your help we can test their sincerity and genuineness.
The Stop Murder Music campaign consists of more than 60 organisations in over a dozen countries in Europe, North America and the Caribbean. It is led by a triumvirate consisting of the Jamaican gay human rights group, J-Flag and, in the UK, the Black Gay Mens Advisory Group and queer human rights group OutRage!
The Stop Murder Music campaign won the Best Advocacy Award at the recent Black Lesbian and Gay Community Awards 2007 ceremony in London.
OutRage! contributed to the drafting of the Reggae Compassionate Act. It was our idea to get the singers to sign a declaration against all prejudice and violence, including homophobia. The final wording was agreed by the reggae promoters we are working with (led by Eddie Brown), in consultation with some of singers and their managers.
If these three singers abide by their signed statements to avoid homophobic words and lyrics worldwide, we have no objections to their concerts going ahead. We will call off the campaign to cancel their concerts, and advise all our constituent and allied groups around the world to do the same.
We will review this decision in six months time, with a commitment to making it a permanent end to the campaign against these three singers. So long as they stick to the agreement, we will honour our commitment to halt the campaign against them.
The Reggae Compassionate Act
We, the artists of the Reggae community, hereby present this letter as a symbol of our dedication to the guiding principles of Reggae’s enduring foundation ONE LOVE. Throughout time, Reggae has been recognized as a healing remedy and an agent of positive social change.
We will continue this proud and righteous tradition.
Reggae Artists and their music have fought against injustices, inequalities, poverty and violence even while enduring some of those same circumstances themselves. Over the years, reggae music has become popularized and enjoyed by an unprecedented audience all over the world. Artists of the Reggae Community respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender.
While we recognize that our artistic community comprises many different individuals who express themselves in different ways and hold a myriad of beliefs, we believe firmly that the way forward lies in tolerance. Everyone can keep his own conviction and we must receive respect for our freedom of speech as far as we respect the law, but it must be clear there’s no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia.
We do not encourage nor minister to HATE but rather uphold a philosophy of LOVE, RESPECT and UNDERSTANDING towards all human beings as the cornerstone of reggae music.
This Compassionate Act is hereby calling on a return to the following principles as the guiding vision for the future of a healthy Reggae music community:
• Positive Vibrations
• Consciousness raising
• Social and Civic Engagement
• Democracy and Freedom
• Peace and Non-Violence
• Mother Nature
• Equal Rights and Justice
• One Love
• Individual Rights
• Tolerance and Understanding
We, as artists, are committed to a holistic and healthy existence in the world, and to respect to the utmost the human and natural world. We pledge that our music will continue to contribute positively to the world dialogue on peace, respect and justice for all.
To this end, we agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community.
Signed: Beenie Man, Capleton, Sizzla