Reggae artists accused of making anti-gay statements or singing violent homophobic lyrics will be allowed to perform at Edmonton’s reggae festival in September, Hype Life Magazine has learned.
Festival organizers met with the musicians, the Pride Centre of Edmonton and the black queer community on Sunday (July 12).
Controversy erupted last week after reports emerged that festival headliners Queen Ifrica, Capleton and I Wayne had made homophobic statements in the past, but were still slated to headline the Sept. 5 festival in Louise McKinney Park. Festival organizers responded with a statement insisting the artists would still play, but had agreed to keep the show family-friendly and free of discriminatory statements.
Organizers assured the groups that all artists must agree to restrictions, which stipulate that using profanity or explicit lyrics will result in a $1,000 fine, while defaming any group will result in a $5,000 fine.
Queen Ifrica, Capleton and I-Wayne, have all been accused of making anti-gay statements or having anti-gay lyrics in their dancehall songs.
Organizers also offered LGBTQ groups space at the festival to provide “promotional materials, positive presence and engagement with festival goers.”
Jenni Roberts, a members of the city’s black queer community, said she’s not happy the performers will still be allowed to take the stage in Edmonton.
“It may be news to some people, but it’s not news to me that homophobia is a theme in some reggae and dancehall music.”
But Roberts said she is glad people are talking about such an important issue, and that people in her community are coming together to support each other.
“Homophobia is a part of all cultures and all genres (of music),” she said. “So, it’s important that we root it everywhere. There are black and people-of-colour queers in Edmonton, and homophobia affects us. Some of us more than others. And we need to be involved in conversations that are about us.”
Some critics say even if musicians don’t express anti-gay views at the Edmonton festival, allowing them to perform at all gives their anti-gay views tacit approval.
” I am disappointed that nothing has been mentioned of a possible meeting with these artistes to sensitize them about LGBTI issues, and to get them to publicly denounce their homophobic lyrics, before allowing them to perform in September,” said Jamaican HIV activist Maurice Tomlinson, who now lives in Toronto.
“I wish the organizers and the (groups) who signed on to this arrangement would think globally, and act locally, to ensure that these performers are not spreading hate when they return home with pockets full of Canadian currency.”
The festival will invite a variety of community organizations to promote programs supporting LBGTQ individuals, victims of domestic violence and refugees. The statement also voices the need for financial support for organizations that support LBGTQ people of colour.