Canada was right to nix tax-funded Jamaican hate

Queen Ifrica (Photo courtesy of Urban Islandz)
Queen Ifrica (Photo courtesy of Urban Islandz)

Jamaican anti-gay lawyer, Shirley Richards, wrote a letter to the editor condemning the cancellation of a performance by homophobic reggae artiste, Queen Ifrica.  Ifrica was scheduled to perform at Rastafest in Toronto on August 24.   This event was partially funded by the Toronto Public Library and Service Canada, both of which are taxpayer-supported entities.

Citing several incidents where anti-gay persons have had their freedom of speech curtailed, she concludes that this will lead to the end to freedom of thought in Jamaica(!). She wrote in “The LGBT Agenda and Free Speech” in the Jamaica Gleaner:

What has happened to Queen Ifrika is just another example of the danger that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender agenda poses to free speech. This is what Crystal Dixon discovered. In 2008, she dared to write in a local newspaper that choosing homosexual behaviour is not the same as being black or handicapped. These were some of her words:

“As a black woman, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are ‘civil rights victims.’ Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a black woman.” For these words she lost her job as associate vice-president, University of Toledo.  …

[Richards also cites the removal of “ex-gay” gospel singer Donnie McClurkin from the program of an Aug. 24 Martin Luther King Jr. memorial concert on Aug. 24 and a reported demotion of an employee of the Trafford Housing Trust in England for various Facebook posts opposed to marriage equality.]

We warn of a growing cultural totalitarianism – at this point, it is insisting on no criticism in speech with punishment for those who dare to disobey. Soon it will be mandatory endorsement in speech. Will it also move to mandatory endorsement in thought?

Shirley Richards (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Gleaner)
Shirley Richards (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Gleaner)

Her views have been expressed by the over 13 groups opposing the challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law which is currently before the court.

Please see my response to her letter below.

Dear Ms. Richards,

CVM TV reported that on August 22, 2013, there was a mob attack on the home of 5 suspected gay men in Manchester.

This is the 6th public and reported homophobic incident in a month and is therefore not an anomaly. Like all acts of crime, this incident is merely representative of a general trend since TV cameras cannot possibly capture every assault.

The attack on Aug. 22 follows:

1) The murder of 17 year-old cross-dresser, Dwayne Jones at a public street-party on July 22 and the dumping of his body in nearby bushes while party-goers went on dancing. The country’s Minister of Justice condemned the barbaric act;

2) The mob attack of a suspected police officer in downtown Kingston on August 1 who had to be rescued by other officers firing shots in the air and teargas into the crowd;

3) A mob attack on the home of 2 gay persons in St. Catherine also on August 1. They too had to be rescued by police;

4) A homophobic performance at a publicly funded national independence celebration on August 6 for which the Minister of Culture had to publicly apologize; and

5) A mob attack on a cross-dresser in St. Catherine on August 10. The police again had to rescue the individual.

Jamaican mob barricades five allegedly gay men in their house. (Photo from video)
Jamaican mob barricades five allegedly gay men in their house. (Photo from video)

[Huffington Post reports on the 6th homophobic attack in Jamaica in a month on Aug. 22. “A new video that shows a mob of people barricading five gay men inside of their home in a Jamaican village is currently making the rounds on the Internet. … The men were reportedly trapped in their home by the crowd until police arrived and escorted them to safety.”]

This spate of attacks demonstrates that the Jamaican government MUST do more to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT Jamaicans. Apologizing after the fact is not enough.

These brutal assaults also demonstrate that the hate Jamaicans feel towards LGBT citizens is real. Therefore, Ifrica’s anti-gay music cannot be encouraged in this toxic environment. It is reasonable that her freedom of speech be limited in order to save lives. Allowing her to continue her vitriolic performance at taxpayers’ expense would be tantamount to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre with all the exits barricaded! Someone will get hurt.

Preventing Ifrica from singing about her hate for gays is a small price to pay in order to save lives.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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