Reggae festival vows to block singers’ homophobia

  • This is the first of three articles related to the Edmonton Reggae Festival’s response to protests against anti-LGBTQ singers that it has invited to perform.
  • The second article is a commentary by Maurice Tomlinson titled “Reggae festival does little for LGBTI Jamaicans”
  • The third, “Empower the Black Queer Community of Edmonton,” is from the FundRazr crowd-funding site that seeks support for organizations that empower Caribbean and black LGBTQ people
Promotional material for the Edmonton Reggae Festival of 2015.
Promotional material for the Edmonton Reggae Festival of 2015.

PRESS RELEASE: ‘Historic meeting’ of festival organizers, LGBTQ advocates

The Edmonton Reggae Festival responded yesterday to complaints about the anti-LGBT statements and songs of three reggae stars scheduled to perform on Sept. 5.  These are excerpts from the festival’s press release (which appeared on the awkward and frustrating website):

Edmonton’s Queer Black Community, Edmonton Reggae Festival Society and the Pride Centre of Edmonton engage in historic meeting and move forward with a focus on positive relationships and solutions

On the morning of July 12th, 2015 members of the Queer Black and Caribbean community, the management of Edmonton’s Reggae Festival Society and the Pride Centre of Edmonton met to discuss many important issues related to the recent news stories about the event. …

All meeting participants recognized the importance of this historic meeting that sets a precedent for unity of LGBTQ in the greater reggae community. Further, it acknowledged the critical importance of centering the voices of LGBTQ People of Colour (POC) in the discussion. They [made] an acknowledgement of homophobia in all cultures in society and in arts that reflect those cultures and that reggae is about healing social and political injustices through love. …

We all agreed that it is important to note that the management of the Edmonton Reggae Festival Society has strong security measures in place to ensure the safety of all patrons on the grounds of the Festival, and that ALL Festival performers must sign a contract which states the following:

a) No profanity and/or explicit lyrics are allowed within any portion of the show/performance. Any such behaviour by an Artist will result in a $1,000 fine, and the Festival reserves the right to end the performance. Initials __

b) No defamation of character or group will be tolerated. This includes defamation on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference / lifestyle, economic status, etc. Any such lyrics or speech used by an Artist will result in a $5,000 fine, and the Festival reserves the right to end the performance. Initials __

… [These] measures have been in place since the inception of the Festival in 2014. …

Edmonton Reggae Festival Society will initiate an invitation to a variety of community organizations and initiatives (LGBTQ supports, ending violence against women, refugee supports, etc.) to hold physical space at the Festival for promotional materials, positive presences and engagement with Festival goers. …

It was also suggested that all concerned allies of LGBTQ including the general public, white and straight allies, media that have reported on homophobia, sponsors current and estranged as well as concerned citizens commit to the financial support of organizations that empower LGBTQ POC.

The following link is to a crowd funding page making it easy to support the recommended organizations.

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 Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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