February 23, 2015 Shuzzr

Below is a response to Dane Lewis, Article Published on Sunday February 22, 2015, in the Jamaica Gleaner.

Once Again the director of JFLAG has decided to speak on behalf of a group of individuals who don’t necessarily share the same sentiments. The continuous extending of an olive branch to the Reggae & Dancehall Industry has gotten old and isn’t effective.

In the recent article where legendary artiste manager, Copeland Forbes, expressed the state of the industry he made an import point to which neither the advocacy group, its members or others have addressed. Mr Forbes states, “You (artistes) don’t need to address them (homosexuals) because a lot of them are in the record companies and you are shaking their hands and you don’t even know. Leave that alone, homosexuality existed before you and it will be here when you’re gone. You don’t need to bring that inna yuh music.”

The part to which Im alluding is the fact he said “leave that (them) alone”. But that’s the biggest problem. We continuously sweep the issue under the rug rather than handle it. We don’t want to be left alone, rather we want to be a part of the culture, industry to which we just like any other have an equal stake. We want to be players as well and that requires not leaving us alone but acknowledging, respect and involving us.

It has been over a year since many said I committed career suicide with my public proclamation but to me that was a defining moment in the industry. How many of the said players can honestly do the same and still stand bold, and proud of who they are and what they do.

We all can agree that the industry has suffered tremendously due to their position, but over the years the advocacy group along with several of the industries stakeholders have sat down to discuss these very same matters to chart a way forward yet to no avail. As these artiste meet in secrecy or through unofficial channels/representatives to address the issue so they can sign documents in secrecy to earn “passes” to outside markets. Yet the issue of homophobia still remains on the plates of many.

Lewis states, “There is more to Jamaica and our music than hate and violence and it is incumbent on our artistes to show the world what is good about Jamaica, our people and music. We can’t allow our nation to be characterized by this, because, ultimately, it’s the artistes, their family and team who depend on it for their livelihood that suffer.”

The line which resonated the most with me was “In fact, members of the LGBT community who work in the industry, as well as other artistes who don’t have such songs, are affected too,” and that’s a true fact. The bigger question is how many of the artiste, producers, managers are homosexual’s themselves? There is a lot of these individuals who see continuously receiving awards, charting top singles and even at the top of controversy list. Yet in secrecy we entertain them but in public they don’t acknowledge us, Hypocrisy.

Though many think we have seen a reduction in anti-gay lyrics I believe it’s quite contrary. The industry and its players have only found more subtle ways of making their stance clear. They have used more metaphors, similes etc. than some of the greatest poets and story tellers that walked this earth.

Lewis in his great an unfounded wisdom said, I don’t know that I have the answer to what he believes dancehall and reggae artistes can do to repair their image, especially on the international scene. If the islands most established advocacy group cant find the answers then… We shouldn’t demand the Music Industry to stand up for equality when, various groups, individuals refuse to standup themselves.

We need to reinvent the Reggae Compassionate Act and seek to make it a piece of legislation that will be a guide as to how the industry operates and consequence. It should be a document that is used an ethical guide to how the industry operates in such regard.

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