Homophobic artists invited to perform at AIDS benefit concert

Pam Spaulding (hat-tipping Keith Boykin) asks a good question: "There is desperate need to educate minorities about HIV/AIDS, but why on earth would the music industry's non-profit arm LIFEBeat -- which is supposed to combat ignorance and homophobia surrounding HIV/AIDS with education -- sponsor an event featuring two artists who sing about killing gays and lesbians?"
LIFEbeat's sixth Hearts & Voices Concert Series benefit concert is a landmark event because it is bringing reggae artists together for the first time to face the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS next week, on July 18. This is a wonderful opportunity to reach an audience that needs a positive message, yet LIFEbeat is KNOWINGLY participating in the promotion of homophobic performers.
Beenie Man calls for hanging lesbians with a long piece of rope in his lyrics, and TOK encourages the burning and killing of gay men. From TOK's "Chi Chi Man":
From dem a par inna chi chi man car
Blaze di fire mek we bun dem!!!! (Bun dem!!!!)
From dem a drink inna chi chi man bar
Blaze di fire mek we dun dem!!!! (Dun dem!!!!)
The folks at LIFEBeat have lost their minds.
When Boykin emailed LIFEBeat's executive director John Canelli to ask about the strange decision to feature artists who advocate taking the lives of gays and lesbians at a concert designed ostensibly to save lives, Canelli replied that LIFEBeat "wanted to reach out to that segment of the community by using artists who could connect with them" and that it's "not his job" to address performers' homophobia.

Interestingly, he also told Boykin, "We didn't make the decision blindly. We knew there would be controversy." To this cynical ex-marketing director, that comes uncomfortably close to sounding like a deliberate decision to raise the profile of the concert -- which is a fair enough marketing ploy until your desire to generate buzz actually starts to undermine the cause. Trading in on the infamy of virulently anti-gay performers to rachet up awareness of a concert whose proceeds are meant in part to save lives in the LGBT community is, to put it lightly, bad form.

Pam has a list of bloggers and media outlets covering the issue here, and contact information here. Also at Keith Boykin's here.

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