LIFEbeat, an organization dedicated to reaching America’s youth about HIV/AIDS prevention, has been facing criticism for the lineup of their upcoming Reggae Gold concert. Activists are up in arms because of the choice to include two artists known for past anti-gay lyrics.
Jamaican dancehall artists Beenie Man and the group T.O.K are scheduled to perform July 18 at New York City’s Webster Hall. However, activists are pushing for LIFEbeat to drop the artists from the bill or force them to publicly denounce their controversial song lyrics.
While LIFEbeat rejects the anti-gay lyrics of its performers, they still feel that the hugely popular acts will be able to reach an otherwise inaccessible audience.
In response to the uproar, LIFEbeat has issued a statement backing their decision to include such controversial artists. While reiterating that they “do not condone anti-gay lyrics or violence against anyone,” they still “strongly believe that dialogue opens doors, creating the opportunity for enlightenment, growth and change amongst all involved.”
While both Beenie Man and T.O.K. have released anti-gay songs, they have since issued statements through their publicists regarding the public criticism. Beenie Man said: "Aids is an epidemic that doesn't discriminate. It's not a gay or a straight thing, it is a fight for life, and I'm proud to stand with LIFEbeat in the fight against a disease that exists regardless of one's sex, race or sexual orientation."
While the statement is not the public denunciation that the activists had hoped for, it appears the dialogue has already shown that the artists have matured and will continue to exhibit growth and change.