I’ll be hosting a discussion between representatives of the Mateel Community Center and Queer Humboldt about the inclusion of Sizzla Kalonji in the ROTR line-up this last weekend. Sizzla is on a list of eight Reggae performers who are opposed by many in the LGBTQ communities as purveyors of what is often referred to as “murder music” – song lyrics which advocate lethal violence against LGTBQ people. The discussion begins at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 18 on KMUD. When I have a finalized list of guests, I will post those names.
I will expand this post with more thoughts later, but here is the press conference held by Sizzla at the event. Sizzla’s handlers insisted that no reporter ask questions about homophobia, but one reporter did manage to slide into the discussion of violence and the renunciation thereof. When asked if he would renounce violence, he said, “Yes.” Whether this amounts to a renunciation of the lyrics he has written, I can’t say. He did one time make a promise which was subsequently broken.
The following passage is from a North Coast Journal article on the presser.
Sizzla lyrics include the lines: “Boom, boom. Queers must be killed” (from “Boom Boom”); “Sodomites and queers, I say death to them,” (from “Get to Da Point”), and “Burn the men who have sex with men from behind” (from “Pump Up”). In 2004 Amnesty International documented Sizzla using the Jamaican slur equivalent to “faggot,” urging crowds to “kill dem battyboys.” In late 2014, he was banned from subsequently performing at a major music festival in Kingston, Jamaica, after including anti-gay and lesbian verses in his set. As Bob Doran reported in the Mad River Union, it would seem we owe his presence in Humboldt this year to the fact that the conflicting appearance originally scheduled for the same weekend at Belgium’s Reggae Geel festival had been cancelled earlier on account of protests, which ratcheted up after a video reportedly surfaced of Kalanji making homophobic statements at a Jamaican nightclub in January of this year.
In response to the breakout of the controversy on local media last week, the Mateel released the following statement to several members of the press in response to inquiries.
Hi Thad, Ryan, and Kym,
Sorry for the delay in responding to your emails yesterday. We were having some internet issues and obviously we are in full swing with the production of the event, so we have a lot going on right now. Please note that Sizzla has been booked on the show since we first announced the line-up over 5 months ago- and we received no concerns about him being on the bill until very recently- despite a great deal of local publicity. That said, we now recognize there are concerns within the community about his appearance on the show. We have an assurance from management that no derogatory speech will occur and have protocol in place to pull the plug on his performance should anything like this happen. We will also be posting a values statement at our artist merchandise booth and will be talking from the stage (and in our press tent) encouraging our audience to sign this document with the intent to share it with his management and send a message about where we stand as a community and to underscore what we expect from our artists- with the ultimate goal of fostering real dialogue on an issue that is sadly pervasive in Jamaican culture. To this end, we will also be utilizing funds from our 2016 Ambassador Program- which funnels 10% of funds from our Ambassador ticket sales to global charities related to reggae culture- to directly support the work of an NPO in Jamaica that is working to combat this issue and foster tolerance and understanding regarding the LGBTQ community. I hope this helps answer some of your questions…
Justin CrellinGeneral ManagerMateel Community Center
I have some other thoughts and information I will post later.