By Alexis Grant
Flapjack Chronicle staff
TRINIDAD – The controversial Jamaican dancehall artist Capleton performed at the local nightclub Ocean Grove for over 300 fans while members of the local LGBQT community protested outside, to cast him as a promoter of hate and violence.
Shortly after 1 a.m, Capleton entered the crowded room of excited and energized fans singing “equality and justice for all” over the microphone as he walked to the stage in his bright blue Rastafari suit and head wrap standing in front of the Rastafari flag.
The concert, originally planned for the Redfox Tavern in Eureka, was cancelled and rescheduled for Ocean Grove due to pressure from members of the LGBQT community to protest an establishment that hosted the artist.
Local promotion company Bonus Entertainment organized the show and was at the center of of the controversy. Show organizer Beau DeVito declined an official interview on the eve of the show but said that all were welcome to attend.
DeVito and Bonus Entertainment had been the target of negative attacks on their Facebook pages by members and supporters of the LBGQT community. “He wanted to enjoy the show,” said DeVito, of moving Capleton’s performance to the Trinidad bar. Negative posts regarding the artist and the promotion company were removed.
Earlier in the evening nearly 20 members of the LGBQT community gathered outside with signs, one read “I don’t protest your right to listen to his music; I just want you to listen to what he really says.”
The demonstration was peaceful, calm, and quiet. Members of the group spent three weeks organizing the event using a Facebook group page.
Kimiko Nishitsuji, a freshmen critical race gender studies major at HSU and an event organizer, said that their goal was to educate show participants on the homophobic lyrics Capleton promotes through his songs and to encourage him to stop singing hateful music.
Nishitsuji says that there is a difference between freedom of speech and calling for the death of people.
“There is a big difference between threat and inciting violence. I think that he needs to own up to the lyrics that he is singing,” said Nishitsuji.
Capleton’s fiery and controversial reputation began when he signed the Reggae Compassionate Act (RCA) which says that he would no longer perform songs that promote homophobic views but advocate one love, tolerance and understanding of all communities in May 2007, which he broke shortly after. Capleton has not officially talked on the record about breaking the RCA but watch groups such as the Stop Murder Music Campaign (SMMC) have been tracking his performances and statements.
According to the Amnesty International website dedicated to raising awareness about action against homophobia in Jamaica, the lyrics to one notoriously anti-gay song were written in 2004, prior to his signing of the RCA.
During the show Capleton did not perform any songs that contained anti-gay lyrics. He repeatedly mentioned love, peace, and equality for all beings. No songs that incited violence against members of the gay community were performed.
Community member and protestor Kala Minkley said that it was important to raise awareness about homophobic hate speech because the freedom and acceptance of the LGBQT community in Humboldt County.
“ I came out tonight because I really like Humboldt County. It is the first place that I have lived…where I really feel safe and accepted,” said Minkley.
Minkley attended the protest with her partner Connie Low and had very strong opinions about the Capleton show. Earlier in the evening she had a calm confrontation with a show attendee who asked her “what the fuck they were doing.” She responded calmly by asking him if that was a serious question.
Minkley said that people should not stand for anyone who promotes oppression discrimination hate and murder. Murder is hate and that the acceptance of the gay community was hard fought for and should not easily be given up.
“Murder is hate and I think our freedom here and our acceptance here was hard fought and we should not easily give it up not even an inch of it” said Minkley.
She said that no group is less than any other.
“Hate has a way of sneaking in and you can’t allow anyone to come in here and say that any group is less than any other and we’re only as free as the least free of us and so we have to make sure that we keep that secure for all of us,” said Minkley.
The group now officially called the Humboldt Murder Music Protest as part of the international SMMC campaign will continue to speak out in protest of any local venue that supports anti-gay artist.
But this is not stopping the local Humboldt reggae music scene. Local reggae lovers say they will continue to listen to the music of their choice. Their comments have been posted on blogs like http://snwmf.com.
With artist like Beenie Man and more coming soon this is not the end of reggae in Humboldt.