Despite community protests, the Los Angeles-headquartered House of Blues has refused to cancel all its scheduled concerts by Sizzla, a reggae singer whose lyrics promoting violence against gay people caused the United Kingdom to deny him entry to the country last year. His 2004 European tour was canceled as a result of outrage from the gay community there and earlier this year protests resulted in the cancellation of six concerts in France.
Leaders of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center as well Lisa Marie Belsanti, deputy to West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land, and Vallerie Wagner, board member of the Zuna Institute, met with representatives of the House of Blues to urge them to cancel its two scheduled Sizzla concerts; one in Cleveland on Aug. 31 and the other in West Hollywood on September 12. Only the West Hollywood concert has been canceled and House of Blues officials have refused to return calls for an explanation from the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the Lesbian/Gay Community Center of Greater Cleveland.
Lyrics from Sizzla’s songs include: “Shot batty bwoy, my big gun boom” (Shoot queers, my big gun goes boom); “Boom boom! Batty boy them fi dead” (Boom boom, queers must be killed); and “Mi a go shot batty bwai dem widdie weapon ya” (I go and shoot queers with a weapon).
“It’s ironic that while a foreign government is preventing a singer who incites violence against gay people from entering its country, the House of Blues—whose mission is to ‘promote racial and spiritual harmony through love, peace, truth, righteousness and non-violence’—is inviting him to perform in West Hollywood and Cleveland,” said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive officer of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. “If Sizzla’s lyrics promoted the murder of Jews, Latinos, African-Americans or any other minority group, venues like the House of Blues wouldn’t even think about providing him a space to perform.”
Last year the House of Blues refused to cancel a Chicago concert by Capleton, another anti-gay Reggae artist, but under pressure from the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the city of West Hollywood, ultimately agreed to cancel the two remaining concerts scheduled for West Hollywood and New Orleans.
“Just as Sizzla’s lyrics violate House of Blues’ mission, HOB is violating the trust and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of Northeastern Ohio,” said Sue Doerfer, Executive Director of the Lesbian/Gay Community Center of Greater Cleveland. “Earlier this summer, they organized a series of events to position the venue as an accepting and tolerant place for LGBT people. Sizzla’s appearance not only contradicts those efforts but devalues the local LGBT community. If we were valued enough to be customers, why are we not valued as concerned citizens? Refusing to cancel the Cleveland show is a gesture of intolerance that makes the company’s outreach to our community very patronizing.”
Sizzla was one of eight anti-gay reggae artists who was initially party to a truce that was negotiated by members of Outrage!, a gay rights group in the U.K. Outrage! agreed to suspend its campaign against hate music when the managers and relevant record companies agreed that the performers would refrain from using the offensive songs and that no new such songs would be written, performed or recorded.
As recently as last month Sizzla violated the agreement, performing a song in Jamaica with anti-gay lyrics that included: “bun battyman” (burn queers).
Earlier this year leaders of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center met with the leaders of J-FLAG (Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays), the all-volunteer organization in Jamaica that is battling rampant homophobia and anti-gay violence. Garath, co-chair of the organization, said there is a direct correlation between anti-gay music in Jamaica and anti-gay violence and expressed grave concern regarding the impact on young people who learn to devalue human life.
“Many young people know the songs word-for-word,” he said, “and are learning that it is socially acceptable to kill gays.”