Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Anti-gay reggae singer brings controversy to SF


Reggae singer Capleton
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Controversy has engulfed an upcoming San Francisco performance by Capleton, a reggae artist with a history of violent anti-LGBT lyrics.

Capleton (real name: Clifton George Bailey III) was initially scheduled to appear November 26 at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco, but venue owner Ira Sandler said this week that he would not permit the singer to perform.

According to a translation by the groups Outrage and Stop Murder Music, Capleton's lyrics include "sodomite and queer man, I shoot up," "I burn everything as long as I know that they're gay," and "string them up and hang them alive/All queers who come around here."

In a 2004 interview, Capleton said that homosexuality is "against humanity."

But those lyrics require additional context, said Jonathan Mack, producer of the show that was to include Capleton. Terms like "burn" suggest metaphorical disapproval, not physical violence, he said.

He added that most Capleton songs focus on uplifting themes such as spirituality, education, and personal empowerment.

"He's not just a hate monger," Mack said. "His real goal is unity and building community. I compare it to the Catholic Church, or a priest."

Mack has approached several local LGBT leaders, such as Equality California's Andrea Shorter, to find common ground between the reggae and LGBT communities.

Shorter said that she looks forward to learning more about the issue. "It's not about censoring," she said, "it's about not helping to promote any speech or actions that are damaging any of us in the world."

Her goal, she said, was to avoid "promoting and accommodating people who come and tell us that we're not equal."

Mack said that he hopes to use the show to promote anti-bullying efforts. He also pointed out that another scheduled singer, Tanya Stephens, is the first reggae dancehall artist with gay-supportive lyrics.

In "Do You Still Care," Stephens sings, "do you still care what your friends wanna think if they see you hanging out with a queer," and "tell me why can't you accept me as I am?"

Last year, community outrage prompted another anti-LGBT Reggae performer, Buju Banton (real name Mark Anthony Myrie), to meet with representatives including Shorter and Supervisors Bevan Dufty and Eric Mar.

After the contentious meeting, Banton told a reporter, "there is no end to the war between me and faggot."

There is uncertainty over whether Capleton still performs his violent songs. Protests by the LA Gay and Lesbian Center and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation led to the cancellation of Capleton shows earlier this year, but spokesmen from both organizations told the Bay Area Reporter that they didn't know whether Capleton had sung any homophobic lyrics in recent years.

Mack said that Capleton's attitude toward homosexuality is a reflection of his culture.

In Jamaica, mobs are known to attack gay men and police can be hostile to LGBT crime victims, according to reports by Amnesty International.

"I would love to change the dynamic of Caribbean music," Mack said. "I don't want to leave a legacy where any person can feel that I'm spreading hate or violence."

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