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NYC Reggae Concert Canceled After Protests

The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 12, 2006; 7:25 PM

NEW YORK -- Citing concerns about potential violence, an organizer on Wednesday canceled a reggae concert meant to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS after protesters complained two of the scheduled performers were anti-gay.

The organizer, LIFEbeat, came under fire by black gay activists and bloggers after it was announced that Jamaican dancehall artists Beenie Man and the group T.O.K. were scheduled to perform during a concert next week at Webster Hall. Protesters asked that the artists be dropped or forced to denounce controversial lyrics.

Instead, LIFEbeat, which uses the music industry to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, said it would cancel the event for safety reasons.

"The possibility of violence at the concert from the firestorm incited by a select group of activists makes canceling the event the only responsible action," it said in a statement. "It is very unfortunate, however, that the intended good that could result from bringing this community together around this potentially groundbreaking event will not be realized."

Beenie Man and T.O.K. have released songs that deride gays through slang terms. One Beenie Man song calls for a lesbian hanging, and a T.O.K tune suggests gay men be burned.

Earlier this week, the concert organizer rejected the anti-gay lyrics but said including the artists would help reach a larger audience thanks to the popularity of their beat-driven dancehall music.

In statements earlier this week, T.O.K. said it had "matured over the years," and 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."

© 2006 The Associated Press