The issue of homophobic lyrics was hotly debated in the media in the run-up to the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) awards in late September. The debate now comes to Bristol with the scheduled appearance of Sizzla Kalonji at the Bristol Academy on 8th November. The decision by MOBO not to stage performances by Vybz Kartel and Bennie Man followed consultation with the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group and the Greater London Authority. The artists were asked to publicly apologise for lyrics that incite violence towards gay people and they refused to do so.

Terrence Higgins Trust is calling for the Bristol Carling Academy to cancel the show on 8th November, warning that the organisers might face criminal proceedings for inciting violent hate crimes if they stage the gig which has been already been cancelled in other cities. Sue Peters, Regional Manager for Terrence Higgins Trust West said: “Bristol is a multicultural city with a vibrant, creative and inclusive music scene. The Academy is a great venue close to a number of the city’s gay venues – Sizzla’s incitements to violence are not just bad for gay people, they’re bad for the city and the Bristol music scene. Public opinion is with us on this – a survey on www.thisisbristol.co.uk shows that over 65% of local people think the show should be cancelled.”

Simon Nelson, Sector Development Officer for BME communities at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Whilst homophobia is by no means exclusive to black communities, there is evidence to suggest that homophobic lyrics used by certain artists which incite violence towards gay people have a detrimental effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of black lesbian, gay and bisexual people, particularly gay men.”

He continued: “Black gay men are far less likely to be out to friends and family, are more likely to face homophobia from within their own families and may find themselves with no option other than to lead a double life, often feeling that they should remain silent on such issues. This can increase the likelihood of black gay men engaging in risky sexual behaviour, while also not seeking out sexual health information, putting them at increased risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.”

Dennis Carney, chair of the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group added: “As black people, we want to celebrate our culture and reggae concerts are an excellent opportunity to do this, but homophobic lyrics in music normalise hatred towards black gay men. We’re keen to work with the music industry to resolve this issue and to further the debate within the wider community.”

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