Hasani Walters, Gleaner Writer
Pressure from the Jamaica Association of Gays and Lesbians Abroad (JAGLA), a Canadian gay-rights group, has led to the removal of dancehall/reggae artiste Queen Ifrica from the roster of performers at the Rastafest International Reggae Concert which was held at Downsview Park, Canada, yesterday.
Early last week, a Facebook campaign was launched by the group in an effort to prevent Queen Ifrica from performing at the stage show.
"The campaign was started because we discovered that Queen Ifrica was slated to perform at an event called Rastafest in Toronto. Off the heels of her recent homophobic outburst (at the Grand Gala) days after the death of Dwayne Jones, our members felt disrespected that she would be allowed to perform in our country. It's a gross double standard on her part, to even travel to Toronto, one of the most diverse countries in the world, to perform for money," a representative from JAGLA told The Gleaner prior to the show.
In a press release to The Sunday Gleaner, the group expressed their support of the move by the promoters to withdraw the entertainer from the line-up.
"This is a welcomed move by the promoters. We have to send a clear message that persons who make comments that jeopardise the well-being of members of the LGBT community in Jamaica will not be welcomed in Canada. We hope that other homophobic persons will use this instance as a reminder that acts that incite hate will have negative consequences. We hope as well that the Government of Jamaica will move swiftly to put in place measures to protect members of the LGBT community," the release stated.
Efforts to contact Queen Ifrica proved unsuccessful. However, in an earlier interview, when asked about her utterances at the Grand Gala, Queen Ifrica said that she had only expressed what she believed in.
"Like myself, I think they are exercising their right to speak for what they believe in. However, I think it is unfair for them to incriminate me when there is no incrimination there. I simply spoke for what I believed in. They should simply speak from what they believe in but not try to tarnish my character in the process," she said.
The Government was also hush-hush on the matter, as efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna only returned an emailed response from Sasha-Gay Lewis, the senior communication officer at the Ministry of Youth and Culture, which read, "We have no comment."
A statement by Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) stated that the group took "note of recent local and international developments subsequent to Queen Ifrica's performance on August 6, 2013 at the Grand Gala".
J-FLAG also acknowledged that less explicitly anti-gay music is being produced and broadcast in Jamaica. They believe, however, that dialogue is important in order for a greater understanding about the impact of anti-gay sentiments on the exclusion of and hostility towards LGBT people in Jamaica.