Rastafest survives gay backlash

queenifrica1by Howard Campbell

DESPITE the furor over the billed appearance of Queen Ifrica, a spokesperson for last Sunday’s Rastafest in Toronto, says the show was a success.

Masani Montague of promoters Upfront Theatre Foundation, says over 10,000 fans attended the roots-reggae event which was held at Downsview Park.

 A good turnout seemed unlikely when local gay groups threatened protests if Queen Ifrica performed.

They were disturbed by the singjay’s anti-gay remarks during her performance at the Grand Gala, held at the National Stadium in Kingston early last month.

Montague says Ifrica was dropped from the show.

“She was pulled from the festival due to the strong recommendation and suggestion from Downsview Park, and also as a Government-funded event the organisation recognised that it wasn’t consistent with the theme of our production,” she told the

Sunday Observer.

“At Upfront Theatre Foundation we do not condone any form of discrimination.”

Montague says the Queen Ifrica episode did not hurt Rastafest. In fact, she believes it “made people more aware of social issues”.

She continued: “It also brought Rastafest on an international stage. The negative publicity put a lot of pressure on the festival organisers and volunteers, making the job of organising and keeping on schedule a bit difficult.”

Kingston-born Montague has lived in Canada since 1974. She is a founding member of Upfront Theatre Foundation which started in September, 2000 as a student drama club at York University.

It has evolved into a “service learning, incorporated, non-profit organisation serving children, youth and women in the Jane and Finch community” of Toronto and surrounding areas.

Rastafest started as Culture Jam in 1986. The name change came in 1993 when Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus were headliners.

Singer Everton Blender was the main act for this year’s show.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Rastafest-survives-gay-backlash_14978624#ixzz2e8i9eYM8

Reggae artist Queen Ifrica dropped from Rastafest concert following backlash

queen ifrica1by Kavelle Christie

Reggae artist Queen Ifrica is the latest Jamaican artist to suffer backlash from gay rights activists.

The singer was pulled from the lineup of the Rastafest concert in Downsview Park, Toronto, Canada, which is scheduled to take place tomorrow: Saturday, August 24.

The cancellation is a result of comments Ifrica made during her performance on August 6 at the Grand Gala in Kingston to celebrate Jamaica’s 51st anniversary of independence from Great Britain. This also came on the heels of the murder of Dwayne Jones, a Jamaican teenage cross-dresser, and as such, her statements endorsing heterosexual marriage were deemed extremely homophobic.

Immediately following Ifrica’s performance the Canadian lobby group, Jamaica Association of Gays and Lesbians Abroad (JAGLA) launched a campaign to prevent the “Lioness On The Rise” and “Far Away” artist from performing at the then upcoming Rastafest. As a part of the campaign, the group also took to their Facebook page requesting the cancellation of Ifrica’s work permit.

Also as a result of JAGLA’s campaign, Queen Ifrica released a new single, “Freedom Of Speech”, singing, “Suh low mi mek mi talk fi what mi want and believe in/You have a right, mi have a right to/ Suh yuh cyaan force mi fi stand up behind yuh/ Two roads before yuh dem seh pick yuh choice/Suh mi choose fi pick da one ya wah straight an nice…It’s a breach of democracy to stop mi from speak/Agree to disagree that’s the way it ought to be” in reference to her freedom of speech.

In a gutsy move, she then sings, “Mek mi tell yu straight mi nuh inna nuh closet/Yuh cyaan force me fi promote yuh habit/See another song yah campaign fi ban it/Cause artiste right unnu love trample pon it/Medical marijuana is the future and we have the best here in Jamaica.”

Following news of Queen Ifrica’s prohibition from the concert, JAGLA released a statement, also found on the group’s Facebook page, saying, “The Jamaica Association of Gays and Lesbians Abroad (JAGLA) welcomes the move by the promoters of Rastafesta to withdraw Jamaican anti-gay singer, Queen Ifrica, whose given name is Ventrice Morgan, as a performer from the upcoming Rastafesta concert in Toronto, Ontario.”

The statement continued, “This is a welcomed move by the promoters. We have to send a clear message that persons who make comments that jeopardize 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 group then pointed out that Queen Ifrica’s freedom of speech needed to be balanced with responsibility.

“JAGLA maintains that everyone, including Queen Ifrica, is entitled to free speech. JAGLA does not seek to curtail Queen Ifrica’s right. We however believe that this right must be balanced with responsibility…Free Speech is not absolute. It is free to the extent that it does not hinder citizens from living in peace, liberty, dignity. Note, the Jamaican Constitution itself states that the enjoyment of rights and freedom is subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest”, the group said.

“Utterances such as those made by Queen Ifrica threatens the safety of LGBT people in an extremely homophobic society…JAGLA will continue on its mission to ensure that Jamaica is a place for everyone to live in peace and dignity. We want Jamaica to be at a place where the rights for all is respected; where the LGBT community is not seen as banes of society, but as citizens working to fulfill Jamaica’s mission; where Jamaica can live up to its anthem of justice and respect for all, not some, and where the focus is shifted to fixing, not creating the problems,” it concluded.

Listen to “Freedom Of Speech” by Queen Ifrica, Penthouse Records

Queen Ifrica3