Wednesday, October 11, 2006

lyrics a go murder dem?

I remember learning about Brian Williamson having been murdered. Some time later, I spoke with a couple good peeps about organizing "fine by me" t-shirts for djs in the electronic music scene, partcicularly for the peeps I know who play ragga samples to an audience that may or may not understand or support them, and some of whom have a pretty twisted concept of authenticity. I fell down on that for a few reasons, although it's in the back of my mind.

I read Direland pretty regularly for updates on the world outside the US, particularly in terms of gay rights. He doesn't write much about music, normally. But a few days ago he republished a piece he wrote about the new Head of J-FLAG (the Jamaica GLBT group) who received an awared from Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

One section stood out to me, a description of the scene after Williamson's death by a Human Rights Watch observer - highlighting the power of music to express, reinforce, and validate certain behavior (even if the lyrics are also used metaphorically, at home and abroad, Brian Williamson is not a metaphor).

"Gareth Williams spoke to Gay City News from Montreal, where he had gone last week to receive the International Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights given jointly every year by Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS program said that Williams was given the award because, “Against enormous odds and at great risk to his own physical safety, Williams has been a courageous campaigner against human rights violations targeting lesbians, gay men, and HIV-positive Jamaicans.”

“Williams” is the gay activist’s organizational pseudonym, necessitated by the fact that his predecessor as J-FLAG’s leader, Brian Williamson, was brutally murdered in his home at the age of 59 in June, 2004 by anti-gay thugs, who mutilated his body with multiple stab wounds. A Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed a joyous crowd that gathered outside Williamson‘s house to celebrate the murder. A smiling man called out, “Battyman he get killed!” (“Battyman” and “batty-bwoy” are Jamaican patois for “faggot”.) Many others celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out, “let’s get them one at a time,” “that’s what you get for sin,” “let’s kill all of them.” Some sang “Boom bye bye" ... "

I know I know that it's not only in Jamaica (heck I read fricking Direland every week on Poland, Iran, USA, etc etc), I see all over the place things like this happen.
--standard disclaimer for those into reggae---
I also know that it's not only reggae or lower-class J'cans who validate this stuff, it permeates much of Jamaican society. Homosexuality is illegal there, and prosecuted, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison (and you can imagine how folks arrested for sodomy are protected from further violence in prison. that is, not). Also, both killing (a soudbwoy) and battyman (sometimes informer or just someone you don't like) do have metaphorical meanings broader than their use here. But that doesn't let the lyrics off the hook. Just ask: could you hear this at a celebration of another murder? I don't want to provide that kind of soundtrack.

also, if you want to help J-FLAG, e-mail the organization at Financial contributions may be mailed to: J-FLAG, P.O. Box 1152, Kingston 8, Jamaica, West Indies.

1 comment:

  1. There is a reasonable article about homophobia in Jamaica, and the responsibility, or relavence to dancehall, at:

    The HRW article is good too. I have wanted to give a talk about this at Ox Caribbean soc for some time, but as I'm neither caribbean nor gay, and really just a ragga fan, not really sure how qualified to do so. Interesting reading tho.