A group of black gay and lesbian campaigners have launched a campaign against a concert organiser’s decision to allow reggae artists whose songs include homophobic lyrics to perform at an upcoming HIV/AIDs awareness concert.

Bloggers from the US black gay community are protesting against scheduled performances by Beenie Man and TOK, calling on the HIV awareness group, LIFEbeat, organisers of the event on July 18 2006 in New York, to change the line-up.

Tokes Osubu, executive director of Gay Men of African Descent, wrote to LIFEbeat executive director John Canelli saying, “To have unrepentant homophobes perform at a benefit for an organisation that is ‘dedicated to reaching America’s youth with the message of HIV/AIDS prevention,’ is simply perverse.

“You and I are in the business of saving lives, Mr. Canelli, not threatening them,” he wrote.

Dwight Powell, editor-in-chief of black gay magazine, Clik, said he was “speechless and utterly disappointed in LIFEbeat’s insensitivity.”

Neil Lowe, president of Phoenix Global Communications and Media Group, which publishes Ballroom Rock Star Magazine, said: “As a Jamaican-American who is proud member of the LGBT community, I am offended when any artist or group whose core message encourages bodily harm against members of my community, is allowed to represent our community.”

The campaign has been supported on blogs by, Donald Agarrat, Keith Boykin, Clay Cane, Jasmyne Cannick, Steven Claiborne, Terrence Heath, Andre Lancaster, Frank Roberts, Nathan Scott, Pam Spaulding and Bernard Tarver, where users have been encouraged to contact LIFEbeat and protest.

LIFEbeat said in a statement, “LIFEbeat’s mission is to utilise the power of music to raise awareness and educate in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Caribbean American community has been tremendously affected by the HIV/AIDS virus and has long kept silent about the epidemic’s effect on their community for fear of being stigmatised.

“When planning the upcoming Hearts Voices Reggae Gold concert, LIFEbeat’s staff and board knew this event might raise concerns by some in the gay community and required careful consideration before proceeding. LIFEbeat’s staff and board do not condone anti-gay lyrics or violence against anyone; they are an organisation dedicated to promoting life. The staff and board also strongly believe that dialogue opens doors, creating the opportunity for enlightenment, growth and change amongst all involved.

“We all have an opportunity to look to the future, not the past, and join together in solidarity to educate, enlighten, be a part of positive change and save lives.”

A Brighton music venue last week caved into pressure from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community, Brighton and Hove City Council and Police by cancelling a performance by singer Buju Banton, who has refused to apologise personally for his notorious 1990s hit ‘Boom Bye Bye’ which appears to incite the burning, shooting in the head of gay people and pouring acid over their faces.