Several local news outlets including the North Coast Journal, Lost Coast Outpost, and the Mad River Union have reported that Jamaican reggae artist and outspoken homophobe Sizzla will be headlining this weekends Reggae on the River Festival in Sohum. Sizzla is well known for his violent anti LGBT lyrics. I think it’s fair to say that intentionally promoting violence against the LGBT community goes against some people’s values here in Humboldt. Naturally this has begun to stir up some local controversy.
Justin Crellin general manager of the Mateel community center said in a statement today that he “recognizes there are concerns within the community” and promises to “pull the plug” if Sizzla’s hateful lyrics and speech come out at the festival. This however does not go far enough. As a community we should take a firm stand and say this is not the kind of message we want to promote and not the kind of artist we want to support.
Let’s be clear, cannabis is a business, but it is also a social movement. Countless people have dedicated there time, energy, and money to promoting the ideas that sick people should be allowed to use cannabis to feel better, hemp should be grown for the myriad of environmentally friendly products it can make, and responsible adults should be able to enjoy cannabis legally just like alcohol. We know that drug laws targeting cannabis are disproportionately enforced against minorities. That has been one of the movements major arguments for legalization. As a movement cannabis is about freedom but it is also about tolerance.
As a business cannabis makes a lot of people a lot of money. As a social movement people involved in the local cannabis community should not use that money to support hate speech. Social movements have historically been more effective when they unite to help support each other. In our country we have seen unprecedented progress in the last ten years for both the cannabis and LGBT movements but make no mistake, it’s not over. Both movements still have progress to make.
People in the cannabis industry love reggae and that’s great. Reggae promotes a lot of things that fit well with cannabis: love, joy, freedom, community, struggle against adversity, and bringing people together. Those are things we should support. Those are things the cannabis movement should be about, not intolerance, hate, and violence against people who live in our community and work in our industry.
I know ROTR is fun. There is a bunch of great music, good friends, and swimming in one of Humboldt’s most beautiful rivers. But there are other festivals, other river spots and other great things going on this weekend that aren’t paying large sums of money to individuals who promote violence and intolerance. Ask yourself what is our community all about? What is our movement all about? Vote with your dollar.
Don’t like what I have to say? Disagree with me? Tell me about it in the comments section.