Some people go to Toad’s Place to meet friends and dance. Some go to drink, relax and forget the stresses of the week. But Monday night, a group of students and administrators will go to the York Street dance bar in the name of protest.
Two reggae acts scheduled to perform this fall at Toad’s — Capleton on Sept. 20 and Beenie Man on Oct. 12 — have come under attack in several countries for lyrics that encourage burning, hanging and otherwise tormenting gay men and women.
Concerned Yale students and administrators have repeatedly asked Toad’s Place to cancel both shows featuring the controversial performers, but Toad’s Place has refused. In response, a group led by the Yale Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Alliance, plans to protest Capleton’s performance at Toad’s Monday night.
“They’ve got to hear from the community on this,” said Kevin Gardner GRD ’89, who is working to get the shows cancelled.
While Toad’s has sent a form response to each person who has e-mailed to express concerns about the shows, Toad’s office administrator Shawn Lambert said cancelling is simply not an option for practical reasons.
“We paid both Beenie Man and Capleton deposits well before these issues surfaced,” Lambert said. “The club doesn’t necessarily share the views of any of the artists presented on the stage. We’re going to continue with the scheduled program.”
Lambert said the club had “no idea” at the time of booking about Beenie Man and Capleton’s controversial lyrics. He only learned about the issue after hearing a story on National Public Radio a few weeks ago, he said.
Loren Krywanczyk ’06, who is Special Events Coordinator at the Women’s Center, said he understands why some people might not have been aware of the controversy. He said some of the offending statements are spoken in “a slang that not everyone automatically understands.”
“As far as I’m concerned personally, I don’t think it matters [that the lyrics are spoken cryptically],” he said. “If anyone can look on a Web site and see these lyrics, that matters. If they’re posted, then they’re articulated.”
Beenie Man released a public response to criticism of his lyrics through his record company, Virgin, on Aug. 3. The response said Beenie Man does not mean to offend people and that he “[renounces] violence toward other human beings in every way.”
Capleton issued a similar apology to the San Francisco Reggae in the Park festival this Monday, stating that he no longer performs songs deemed offensive to the gay community.
Gardner said the issue is of great concern to him even though he no longer lives in New Haven.
“I’m a concerned alumnus and a former patron of Toad’s Place,” said Gardner, who is gay. “I’m deeply offended that this is even happening. We have to jump through all these hoops to stop the performances of rabidly homophobic singers who are on the record promoting the killing of gay people.”
Beenie Man has been criticized more than Capleton, Gardner said.
“[Beenie Man] has been the most out-there in terms of promoting the murder of gay people,” Gardner said. “And he’s been the least repentant among [the artists criticized for offensive lyrics].”
Krywanczyk likened Beenie Man’s popularity to “an Eminem situation” in which students may enjoy listening to the music without noticing the lyrics or message. But Krywanczyk said he has heard that some of those same people become concerned when they realize the singer is coming to campus.
“Some people are familiar with the music and think it’s catchy, but they don’t want our Toad’s to condone this,” he said. “On an ideological level, people have a huge problem with the group.”