Reggae artist Beenie Man, who has been criticized for his allegedly homophobic lyrics, returned to perform at Toad’s Place last night, one year after he was met by candle-wielding protesters — but this time Beenie Man did not have to wade through 35 Yalies to play his set.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative, which spearheaded the protest last year, chose not to protest the performance this year, even though the concert was again held on the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual University of Wyoming student who was beaten to death seven years ago.
Loren Krywanczyk ’06, who organized last year’s protest, cited complacency as the reason behind the lack of activism surrounding Beenie’s latest visit.
“I find it reprehensible that Toad’s has once again offered mainstage and a microphone to a violent homophobe — and indeed while paying him to spread a message of unabashed, uninhibited hate,” Krywanczyk wrote in an e-mail. “However, if the LGBT community on the whole does not feel this an important cause to pursue, to attempt to mobilize a relatively indifferent community can be simply exhausting for those who do.”
Toad’s Place’s owner Brian Phelps said the concert was scheduled again on this sensitive date because it “worked with [Beenie Man’s] route.” Toad’s does not condone hate speech, Phelps said.
Beenie Man played to a sold-out crowd last year, and Damien Speranza, Toad’s Place’s head bouncer, said pre-sale numbers indicated that the performer attracted a similar turnout this year.
“Everyone has problems with someone, and there’s a select group that has problems with Beenie Man,” Speranza said. “We’re not taking sides. We also have to cater to the crowd that likes reggae.”
Phelps said Toad’s will likely hire Beenie Man again in the future for one of the club’s monthly dance hall reggae shows.
“The bottom line is, [Beenie Man] makes us money,” Phelps said. “Unless he does something to aggravate the situation, Beenie’s statements all say that he wants peace and love.”
George Edwards, a Beenie Man fan who attended last night’s concert, said he believes the criticisms leveled against Beenie Man are baseless. Edwards said he thinks the concerns about Beenie Man have been unduly politicized.
Toad’s tries to recruit a diverse range of performers, including gay-friendly artists such as Tegan and Sara, Phelps said. Beenie Man, who has won multiple Grammy Awards, has been performing at Toad’s for 15 years.
“I have never heard him say anything hateful,” Phelps said. “Of course, I can’t understand a word he says anyway.