By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Manhattan NY
Due to a combination of poor ticket sales and inclement weather, Carifest C.A.R.E.S, which was scheduled for tomorrow, July 6th, has been cancelled. In the past Carifest has drawn criticism from gay activist groups who vehemently protested certain dancehall artists who used Carifest as a platform to wax philosophical about burning gays. Anti-gay sentiments that receive massive forwards from audiences at festivals in Jamaica, where homophobia is socially acceptable and even encouraged, do not go over well in New York City.
In an effort to make a positive change this year, Carifest C.A.R.E.S (Compassionate Artists Recognizing Entertainment Solutions) was meant to be a charitable event to sponsor Keep A Child Alive (KACA) an organization which provides medicine and relief to African children orphaned due to the AIDS pandemic, which has claimed millions of lives. Some critics felt however, that taking a community renowned for its homophobia, and preaching AIDS awareness to them, was an insurmountable task and alienated its core audience.
While it is ridiculously ignorant in this day and age to think that AIDS is a disease that primarily effects homosexuals, a popular, promiscuous reggae singer who asked that his name be withheld stated while he hardly ever uses prophylactic protection, he believes as long as he thinks positively, he wouldn’t get AIDS because Jah would protect him. It was this type of detrimental and potentially deadly attitude that Carifest CARES wanted to enlighten people about.
Carifest CARES has not been without controversy. Earlier in the month, artist Eek-A-Mouse was kicked off the bill, due to the racist remarks he made during a press conference for the event, verbally attacking white Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu, among others. His tirade was posted on YouTube.com for the world to see, drawing derision from even the most loyal of his fans. He posted a rebuttal on YouTube.com, further explaining his position, to no avail.
Various artists with a much more positive vibration were considered as a replacement for Eek-A-Mouse, from Spanner Banner to the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, however the promoter was not able to secure the necessary additional time from the Parks Department, in order to accommodate additional band changes.
While removing Eek-A-Mouse from the bill did not do any damage to the integrity of the festival itself, fans speculate that the overall line-up itself simply wasn’t strong enough to draw the amount of people required to make the event a success. Whereas past Carifests have included heavy hitters with crossover appeal like Collie Buddz, and Ninjaman, who had been previously barred from entering the country for over a decade, and who is heralded as the best Jamaican-born MC, as well as typically top drawing festival artists like Beenieman, the Carifest CARES line-up featured repeat artists like Matisyahu, and newcomers like Meta and the Cornerstones, causing people to speculate that the caliber of artists necessary to make this event a commercial success did not want to participate or be associated with a benefit for AIDS awareness. Others would speculate that it is difficult to get Jamaican artists to reduce their performance fees for a charitable event of any kind.
Fourth of July weekend itself, normally a notorious party weekend in New York, has been washed out, due to fog and rain. At many hotspots all over the city where people had assembled to watch the fireworks, from the rooftop of the Gansevoort hotel to South Street Seaport, myriad complaints could be heard about not being able to see the fireworks clearly. It stands to reason that people who are not going to want to stand out in the rain to see the annual fireworks display, are not going to want to stand out in the rain to see an annual concert event.
While Carifest Cares promoters Team Legendary and Alphonso D’Niscio Brooks in particular are to be commended for their efforts to enlighten their community about the AIDS crisis, it is unfortunate that this event had to be cancelled partially due to lack of support from their community. Carifest CARES publicist Erika Tooker stated, “Moving forward with the concert under these circumstances will in no way benefit the cause. Reggae-Carifest N.Y., Inc. apologizes to all patrons who purchased tickets and assures such patrons that full refunds will be made. All ticket holders can return to point of purchase to receive a full refund.” At this time, no plans have been made to reschedule Carifest CARES.