Monday, October 12, 2009


SF Gays Meet With Buju Banton;
His First Sit-Down with Gays

Support the Cancel Buju Banton boycott.


(Back row, L - R: Jonathan Mack, Buju p.r. rep, Bevan Dufty, Andrea Shorter, Eric Mar, Rebecca Rolfe, Tracii McGregor. Front row, me and Buju.)

[Amendment: We gays who met with Buju yesterday STILL strongly support the boycott against Buju's concerts. We endorse the goals of CancelBujuBanton.]

Four members of San Francisco's gay community met this afternoon for 40-minutes with Jamaican singer Buju Banton in Larkspur, up in Marin County, to discuss his troubling history with gay people.

According to Buju and his advisers, this was his first meeting ever with gay advocates, and they really want to put an end to the controversy that continues to dog him over violent homo-hating song he sang in his late teens, "Boom Bye Bye."

At the meeting were gay leaders Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who arranged the meeting, Rebecca Rolfe, executive director of the SF gay community center, Andrea Shorter of Equality California and myself. Also present was Supervisor Eric Mar, a progressive straight leader in the Asian community, and, of course, Buju and Tracii McGregor, president of his music company. About ten minutes into the meeting in the hotel lobby of where the singer is staying, some of his p.r. people joined the conversation.

The meeting was very civil and productive, even though at times I had to play the "bad cop" activist, especially when Buju was dominating the discussion, and we made several suggestions for him to consider, in order to start to undo some of the problems he has in the gay community because of his past anti-gay lyrics.

We proposed that he think about making statements in Jamaica calling for love toward gays, donating to the JFLAG group, hold a town hall meeting in Kingston about the need to respect gays, and sing about loving gay people. All the suggestions were rejected, frustrating us.

It was explained by us that American gays are not singling him out, as we advocate for gay tolerance in Jamaica, but that we have also applied pressure on the government and business leaders to affect change that benefits gays across the island nation.

While there certainly was little movement on his part, and we didn't agree to tell any other gays to stop protesting his concert tour or suggesting he do more to confront the terrible, and sometimes deadly, anti-gay violence in Jamaica, we felt it was a very positive step forward that the meeting took place.

Our hope is that we will continue to speak with him and his representatives to address the pervasive hatred gays face in Jamaica, and work together to reduce homo-hate. I believe Buju fully understands that today's meeting was a beneficial first step and that the gay community will want more concrete steps taken, before our actions against his concerts cease.

Many thanks to Bevan for arranging this important first meeting, and thanks to Buju for taking the time to listen to us, and to let us hear his views. Let's keep the communication going.

We continue to strongly support the CancelBujuBanton web site, efforts by other gays to boycott his performances and the boycott against Jamaican tourism and Red Stripe beer.

27 comments:

SamK said...

Thank, you Mike Petrelis, and the others for meeting with Buju Banton.

If you have not done so, it will be worth your while to read the material at http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/

This is also an important article about what UK groups OutRage and Stop Murder Music have done since 2004 in the United Kingdom: http://www.petertatchell.net/popmusic/buju-bantons-violations-of-the-reggae-compassionate-act.html

Buju is not the only "kill LGBT people" dancehall reggae artiste http://www.petertatchell.net/popmusic/Dancehall-Dossier-FINAL.pdf

In Jamaica, there is tremendous violence and hatred directed at LGBT people. Buju Banton and some of his dancehall artiste friends must bear some responsibility for this. There are online reports by groups like Amnesty International and many other reports of this extreme violence in Jamaica. One very good account is in this Time Magazine article: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1182991,00.html "The Most Homophobic Place on Earth?" Britain has given asylum to a number of Jamaican gay men because of the extreme homophobia and violence in Jamaica.

The Time Magazine article also contains information about Buju Banton's arrest for an alleged armed assault on six gay men in Kingston, Jamaica in 2004. Buju was later arrested for this assault. No trial was never held. Despite claims, Buju was never "cleared" or "acquitted" of the crime. One victim, who lost his sight in one eye identifies Buju Banton as his assailant.

Charles Merrill said...

Way to go, thank you. Dialogue and face to face is a very important step to end hatred. They are interested in sales so I am not sure if anything will change their marketing strategy, but we have to try. Congratulations.

Jay Squires said...

Michael: I'm pleased that the meeting was held, but I'm curious. You write "While there certainly was little movement on his part... it was a very positive step forward that the meeting took place."

In the post that immediately follows, you sharply criticize Joe Solmonese of HRC for not demanding movement *today* on our political goals. How is Buju's inaction any different?

Protests against Buju began more than a decade ago. This year they've reached a peak and have apparently created enough financial pressure that he felt compelled to have his picture taken with known homosexuals.

If Solmonese and HRC should be criticized for not understanding that our community will no longer tolerate a go-slow approach (and I believe they should be), why is Buju congratulated for supposedly "understanding" our views while agreeing to no concrete steps toward reform?

I'm glad the meeting was held, and I'm glad you "didn't agree to tell any other gays to stop protesting his concert tour." Based on the results, I suspect we will continue.

L'homme Armé said...

Hi, Michael. Excellent article, as usual. I suppose as we can do is wait and see what happens now. Hopefully, Buju and his management will seriously consider the suggestions that, as you say, were rejected. His response to this initial meeting could have very far-reaching implications...

DavidEhrenstein said...

His "first sit down"?

As gay black British filmmaker Isaac Julien showed in his study of reggae homophobia "The Darker Side of Black"


Buju Banton is an ex rent boy!

ginasf said...

Interesting, because his manager, Tracii McGregor, has repeatedly said he met with "gays" years ago and signed an agreement he wouldn't sing "Boom Bye Bye"... which, of course, he has, many times. Personally, I think the people who met with him were rather naive about his history and willingness for dialog. This is more of a cynical attempt to scrap together the remainder of his tour.

"The Darker Side of Black" is a great film!

Tameka said...

It's such a tough decision for Buju to make. I'm a Jamaican & i understand where he's coming from. If he starts standing up for Gays Jamaica is gonna turn it's back to him and if he doesn't he can't tour again. What can he do?! Either way he's gonna lose!

Anonymous said...

Tameka,

It shouldn't be a tough decision if he believes in love.

Choice A: Continue singing a song advocating murder and torture of gay people.

Choice B: Say everyone should have a chance to live and love as they please, as long as they aren't bothering anyone else. Say "god can sort it out later."

When he's eventually on his deathbed, which choice do you think he'd be happier with?

You assume Jamaica will turn its back on him. Why? Don't you think Jamaicans will respect someone who can change his mind?

DavidEhrenstein said...

He's gonna lose? GOOD!!!!

Anonymous said...

Let's hit some truth...

1. Boom Bye Bye was made in response to a Man-Boy rape that happened in Jamaica, it was speaking out against child molestation, NOT again all gay ppl.

2. Homosexuality is still illegal in Jamaica. you can't change the sentiments of a government in a few years everyone knows that... we live in the US and we can't even change our laws in a matter of years.

3. Buju has not performed Boom Bye Bye in YEARS, I've seen Buju perform in the US and in JA for many years and he hasn't performed that song in ANY show that I've seen.

4. Understand the way he was raised... Its the same way ppl came down on Carrie Prejean for saying what she was raised to believe, and her experience.

I am a Jamaican, I was raised to love everyone no matter what. I'm a strong advocate for everyone to have equal rights in this country. I don't agree with the way Buju has been torn apart by a song he made as a kid.

I think I can go on for hours on this topic but I won't. I think the target should be taken off of his back, let him go on with his life. He won't sing an "I love gays" song, but if you've listened to ALL of his music, he preaches love and understanding.

Anonymous said...

Move on, people!!
Leave Buju alone!! That song was done YEARS ago. Think of all the hatred sung in rap songs and such!!

Quit isolating him. In this tough economy let the man tour and make money!! Let those who want to attend his concerts do so.

Nothing everyone does is perfect all the time. Forgive and forget! Focus on greater issues in your own country, USA and let Jamaica take care of their own.

Why aren't you people protesting, ranting and raving in the "ghetto" of New York and other places?! There's so many American artists you sould fight against, not a Jamaican artist.

There's MUCH BIGGER ISSUES gays should be standing up for...

Just plain annoying!!

ginasf said...

@ Anonymous' truth:

1. If you listen to a number of Jamaica dancehall performers, all gay men want to molest children. Buju has written a number of other songs talking about "batty boy" (patois for 'fag'). And it's important to realize MOST Jamaican performers aren't obsessed with gay men. If they are homophobic, they aren't screaming it at their concerts the way Banton and Elephant Man, Beenie Man and Capleton have.

2. Homosexuality was illegal in Texas until fairly recently. So? That excuses direct exhortations to anti-gay violence? This also treats Jamaicans as some kind of ignorant monolith. People have different attitudes in Jamaica just as they do here, don't make excuses for ignorance.

3. Totally wrong. He performed the song as recently as late 2007 in Guyana where he screamed "burn Batty" and "there is no end to the war between me and the faggots" (and ranted on about Spongebob Squarepants being a fag). He tried to sing it a few years ago at a concert in NYC but his mike was turned off by the promoters (after he'd promised them he wouldn't sing it).

4. Yeah, that's right... LGBT have a right to come down on people who try to deny them rights and humanity. That's how protest works. Do you believe people shouldn't come down on racists making racist statements because "they were raised that way"? Btw, I totally agree with attempts to call out LGBT people on THEIR racism, too. Goes both ways.

5. What differentiates Buju from some other dancehall homophobes is he made an actual physical attack against gay persons as part of a mob in 2004. He was identified by several of the victims as the one who hit one of them with a board and permanently blinded his left eye. The police only arrested Banton a year later after Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both investigated the episode and corroborated the victim's story. Banton was NOT acquitted, but charges were dropped because the victim's were afraid to testify. Yes, these were gay Jamaican men of color Banton helped attack. Spreadin' the love?

I think the suggestions at the meeting were trying to set the bar high. If Banton came out and said "I was young, I made a mistake with this song, I've learned. I don't agree with gay people but they deserve to live their lives in safety." (and really doesn't do "Boom Bye Bye" or other "batty boy" lyrics" even where he thinks people agree with him) the boycott would stop. In a second. If he really did live and let live and didn't try talking out of both sides of his mouth, this would all be over.

malcolmhoover said...

I was there with my 5 year old daughter. I'm not one of Buju's PR people, I was just the ride. I've known Tracii for over 20 years and I know her to be an excellent human being. We were activists on the front line together and we worked intimately with the LGBT community. She has an understanding of these issues. From a personal perspective, it was a positive step to see folks engage in personal dialogue, the sister who was there was the most progressive person at the table. This is a time for all good people who embrace love as the truth to open their hearts to one another. We can be strategic allies, and not agree on every issue.
Buju is not an enemy of the LGBT community. He's been singled out. What about Eminem? Why does he get a pass, every album he makes has something homophobic and anti woman on it.
Peace

ginasf said...

@Malcolm:

There has been a huge amount of criticism of Eminem in the gay community. Elton John and Nick Cannon have also regularly spoken out about him. Many feminist groups and blogs have slammed him with regularity and he's considered an persona non grata in both movements. Eminem doesn't perform in SF for that very reason.

I appreciate your long friendship with Tracii, but in the interviews I've read with her, while in the act of serving her client, she doesn't come off as any kind of LGBT ally. Just sayin'.

TamekaB said...

@Anonymous

You wouldn't understand what i'm saying unless u r actually a JA'can. We stand strongly for what we believe in (though i don't have a problem w/gays). I understand what u r saying about Buju preaching love towards gays but if he does that outright, he will never be able to a show/concert in JA without getting bottled or booed off stage.

It's illegal to be a gay here and as such a majority of the nation is very homphobic and will not tolerate it even if it is made legal today.

So for him being a public figure who has to make a decision like this one it's gonna be VERY HARD!

ginasf said...

@TamekaB: I appreciate your Jamaican perspective... always important to know. But really, I don't think anyone in the gay community expects Buju to preach love towards gay people. There's a huge space between preaching (and practicing) violence towards a group and being best buds with them. I would never tell someone you have to love such and such person... just that you have to respect their civil rights (such as not breaking into their house and attacking them) and basic dignity. We can agree to disagree and it doesn't have to be a love fest.

My problem with some people who are violently homophobic is they say, "well, that's my opinion, that's what my religion tells me, that's how I feel, you have your opinion." Yes, but my opinion doesn't involve denying a group basic civil rights or preach violence/discrimination against them, whereas that's exactly what homophobes do. Those are NOT two equally valid opinions. Doesn't co-existence kind of begin with an acknowledgement you both have a right to exist with life and liberty?

Anonymous said...

@ginasf

Well said.

Someone's upbringing is no excuse. I grew up in the south, attended a segregated elementary school and jr. high, and heard friends' parents regularly use the "N" word in "polite" conversation.

Would that excuse me for singing songs that called for "N"'s to be shot and burned to death -- as "entertainment?"

Hell no. I realized at an early age that there was something wrong with the people that use these words and make second-class citizens out of (any) minority population. It's hate, pure and simple.

Buju's wallet is taking a major ass-kicking because he's been a loud, unrepentant bigot who advocates killing gays.

While I absolutely support trying to open a dialog with him to see if a change-of-heart is possible... I'm not seeing any indication from him that he regrets calling for killing gays.

I don't expect him to embrace homosexuality. What I do expect, if he's genuine about wanting things to change, is that he at least say his calls for murdering batty-boys were wrong.

One love?

I doubt it. It feels like all he's doing is damage-control... too little, and too late. His brand of hate music may fly in Jamaica, but I hope he continues to learn an expensive lesson that hate and bigotry will cost him gigs.

L'homme Armé said...

I am a Jamaican. While being gay is frowned upon in Jamaica, being gay isn't, although the way the government has been behaving for decades, it might as well be. The act of Buggery is, however. To TamekaB, being heterosexist or homophobic is neither an inherent characteristic of being Jamaican, nor is it a universal requirement.

Yes, some may say that his career might suffer a blow if he endorses tolerance of GLBTs and renounces all violence against the community, etc. Well, look at this way, his career is already suffering a huge blow, isn't it?

Perhaps he may not be able to perform in Jamaica again. That, however, seems unlikely. He has too much of a following, and he is the sort of grass-roots performer that Jamaicans are not likely to lose respect for overnight.

Jamaica is only a small island in the Caribbean, and there is an entire world out there that is inaccessible to him because of this issue. The Jamaican dollar is not as strong as it used to be, and other artistes have managed to make it outside of Jamaica.

Does anyone remember Shabba Ranks? His career was over very quickly because of ONE interview. Times have changed, and archaic constructs like religion have their place; but to what extent should religion be allowed to rule the world? Religion is but one branch of human philosophical idea, and it certainly won't be the last.

Enough is enough. Religion, which Marx rightly said is the "opium of the people" has been used to enslave, and subjugate people since its inception. How many wars have been raged over holy relics, and lands (like Palestine), etc.? Religion has certainly failed to help many of those who believe in it to ameliorate the world; just the opposite.

Enough is enough.

Winston said...

I was extremely annoyed, almost to the point of being pissed that just because Buju doesn't want to accept their terms that makes him a man of hate..what the damn hell being someone who stands up for your own character has to do with supporting hate, the man isn't tell people to kill gays, he's just letting the world know what's his stance on the issue...my thing is if gays want to be gay that's their business, but don't come to the man and tell him to do this and do that for gays, because that's not going to show that he's not a man of hate, all that does is show that he is in support of it which he is not, and that would make him a hypocrite

plumpy said...

I'm curious about your call to boycott Red Stripe. I looked on boycottjamaica.com and the only reference to Red Stripe was that they pulled support for all music concerts involving Buju. Why should they be boycotted?

Paul said...

Well, after reading the first few comment I really have to laugh.

I'm 30 years of age, grew up in Jamaica. Gay Rights are just making an example out of Buju Banton and bringing hate upon this man.

Personaly, I think Buju Banton is the victim here now, I know now that you thinking how the hell did I turn this around and make him the victim.

We should start ask some question and one of them should be, why did a 15 years old wrote such a song? No one born not liking Gays or wanting to kill them.

I remember back in the days around 1992, a group of gays was planing to march and the entire country ready to stone them.

I remember Boom bye bye, the entire county love that song, it was more popular than the national anthem, it was the national anthem.

If a person was known to be gay back in the days, that person will have a better life living in hell than Jamaica.

Probably more than 98% of the country don't like gay and the 2% who like gay probably gay...

Now, my other question is, what do we really expect from the younger generation growing up in such environment everyone they know dont like gay?

If the Gay rights really want change, you have to go to the top, the government of Jamaica and petition for them to past laws against song thats discriminate against gay.

We all picking on Buju Banton on a song he done when he was 15 years of age 20 years ago while song that is 10 times worst is at the number one chart in dancehall in Jamaica right now...These song are so violent and discriminating that if you are Gay, you would want to kill yourself.

Check out one of the number one artist in Jamaica right now..Vybs Kartel.

Vybz Kartel - 'Swear To Jah' - Lee-Milla - (1wk@#1)

Gun them, burn them are just some of the words from his hit song.

I think you guys are wasting time on Buju Banton, its like closing the front door and leaving the back door and windows open, then go to bed.

Anonymous said...

lemme get this straight..... circle jerk in public at folsom street fair=ok BUT performing a song in a private concert=bad

The LGBT community needs to realize that freedom of speech is what got them to where they are today. It seems very hypocritical... no?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Demanding our death is a "freedom of speech" issue? Yeah, right.

As for all this "I'm from Jamaica and you don't understand" CRAP my father was from Jamaica. I visited there several times until his family was driven out by the TRASH that now run the place.

ginasf said...

Oh boy...
First off, this is not anymore about a 15-year old boy writing a hate song (which totally encourages violence and murder against gay people Winston... so FAIL). It's about his continued performance of it (which IS documented, so kindly STFU with this lame misinformation about it not being performed anymore) and not renouncing its message (which he hasn't).

What makes him different is he actually PARTICIPATED in an attack against gay people and GOT AWAY WITH IT. Are you unable to see that difference—has weed clouded your thought process?

Do you understand the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech which advocates violence? The laws of the US have never supported that.

@Anonymous (aka too chicken to leave his real name) I'm a parent and not happy about public displays of sex either, okay. BUT... even that isn't the same thing as hate speech which advocates violence against a group. Not the same thing at all. If people at the Folsom Street Fair started talking about killing or attacking straight people... yes, I would totally be against that and want it closed down ASAP. The difference is the violence connected with it. Like it or not, Buju is a symbol for violent homophobia in Jamaica (along with Elephant Man and 4-5 other performers). Boom Bye Bye is not just a controversial song... it's like an anthem which is often sung by gangs of people perpetrating anti-gay violence in Jamaica.

There's nothing we can do about performers in Jamaica. That's their country (and I've lived in Brooklyn, know Crown Heights well and am very familiar with the socially conservative attitudes of many Jamaicans). But we have a right to protest and prevent those performers from making money (right, that's all this is really about... it's not like he actually wants to be in SF?) in our community where we live. And I will say the same thing about skinhead performers, preachers who advocate killing Obama or any other lunatic who ADVOCATES VIOLENCE. Ever seen the YouTube video with Buju frothing at the mouth about how Spongebob Squarepants is a "Batty Boy"?

Changing bigotry in a culture takes a long time and involves many different processes. One of the ways you create change is to make it clear what is okay and not okay in society. Shouting nigger/spic/chink/kike at someone is considered hate speech in the US. It took (and still takes) a long time for people affected by such speech protesting it to get it seen that way because people will try to justify it just like some of the people on this thread. It's done one step at a time, and calling out Banton on his bs is the step we're taking. If people in jamaica want to change some of the attitudes in their own country... then do what you need to do, but don't send your bigots over here to make money because we have enough of our own to deal with.

ginasf said...

People who are going to defend Buju need to actually stop and read this link first:

http://www.petertatchell.net/popmusic/buju-bantons-violations-of-the-reggae-compassionate-act.html

It outlines the truth of how he (and his management) behaved on this issue over the years and why this hypocrite's message of "love" and "acceptance" is pure B.S.

Anonymous said...

Buju Banton and the Ku Klux Klan have the same position on Gay rights. Maybe Banton should join the KKK.

Anonymous said...

As far as im concerned, gay or straight, move on with your own lives and stop wasting time on issues that will most likely cause more strife. You do you and no one else. Its not your place to pass judgement on ones faith. Leave that to the creator himself. You only have one life to live so please let sleeping dogs rest.