Gays attack Buju Banton in the US


By: Claude Mills
Photo By: Carlington Wilmot

Buju_Banton_Tour_Gays_Reggae_Dancehall_Beenie_man_Elephant_man.jpgA Buju Banton concert in the town of Bloomington,Indiana was cancelled last week as gay rights activists in that town launched an aggressive campaign to stop the reggae superstar from performing at a
local nightclub.

Banton's record label, Gargamel Music, Inc., expressed disappointment over the cancellation of the show. Vice President Tracii McGregor called the protests of Banton's performance "insignificant and baseless".

Members of the gay community have been dogging Banton's 'Too Bad' tour for the last few weeks. Last week, in Chicago, the Gay Liberation Network staged protests outside the House of Blues where he was set to perform.

"There were over 900 people in the venue and about nine protesters outside. So it was clear that the people wanted to come and celebrate the release of Buju's album," Ms. McGregor told

The event went ahead as scheduled but the Gay Liberation Network redoubled its efforts with the help of the Black LGBT & Allies for Equality and the resulting media firestorm resulted in the club owner's decision to acquiesce to the minority groups' wishes.
Efforts to contact Dave Kubiak, owner and manager of the Bluebird club in the town of Bloomington, proved futile.

"It became a bigger social issue and a responsibility to the community," Kubiak was quoted as telling the Indiana Daily Student website. "You want all people to feel welcome to be there."

The town of Bloomington has a population of about 40,000 people. Banton had performed at the Bluebird in 2003, but had not made any derogatory comments about gays during that performance. However, Kubiak, even though reportedly a fan of Buju's music, still opted
to absorb a huge financial loss of over US$5,000 (excluding an extra night of hotel accommodations) rather than go ahead with the show. The financial wrangling between Gargamel Music and the show promoter
is reportedly still going on. Last week, instead of the planned concert and protest, an acoustic duo performed at the Bluebird last
Thursday. The protesters attended the show as a thank you to the promoter.

"I hoped that they played some Buju Banton for them at that show so they can understand what Buju is all about," quipped McGregor.

This is the second Buju Banton concert to be cancelled in the last three months as a concert which was to be held during the summer near Brighton, England, was also canceled due to pressure from the gay community and local government.

"Certain elements of the gay community continue to breath life into the song, 'Boom Bye Bye', which was a song done in response to a specific incident in Jamaica years ago. The song was later remixed on the Flex riddim, and that's how the controversy started. This whole campaign is about lies orchestrated by people who don't understand reggae music. The sentiments expressed in 'Boom Bye Bye' is not what
Buju represents and they don't listen to his music so
they fail to see that," she said.

Even though Buju Banton is lionized in Jamaica and Europe for his socially conscious reggae songs that advocate equal rights and justice, he has been the victim of a nasty smear campaign in the international media, and largely demonized by gay rights groups as
the embodiment of homophobic and violent intolerance
in Jamaica.

"While certain factions of the gay community have continued to try and discredit him in the mainstream media, those who have followed Buju Banton's artistic development and have actually listened to his entire body of work know of his prodigious growth into one of
the world's most prolific singer/songwriters, and one whose consistently positive messages of peace, love and spiritual enlightenment are never lost in the music," McGregor said in a release to the media.

Banton has lost substantial income in the region of several tens of thousands of dollars because of his continued refusal to apologise. He has also experienced distribution problems because of the
continued pressure from gay rights groups.

In January of this year, Banton was cleared of charges that he was accused of being involved in a brutal 2004 assault of six gay men in Kingston.

Despite all his personal struggles, Buju Banton has continued with his humanitarian efforts. Ten years ago he responded to the AIDS crisis in Jamaica by launching Operation Willy, an organization focused on raising monies for HIV positive babies and children who had lost their parents to the disease. And for the last three years he served as spokesperson for Upliftment Jamaica, a US-based non-profit committed to working with underprivileged youth in Jamaica.

JFM President Dezzie Young refused to comment on what
he called a "nonsense debate".