Gay Activists Meet With ’Boom Bye Bye’ Singer Buju Banton

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday October 14, 2009

In what was said to be the first sit-down between reggae artist Buju Banton and GLBT equality advocates, the singer of the so-called "gay murder" song "Boom Bye Bye" fielded suggestions about how to reconcile with America's gay and lesbian community.

Banton's song, which is still popular in Jamaican dance halls, calls for the killing of gays with Uzis and describes burning their dead bodies.

The reggae artist's latest American tour has been marked by cancellations and protests, as gays here put pressure on venues and concert promoters. Banton's label reportedly sent out a statement explaining that Banton was 15 when he wrote the song, and saying that it was not a generalized advocacy of violence toward gays, but rather a response to a specific incident in which a youth was raped by an older man.

But anti-gay violence in Jamaica is commonplace, with gays being attacked--sometimes even killed--in their own homes.

Banton reportedly signed a pact along with other musicians renouncing violent content in songs, but later denied having participated in that pact. Banton also reportedly was part of a group of men that broke into the home of a gay Jamaican man and were arrested. Banton was later acquitted.

An Oct. 17 blog posting at The Petrelis Files reported that four San Francisco-area GLBTs met with Banton during a 40-minute sit-down that Banton's people said was the first face-to-face conversation the singer had engaged in with gays.

Petrelis reported that the Banton camp expressed a desire to end the acrimony between Banton and protesters who have made his current tour so difficult.

Petrelis noted that he, San Francisco Gay Community Center executive director Rebecca Rolfe, Equality California's Andrea Shorter, and San Francisco city Supervisor Bevan Dufty were in attendance, as was heterosexual city Supervisor Eric Mar, music company president Tracii McGregor, and Banton himself.

Petrelis described the meeting as "very civil and productive,": although the suggestions offered to Banton for repairing relations with the GLBT community--such as donating money to GLBT Jamaican group JFLAG, or performing a song about gays with a positive message--were turned down.

Petrelis' blog posting was prefaced by an "amendment" clarifying that the boycott of Banton's tour, and efforts to see his show dates canceled, were ongoing.

Indeed, Banton's tour faces resistance in Dallas, where Banton's House of Blues concert was scrubbed.

Another night spot, the Palm Beach Club, booked Banton for the same evening he had origianlly been scheduled to play at the House of Blues. The Resource Center Dallas and Equality March Dallas have started a protest aainst the Palm Beach Club date.

However, the fact that the meeting took place at all was seen as important, Petrelis said at his blog.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments on Facebook