Thanks to Andy, who in his unique way forced me to get more facts, and Jimbo, who found some of those facts for me, I was led to LA Weekly music blogger Randall Roberts, who found this public statement by allegedly homophobic musician Buju Banton, in the context of the protests I've mentioned in my last two posts:
For the record, [Boom Bye Bye] is the only song he ever made on the subject - and he does not perform it today. ...
He does not advocate violence. There has never been a shred of violence at any of his live shows. In fact, he commonly preaches against violence - against all people. Buju's consistently positive messages of peace, love and enlightenment have never been lost in the music. His 1995 Grammy-nominated album 'Til Shiloh marked a spiritual and musical transformation that yielded the classic narratives "Untold Stories," "Wanna Be Loved" and "Murderer," which personified the horrific increase in gun crimes in Kingston's inner city. His Grammy-nominated Inna Heights (1997) garnered him numerous comparisons to the late, great Bob Marley. Long before Hollywood raised its collective consciousness about Darfur, there was Buju Banton wailing about the genocide happening in "Sudan" on 1999's Unchained Spirit. His Friends For Life (2003) and Too Bad (2006) projects were both acknowledged with Grammy nods for Best Reggae Album. Buju's latest Roots Reggae opus, Rasta Got Soul (2009), has already been welcomed with critical acclaim in the US, Europe and Japan.
The artist's love for humanity is not just demonstrated in words but also in deeds. Twelve 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 lost their parents to the disease. For three years he served as a celebrity spokesperson for Upliftment Jamaica, a US-based non-profit committed to working with underprivileged youth back home.
Yet none of these personal and professional accomplishments matter much to a gay lobby hell bent on destroying the livelihood of a man who has spent an entire career making amends -- his way. Sadly, their 17 year fixation on waging war against one artist has prevented them from turning this initiative into a larger, more fruitful discussion that could perhaps effect real change.
Questions remain. What has Banton himself said? Has he apologized and repudiated his statements? Is he letting his progressive activism and philanthropy speak for itself? Is his PR machine just spinning to get back at what it sees as a heavy-handed "gay lobby" (why would they use such a loaded, conspiratorial term)?
And what about this inconsistent bit of information? The Guardian reports that Banton signed a pledge against homophobia. Pink News, however, reports that Banton denies signing that pledge, but they don't attribute a source to that report. Meanwhile, the previously cited Guardian article also says (in 2007) that Banton "was filmed performing Boom Bye Bye at a concert in Miami last year"--which means 2006, which renders his PR outfit's statement that he "does not perform it today" rather curious. Did they mean "today, as in the Thursday evening while we're writing this press release"?
This is certainly an opportunity to step up discussion of identity politics, media manipulation (to which something some of our listeners on the podcast think I've fallen victim), and the need for a common progressive movement against all violence, homophobia and racism. And Buju Banton deserves his due--whether contempt for preaching hate, commendation for correcting himself and doing the right thing, or the acknowledgment that he is neither villain nor victim in this increasingly confusing controversy.