Monday, September 14, 2009

Have I (and others) judged Buju Banton unfairly?

I love bloggers and podcasters, as well as readers and listeners. When things come together right, these netizens update and contextualize mainstream media stories that get the big picture wrong and then move on to their next wrong big picture.

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.

9 comments:

Jimbo said...

It would be helpful if you included the missing context you eliminated about the reasons behind the original song, his maturity at the time, and how it fits into the overall themes of his music - which are reflections on political situation, lifestyles and struggles and current events within Jamaican culture...

Anonymous said...

You guys should just go to YouTube and look at some of his recent anti-gay tirades to confirm his current thinking.

Anonymous said...

http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/

matt said...

Further information from the link send by anonymous poster (I really wish you people would at least let us know your names to avoid confusion and to add to your credibility):

On 27 October 2007 Buju Banton sang part of 'Boom Bye Bye' at the
Guyana Music Festival - after he signed the RCA.

I am beginning to wonder whether Banton's handlers are trying to play both sides of the fence. They speak of a conspiratorial "gay lobby" (rather than referring simply to activists concerned about gay rights); Banton seems to be doing everything possible to reassure the homophobes among his fan base that he is still on their side; yet his PR crew insists that he believes in love and equality for all--but I still haven't found any evidence that he has _himself_ repudiated homophobia. Curiouser and curiouser...

Anonymous said...

Of course we haven't judged buju unfairly:

1. He still sells the song Boom ByeBye, making money from his call to murder gay people.

2. He recently said of gay people, "the war between me and faggots will never end."

3. He performed BoomByeBye as recently as 2006.

It's not about freedom of speech. Of course he has the right for this testosteron-poisoned-artistic-statement. But no bar or club, situated in places with gay people neighbors, should give their stage to a guy who has blood on his hands.

I can't believe you fell for his publicist's spin.

Andy said...

You know what would be nice, is the organizations and people crying for Buju's head would instead put their efforts toward improving the circumstances in Jamiaca that create violence and hate. Sacrificing Buju to the altar of LG micro politics will do nothing positive to decrease hate in jamiaca and is honestly more likely to create more violence. Do something with that money that helps jamaica and you are far more likely to have a receptive audience...

matt said...

To the last anonymous poster, two requests: (1) Please provide a link or citation for Mr. Banton's comment that "the war" between him and gays "will never end." I've heard this before. I would simply like some verification; (2) Please don't mischaracterize me as having fallen for spin. If you'd read this post more carefully, you'd see that I am asking QUESTIONS about the press release, pointing out how it is inconsistent and contains loaded terms. In response to ambiguities, I am asking further questions. I'd appreciate some acknowledgment of my patience, critical thinking, and moral courage.

To Andy: So your contention is that if the LGBT community fights back, there could be "more violence?" Can you elaborate on that? Is it because the homophobic fans of Mr. Banton will use the campaign as an excuse to hunt down and harm gay people?

Andy said...

My argument is that Buju is from jamaica, a "homo hating nation" apparently.Pushing this issue here will not suddenly correct this problem in Jamaica. Nor will it suddenly show Buju the error of his ways. It will give jamaicans another reason to "hate homos"....Now this might be worth it if it really accomplished anything here, but ultimatly what tangible difference will it make in the lives of everyday queer folks here or in jamaica? It will show that the lgb lobby largely unable to acheive major liberatory goals can go after an individual, but so what?

Anonymous said...

honestly? i dont think buju has repudiated homophobia on an ideological standpoint, but he has made reference to "gay brothers and sisters" in the past.

it's clear at this point that the gay lobby has orchestrated a smear campaign against banton which has spread numerous factual inaccuracies. you can tell because they appear in every article by gay bloggers, every comment on buju by gay commeters, and every statement by LGBT leaders.

these gay activists have traveled down a path of bigorty hate and censorship, trampling the First Amendemnt in the process. to that extent, they were warned by gay jamaicans themselves to "let the dust settle" lest there be a jamaican backlash, and chastened by the ACLU in florida--in an opinion written by the director of the LGBT advocacy project.

in other words, the campaign has largely been a case of media-hungry opportunists ramping up fears of homophobia and scapegoating one artist by holding him accountable for the antigay attitudes of an entire country--which is a state-supported position, btw.

Sharing is caring!