Saturday, October 13, 2007

SASOD Statement: Buju Banton must publicly renounce his homophobia

“Boom bye bye [gun shot sounds]
Inna batty bwoy [gay boy] head
Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man
Dem haffi dead”
These are some of the infamous lyrics of Jamaican dancehall singer, Buju Banton, who is slated to perform in Guyana under the auspices of the GT Entertainment Group. Banton's lyrics go on to gleefully promote pouring acid over gay men and setting them on fire. Buju Banton is one of the most notorious of a gang of Jamaican dancehall singers whose lyrics call for the killing and maiming of gay and lesbian people, in no uncertain terms. It is precisely for this reason that major sponsors have pulled out of concerts featuring Buju Banton in Europe and North America. Banton has never apologized for his murderously homophobic lyrics and has been documented in video by Jasmyne Cannick as still performing and leading an audience sing-a-long of his infamous song “Boom Bye Bye” as recently as May 29, 2006 (see
The Guyana National AIDS Committee, in a December 2005 press release condemning the murder of gay Jamaican AIDS activist Steve Harvey, called for Caribbean Community to reject the violence perpetuated by the likes of Banton. The Caribbean has suffered from serious problems with growing violence in recent years. This development is mirrored in the growth of dancehall music that promotes extreme violence – known as ‘murder music.’ Dancehall murder music singers like Banton have been at the forefront of the homophobic campaign in Jamaica which has lead to the murder and maiming of men and women presumed to be gay or lesbian.
There are many other dancehall/reggae artistes whose lyrics are tolerant, respectful and non-discriminatory who can provide the entertainment for the Guyanese public which the GT Entertainment group seems to want to provide. Leading Jamaican female international recording dancehall/reggae artist, Tanya Stephens in her 2006 “Rebelution” album offers these lyrics in a song titled “Do You Still” Care”:
“... He was rescued by a car with plates that said 'Gay Pride,’
It would have been fatal, a shot in your head,
They saved your life, though you always said "chi-chi [gay] Fi Dead!
…Do you still Care, Do you still find it hard to love your neighbour as you love yourself now,
Tell me why can’t you accept me as I am, just as I am now.”
Unsurprisingly, the two most successful dancehall performers, Shaggy and Sean Paul, are artists that have publicly distanced themselves from homophobic content. As recently as May of this year, Sean Paul reiterated that young fans are influenced by lyrics in songs:
“I believe that youths are influenced by what they learn. Songs teach you about life… so you can understand that somebody could be taught violence by a song or even an indication of what is violence.”
While the GT Entertainment group asserts that Guyana will see a “completely changed” and “different” Buju, the fact remains that Banton is an unrepentant homophobe who has never publicly renounced homophobia, even going so far as to claiming that his signature was forged on a Reggae Compassionate Act. The Reggae Compassionate Act is an agreement renouncing homophobia and condemning ant-gay violence, brokered by the international Stop Murder Music campaign. The Stop Murder Music campaign consists of more than 60 organisations in over a dozen countries in Europe, North America and the Caribbean which have campaigned against the performers who have called for the murder of gay and lesbian people. With the recent onslaught of murder music singers performing in Guyana, SASOD has joined this monumental coalition of human rights organisations to ensure that Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean do not become the wastelands for venting hatred given the zero-tolerance boycott in other parts of the world.
Recently, the Senior Management of the St Augustine Campus of the University of West Indies recently canceled a concert for performer “Dr Evil” which was carded for Saturday, September 29, 2007. The performance was canceled after a number of complaints were issued by members of the University community who protested that Dr Evil's music threatened the human rights to life, liberty, safety and security of person for university students and staff who may be perceived to be gay or lesbian.
SASOD applauds the UWI St. Augustine Campus Senior Management for taking a principled and ethical stand against murder and violence and the ignorance and prejudice which breeds bias violence. This stand challenges the prevailing idea that homophobia is an acceptable cultural norm in the Caribbean.
The GT Entertainment group have committed to ensuring that the Guyana Music Festival is not discriminatory to any Guyanese citizen. As a result, they should formally arrange for Banton to publicly renounce homophobia and anti-gay violence before he performs in Guyana. There is no room for hate in any civilized society.

Also published in Stabroek News