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Gay activists protest upcoming Buju Banton performance at Miami’s James L. Knight Center

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

buju00-bizne-bizne19 ho Several gay-rights groups are protesting a Halloween-night concert at a city of Miami-owned hall by Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton, whose hit song Boom Bye Bye advocates shooting gays in the head and setting them on fire.

“”The message is that gay people's lives are cheap, and that harming gay people is OK," said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, a statewide gay-rights group calling for the concert to be canceled. "Any time a message of violence and hatred against any group is put out there, it has to be challenged."

Banton, with homes in Tamarac and Jamaica, could not be reached for comment. His South Florida promoter, Andrew Minott of Global Vybz Entertainment, says Banton, 36, stopped singing Boom Bye Bye years ago.

"He did that song they're referring to when he was 15 years old," Minott said. "The song was forgotten about. Because they are making it a big issue, it's come to the forefront. Let sleeping dogs lie."

A YouTube video, however, shows Banton singing Boom Bye Bye during a May 2006 concert at Bicentennial Park in downtown Miami. (Scroll below to watch video.)

Minott said non-Jamaicans often misunderstand the lyrics of reggae performers like Banton and Beenie Man.

"It's a dance hall phrase, `Let's murder him. Murder the boy over there,' '' Minott said. "It's not literal. It's figurative."

Minott has paid a $3,000 deposit to rent the city-owned James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami for the Oct. 31 concert. Scheduled to share the bill with Banton: Beenie Man, whose song titles include [Batty Man Fi Dead] Queers must be killed. Amid similar protests in 2004, MTV bounced Beenie Man from a concert during the Video Music Awards in Miami.

Last month, concert promoters Live Nation and AEG canceled a Banton tour with stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas and Houston after the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center launched a Facebook campaign against the singer.

"Thousands of people have responded with e-mails and calls. It has shot around the Internet," said Smith, adding that shows have also been called off in Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee.

C.J. Ortuño, executive director of SAVE Dade, the county's largest gay-rights group, said he wants the Miami performance to be canceled, too.

"We're working with a couple of groups to find out why a city-owned property is allowing a musician that actually promotes, and creates, hate music," he said.

A Miami assistant city attorney said the city must allow Banton to perform because of his First Amendment right, just as Cuban dance band Los Van Van were permitted to play the old Miami Arena in 1999. Thousands protested outside the arena that night.

Buju Banton reggae agreement June 2007 Banton was charged with helping beat six gay men in Jamaica in 2004. A judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence. In 2007, Banton signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, in which he pledged to stop singing songs preaching hate against gays.

He later denied signing the statement -- which bears the signature of Mark Myrie, his legal name.

Earlier this week, Toyota of Hollywood told three of its car salesmen to withdraw their support of the concert. The men hoped to meet prospective customers at the show, said Clifton Budhan, one of the three.

"Instead of getting calls from people who need to buy cars, I got calls from people saying we need to pull out of it," Budhan said.

By withdrawing their sponsorship, Budhan and the other salesmen lost "a substantial amount of money," he said.

“I'm just trying to put my name out there," Budhan said. "I thought it was going to be OK to advertise. But I got calls from people that we are sponsoring people being killed in the United States and England."

Minott said gay activists threatened to picket Toyota of Hollywood if the salesmen didn't withdraw their support.

"Everyone is so scared of the financial retribution," Minott said. "Leave all judgment up to God. Read the Bible. I'm a Christian. If a man lay with a man, you can fill in the blank."

He says the gay activists are "being very unfair'' to the singer.

"What happened to our First Amendment rights, freedom of speech?" Minott said.

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Okay, I am straight...however,I see nothing at all wrong with being gay. If that is your preference then by all means do what feels right for you. But, you cannot FORCE people to agree with what you do. Some gay people feel that everyone needs to be punished for not feeling the same way that they do. Just as you have the right to sleep with who you want, however you want, people have the right to voice their opinions about what you're doing. You do not want to be judged for what you do so why should Banton be judged for what he says? If you have the freedom and the right to speak against what any artist says in his/her songs then why shouldn't that artist have the right to speak against what you choose to do (without reprimand)? Stopping a concert is not going to stop people from looking at a gay person any different than they already do. All of the protesting just makes the gay rights groups seem overly sensitive. You could be spending that time doing something way more productive. I fail to see what you guys are really accomplishing by taking money away from these artists. Listen to the song a little closer...download the lyrics...

As a society we are always so quick to think that people are trying to disrespect us and we are so ready to protest and hold press conferences, etc. I get really sick of the opportunists that circle around certain situations like vultures. When and why did we give words SO much power??

I sincerely hope your community thinks a little harder before the next protest. Protest something worthwhile next time.

if what ren says is true, isnt it a conflict of interest for rothaus to be writing about a protest he's helping organize?

Ghetto Youth Don, I am not an organizer. I am a reporter telling a story that is being reported throughout Florida and the United States.

Google Buju Banton's name and you will find many articles have been written.

Also, you have had many opportunities to post and express your feelings.

Thanks for reading and contributing.

Steve Rothaus

I dont know the full story of Buju's arrest for "distribution of cocaine" but I do know that the GLAD community are so unfair and only think about themselves. What about all the other positive songs he has done over the years..move on and get over it. Buju I will pray for you and be strong.

I must grudgingly respect him for that. He has the right to say it, as venues have the right to ban it. Freedom of speech! Political correctness can be just as constrictive as fundamentalist doctrines.

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