« 30 years after gay march, activists head to DC | Main | Going to the National Equality March this weekend? Please send me an e-mail about your plans »

Gay Jamaican: Reggae stars Buju Banton, Beenie Man sing songs of hate

BY GEORGE BYARS, GNByars@aol.com

Reggae dancehall performers Buju Banton and Beenie Man don't know me, but they say they hate me.

I'm a black man of Jamaican ancestry -- who knows, our Kingston roots may be intertwined somewhere in the past -- but because I am gay, they say they are at war with me.

They sing lyrics that incite their fans to murder and torture all gay people, even providing specific instructions:

Buju Banton incites listeners to shoot gays in the head, pour acid on us and set us on fire. Beenie Man suggests that his fans ``Hang lesbians with a long piece of rope'' and sings of a new Jamaica, ``come to execute all the gays.'' Buju suggests killing us with machine guns; Beenie recommends bazookas.

Banton and Beenie Man are both scheduled to perform in Miami's James L. Knight Center at the ironically titled Reggae ``Bash'' 2009 on Oct. 31. This Halloween-night concert is a personal affront and a physical threat to people like me. They are bringing their message of hate into my city, and inciting people to violence in my neighborhood. I call on the the city and the Knight Center management to cancel the concert, and for companies to end their sponsorship of the event.

Inciting violence

I am not alone in my outrage at the hateful and murderous message of Buju Banton and Beenie Man and their incitement of fans to violence against gays and lesbians. Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee venues have already cancelled the concert, and Toyota of Hollywood has withdrawn its financial support of the event. Nationwide, shows in Salt Lake City, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Richmond and Minneapolis have been cancelled.

Unsurprisingly, concert promoters have done two things: downplay the incitement to violence as Banton's youthful indiscretion and invoke his First Amendment right to free speech. ``He was just 15 years old'' when he wrote Boom Bye Bye, his first hateful call to violence, they say. ``He doesn't perform it anymore.''

That is simply not true. A Miami Herald reporter posted a video of Buju Banton performing Boom Bye Bye in Miami in 2007. Search the Internet and you'll see him onstage in a video posted September 2009, screaming: ``There is no end to the war between me and the f--gots!''

As for Banton's right to free speech, I'm a strong supporter of the First Amendment. I firmly believe that Buju Banton and Beenie Man have a right to hate whomever they want, and to speak loudly against them, onstage and off.

But they go much further: They publicly advocate murder and other forms of indiscriminate violence against people like me and incite their listeners to commit assault. No venue, public or private, is obligated to provide space for those who use ``fighting words'' to incite violence.

Speaking out peacefully

It is a sign of deep respect for the First Amendment, not an affront to it, to meet hateful speech with only speech, not threats of violence. And that is what fair-minded Floridians -- gay and straight alike -- have been doing all across the state. We are speaking out against the dehumanization of people and the murderous message these two dancehall singers continue to spew for profit.

If the concert goes on, you can be certain there will be protesters outside, exercising our First Amendment right to free speech. But we will not be inciting murder or violence against anyone. That would be dead wrong and illegal.

George Byars is a member of Equality Florida. He previously served as development director of the civil rights organization.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Gay Jamaican: Reggae stars Buju Banton, Beenie Man sing songs of hate:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mr Battyman:

You say you are a supporter of the First Amendment, and in the very next sentence advocate limiting its scope. Which one is it? You want rights while denying the same rights to others? Is speaking out against deviant acts not included in your First Amendment right? Why don't you go on a campaign against your partner in "crime" Peter Tatchell, who advocates sex with 12 year old boys?

Sprat, you missed the point: Buju can SPEAK against anything he pleases. Buju cannot legally INCITE violence, which is why this is not a First Amendment/free speech issue. The city and Knight Center should recognize that and cancel the concert.

Well said George, but there's no use in arguing with this kind. A legit discussion of the limits of the 1st amendment would not involve putting you next to a pedophile or calling your homosexuality a "crime", even if it is in quotes.

This is very good writing.

If Buju Banton and Beenie Man stay on the schedule for this "Reggae Bash 2009," it would be good to get someone who is LGBT or who is LGBT-friendly into the concert so we can get a set list and find out what comments are made. Buju is unlikely to sing "Boom Bye Bye," because there is such an uproar and so many are watching. We need to keep an eye on Beenie Man, too.

The LGBT communities have been trying to reach an agreement with Buju and with others, since 2004 or earlier. Buju Banton and Beenie Man both apologized and then retracted their apologies. They both signed the Reggae Compassionate Act and then both denied that they signed the forms. Their signed RCA forms are online for all to see at http://www.petertatchell.net/popmusic/popmusicindex.htm

Peter Tatchell says that after signing the RCA, Buju Banton violated it by performing "Boom Bye Bye" after 2004. As a result, Buju has been banned from the Brixton Academy, a major music venue in London, England.

Lobbying the sponsors of "Reggae Bash 2009" is an appropriate thing to do. It would also be appropriate to do informational picketing on the night of the event, if it does get held.

An appropriate costume for picketers at the event would be Smurf costumes, since Buju is also known as Gargamel, the sorcerer who is the sworn enemy of the Smurfs. Buju is the founder and CEO of Gargamel Music Inc, his own record label.

Oops! Correction!

Buju Banton signed the Reggae Compassionate act in 2007.

From Peter Tatchell:

August 2007 - Buju Banton told the London police and the management of the Brixton Academy (a major London music venue) on Sunday 12 August 2007 that he has NOT and will NOT sign the RCA (despite having done so).

Buju was invited to sign the RCA on Sunday 12 August 2007 just before his London concert and he refused to do. In order that his concert could go ahead, Buju's people previously gave the police and venue management the false impression that he would sign. But at the last minute he refused to do so. Perhaps this was a trick all along? As a result of his failure to honour this pledge, the venue management told me and the police that they would never allow Banton to perform at the Brixton Academy again.

I want to get the dates and information right.

You can read more at http://www.ukgaynews.org.uk/Archive/09/Oct/0701.htm

"Sprat, you missed the point: Buju can SPEAK against anything he pleases. Buju cannot legally INCITE violence, which is why this is not a First Amendment/free speech issue. The city and Knight Center should recognize that and cancel the concert."

And he doesn't incite violence, which is why he was issued a visa and a work permit to perform in the United States. The law is on our side. Why is it you are not enraged at grown men who want the law changed so that they can have sex with 12 year old boys?

Sprat: "Why is it you are not enraged at grown men who want the law changed so that they can have sex with 12 year old boys?"

Probably because fighting for the safety of LGBT people has absolutely nothing to do with men who are attracted to 12 year old boys. I have never even heard of men who want the law changed so they can have sex with 12 year old boys. Please, be informed before you type.

The comments to this entry are closed.