The concert is 13 months away but already the LGBT community in this country is expressing its displeasure with Reggae singer and one of dancehall’s stalwarts, Buju Banton’s schedule visit to T&T in 2019. It has resolved there should be no promoting of artistes who promote violence against against LGBT people. In the past some of Banton’s lyrics spoke directly and violently against homosexuality.
When asked to confirm if this displeasure was true, Colin Robinson, director of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), said, “Why wouldn’t LGBT people be concerned about Buju performing here? If there are folks marching at Parliament and the Hall of Justice every Friday who don’t want to share our country with us, why would it be a surprise that LGBT people aren’t happy to share our country with Jamaican homophobes?”
At the same time Robinson cleared up any concerns of a grand plan being circulated on social media, to stop the artiste from performing in T&T. He says, “CAISO isn’t part of any local plans, if they exist. The visit is 13 months away. We have enough work to do here and now. And I have no idea if Buju will still be the person he was when he gets out of jail.”
Robinson noted T&T has had robust responses to irresponsible hate speech in the past, some by the state itself. “Rayad Mohammed was charged for saying the things Buju sings about the Prime Minister’s family, Mavado was banned for his violent lyrics, the Equal Opportunity Commission is not afraid to take a hate speech case, he says, whether it comes from a teacher or a musician.”
He said artistes like Banton should use their influence to promote upliftment, peace and love and should make meaningful donations to causes that fight for the rights of people regardless of the category.
Banton born Mark Anthony Myrie would have expressed his views on the topic of homosexuality in his 1993 smash dancehall hit titled ‘Boom bye bye.’ The chorus, “Boom bye bye inna batty bwoy head, rude bwoy no promote no nasty man dem haffi dead,”spoke of death being the reasonable penalty for homosexuality.
The song though still quite popular in the Caribbean cannot be played on Jamaican frequencies. It has remained controversial over the 27 years since its release. And is an offence in countries like Canada, the US, UK and other countries in Europe where LGBT people have gained some acceptance and legal protections.
Upon his release from prison in December of this year, Banton is carded to make his first ‘freedom’ appearance in T&T at a concert date set for April 22, 2019.
The ‘Wanna Be Loved’ singer’s nine-year sentence for drug trafficking in 2009 will end on December 8, 2018. During these nine years at the McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia, Banton obtained a Master’s degree in music.
The grammy-award winning singer and songwriter’s marketing team led by Jodian Ebanks told the Jamaican Observer during a press conference held on March 25 aboard the Love Harmony Cruise, the artiste was excited about getting back on the road and to performing. She explained T&T was chosen for his first place of concert only after colliding schedules with Jamaican artistes originally billed for Banton’s release concert in Jamaica didn’t allow for it to go as planned.
In 2006, Time magazine called Jamaica “the most homophobic place on earth.” Angeline Jackson, human rights activist and executive director of Quality Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ), wrote in 2015, “Jamaica’s ‘anti-sodomy law’, a holdover from British colonial rule, criminalises “the abominable crime of buggery” and acts of “indecency” between men.”
She said few had been convicted under the law, but many use it as pretext for unfairness and violence. Broadcasting companies have cited it when refusing to air ads promoting tolerance and respect for LGBT people. And dancehall music artistes have used it to justify violent homophobic lyrics.
The T&T Guardian tried to contact the T&T promoter responsible for bringing Banton to T&T next year to get his views on the concerns of the LGBT community, but all efforts proved futile.