By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AS a local promotion company ramps up advertisements for a Buju Banton concert, one prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist says as long as the Jamaican reggae star ignores his most controversial song, Boom Bye Bye, his performance should not be opposed.
The LGBT community has historically been one of Mr Banton’s fiercest critics.
A promotion company, Paradise Production Inc, is advertising a March 30 concert for the artist at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium. A representative of the company said yesterday a contract has already been signed involving the national stadium and the artist. He said a work permit was approved on December 19, 2018. However, government officials could not confirm this week if Mr Banton has received a work permit for the event.
Immigration Minister Brent Symonette said Mr Banton’s work visa has not yet come across his desk for approval. Attorney General Carl Bethel said if there is a “lawful basis for some objection” to Mr Banton’s appearance, the matter would likely be dealt with by Cabinet.
Immigration Director Clarence Russell became belligerent when asked about the matter yesterday.
He claimed responding to the question would violate the Official Secrets Act. Pressed on the matter, he abruptly hung up the phone.
Mr Banton was released from McRae Correctional Centre in Georgia on December 8, 2018 after seven years in prison for possessing and distributing cocaine.
He subsequently announced a “Long Walk To Freedom Tour”, beginning on March 16 in Jamaica. He reportedly has other events planned for Trinidad and Antigua.
In 2009, concert promoters LiveNation and AEG Live cancelled his concerts because of homophobic lyrics in his songs, particularly his 1992 hit which called for murdering homosexuals.
But Erin Greene, local LGBT activist, said as offensive as “Boom Bye Bye” continues to be, Mr Banton should not be defined by that song.
“The song ‘Boom Bye Bye’ is just one element of his portfolio and his life and he should not be defined by that one moment in the same way that advocates in the LGBT community asks that we not define somebody by their sexuality or one moment of their life,” she said. “I think Buju is such an important Afro-diasporic and Caribbean cultural figure, we should not dismiss his work because of this one song.”
Reggae and dancehall music have never shied away from homophobic lyrics, but Ms Greene said no song embodied homophobia more than Mr Banton’s 1992 song.
“I can never forget the song, it’s lyrics and the impact of its lyrics on the lives of thousands and thousands if not millions of queer Caribbean people,” she said. “We can’t forget it and we can’t dismiss it. It was a song written by a 15-year-old boy in the wake of an attack against a small child by a man who was presumed to be homosexual even though he committed a paedophilic act. The song itself was adopted as an anthem for anti-gay rights advocates and for people who oppose homosexuality for whatever reason. It was used as a tool to strike fear and threaten gay people and we can never dismiss that. Buju has addressed the matter a couple of times publicly although not to the satisfaction of many members of the LGBT community.
“My feeling about is this, Buju should be allowed to perform on conditions, the first being that they do not play the song. Don’t let him sing it, don’t let the audience sing it, don’t reference it, keep it out of the portfolio.
“Acknowledging that for many LGBT people in the community, Buju also represents a figure of liberation against colonial and imperialist structures, all of us, gay and straight, have to reconcile with the complexities of human life and interactions as communities.”
She added: “Buju Banton is an icon. He is a representation of the struggle of poor Caribbean people, particularly Africans and their struggle through a world that’s obviously not designed for them. Buju Banton is an icon separate from the song ‘Boom Bye Bye.’ We need to be able to see Buju as a complex figure.”