Culture Clash: Leave Boom Bye Bye In The Past Where The Attitudes It Champions Also Belong

Buju Banton

Buju Banton


Recent events have led to conversations about hate speech over the past few weeks. Even after the Henfield and the f-word, we have not come very far in our understanding of what comprises hate speech and its relationship to freedom of speech. When a statement is identified as hate speech, one of two things tends to happen. The more infrequent seems to be the recognition of wrong, expression of regret and commitment to do better. The popular response is complaining about what is perceived to be an infringement on freedom of speech. This is an unfortunate reality and largely the result of a severe lack of understanding of rights and privileges.

Hate speech is the communication of hatred of a group of people by insulting, attacking, insulting, or encouraging violence against them. It socially subordinates the targeted group. The phrase “Boom bye bye,” for example, is hate speech as it is the title of a song that calls for the murder of gay people and is taken to mean the same. Freedom of speech refers to the right to express opinions without fear of censorship or retaliation. There are typically nine categories of unprotected speech, or speech that is not protected by free speech. These include defamation, perjury and blackmail. For example, freedom of speech does not mean you can lie under oath. There are limitations.

In an interview with Peter Tatchell broadcast in 2007, Brett Lock of the gay human rights group Outrage! talked about freedom of speech and hate speech. He stressed freedom of speech does not mean we can say whatever we want, but is meant to facilitate the exchange of ideas. If people are made to feel afraid, they cannot fully participate in the conversation. He explained that advocating for violence and intimidating groups of people is not exercising freedom of speech, but undermines it.

Over the past few days, we have seen the disastrous effects of misunderstanding freedom speech, who can exercise it and when it is and it not under threat.

Not an easy road

From the announcement of Buju Banton’s release from prison, people all over the region have been waiting for details about his Long Walk to Freedom concert tour. Largely sparked and framed by print media, conversation ensued about the relationship of LGBT+ people and organisations with Buju Banton, particularly given his past and the popularity of Boom Bye Bye. The song, written by him at the age of 15, calls for the murder of gay people (referred to in derogatory region-specific language). Since then, numerous artists have signed the Reggae Compassionate Act developed by organizations including Outrage!, JFLAG, and the Stop Murder Music campaign, pledging to refrain from performing songs that promote violence. According to the agreement, Boom Bye Bye should not be performed on the upcoming tour.

Contacted by the media, executive director of Barbados-GLAD Donnya Piggott denied claims the organisation was calling for Buju Banton to denounce the song in question. She said: “We’re moving on from Boom Bye Bye,” and added that “we are going forward with peace and love”.

People are anxious to purchase tickets, already imagining themselves at the event, singing along to their favourite songs by the well-loved artist. Some of these people claim Boom Bye Bye is integral to their concert experience. A part of this group says they want to hear the song because it is nostalgic and sounds good. Another part says they want to hear because LGBT+ people are being unreasonable in their comments about the song and not wanting it to be performed or played.

They keep fighting me, I’m not giving up

When asked about the concert and, specifically, the anti-gay song, Erin Greene made a clear and reasonable statement. She framed Buju Banton as “an important Afro-diasporic and Caribbean cultural figure” whose work should not be dismissed because of the decades-old song. She pointed to the negative impact of the song on LGBT+ people in the Caribbean as it became an anti-gay anthem wielded as a weapon.

It is difficult to hold multiple truths, but entirely possible. Here is a member of the LGBT+ community highlighting the cultural impact of Buju Banton and his music while acknowledging the unending impact of a song he wrote as a teenager on one of the most vulnerable communities in The Bahamas and the Caribbean. In her statement, she did not call for the concert to be cancelled, or for the artist to be denied entry. She stated her support on the condition that a song that calls for the death of innocent, vulnerable people in a violent, homophobic society is not performed or played. There is nothing offensive, unreasonable, or outrageous about that.

Your insides must be hollow

The response to Erin Greene’s statement has been vitriolic. One of the first responses was a widely shared audio recording of “Bannister” riddled with profanity. He spoke directly to Erin Greene and, in language inappropriate for this space, said she is talking foolishness. He also suggested a return to the 1970s and 1980s and “beat them when you see them in the wrong manner”. The recording is a clear example of the violence faced by LGBT+ people on a regular basis. People are denied access to public services, harassed, physically harmed and emotionally abused on the basis on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Songs like Boom Bye Bye help to create a culture of dehumanizing LGBT+ people to such an extent that seeing a gay person in public space, hearing their point of view, or being asked to treat them with respect receives a negative reaction.

Some people argued this is a non-issue, only ever raised by LGBT+ people. This is wholly incorrect. First, the issue is almost always raised by the media. Media professionals know the history of Buju Banton, are aware of the Reggae Compassionate Act, recognise the vulnerability of LGBT+ people and need fresh news stories. It is important to understand it is the job of journalists to reach out to key figures, conduct interviews, source information and present it to their audiences in ways that encourage them to pay attention.

Remember when it felt like Leslie Miller was in the news every day? That was not because he showed up at media houses to give statements. He was known to be quick and unabashed in his answers that were almost certain to get reactions that would drive more people to the stories. Ministers are asked about current affairs and events related to their ministries because they should be able to offer both perspective and substance. Opposition members are asked to comment on the administration’s decisions because they are expected to disagree. These are the stories people want to read.

The conversation about Erin Greene’s statement can only be productive when all participants understand this: she did not call a press conference. Questions — valid and timely — were posed and she answered.

Second, it is not a non-issue. The negative response to a reasonable statement on a controversial song and highly anticipated concert makes that obvious. Homophobia is rampant and it is bold. People openly demonstrate their disregard for human beings and the choice to celebrate a harmful song — one in a large catalogue of songs that include many positive messages — not only despite, but specifically to spite a vulnerable group of people affected by it.

Walk like a champion

Yesterday, The Tribune reported that Buju Banton’s legal team made contact with Erin Greene after learning of the response to her earlier statement about his concert. They expressed concern and said they did not intend to cause the hostility being experienced by her and other members of the LGBT+ community. It was right for them to reach out to her and it is telling that others have not done more to support her at this time. Organisations and individuals who associate themselves with human rights, women’s rights and LGBT+ rights in particular should have, at the very least, made statements of support. They could have attempted to intervene in social media commentary that obviously contributed to the creation of an unsafe environment for Erin Greene as an individual, but also for all LGBT+ people in The Bahamas. A few people made posts on their social media pages to denounce homophobic behaviour, and more people can do the same. It is not too late.

It is far too easy to violate vulnerable groups of people because they do not have consistent, unwavering support. When more people identify, name and rebuke hate speech, others will be less comfortable with participating in it. True fans of Buju Banton know more than song, recognise the progression in his artistry and understand the message he is now trying to send. For them, it makes sense for Boom Bye Bye to be left in the past, for hate speech to be called out and freedom of speech, especially for vulnerable communities, to be protected.

It is on us to create a better, safer environment in The Bahamas for everyone living here.


BahamasForBahamians 2 years, 12 months ago

Bye Felicia.... Alicia..whatever...The majority wants boom bye bye and is offended by erin's life style. she is not in the slight bit concerned in how she offends the majority so why should the majority be concerned when she is offended ?

The same free rights she advocating for she should give to buju.. He can say or sing whatever he wishes and just so happens to have the majority support in this case..


ButchPlease 2 years, 12 months ago

Oh my god. Please read my profile name and replace the "u" with an "i".

In the 1950s or so, the majority also wanted to lynch black people. This was illegal. Does that mean that the law was undermining their freedom of speech? Just because the majority wants something, doesn't make it right. The majority may want the purge, but that's not happening anytime soon. If the majority was considered everytime a decision had to be done, everybody who's not white would probably be stuck in slavery. THIS SONG IS ENCOURAGING THE KILLING OF PEOPLE. HOW THE HELL WOULD YOU FEEL IF SOMEONE WAS ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO KILL YOU FOR STUPID CRAP THAT YOU CAN'T CONTROL. You might be offending people for the colour of your skin. What're you gonna do about that? Nobody ever said that Buju can't sing any of his songs, we're just saying that he shouldn't encourage violence like this. Personally, I DO hope he does something about his song because it's being used to reference and incite violence and stuff. Not asking him to change his opinion about gay people (except the violence stuff) or anything, I just hope he can acknowledge that that song is hurting a lot of people and do something to change that. Honestly, though, you're just an idiot. Can you read? It addresses people like you in the article.


joeblow 2 years, 11 months ago

If you have a condition or impulse that you cannot control then you have a psychiatric problem, are you admitting to that? Everyone can control who or what they lie down with, many just choose not to and want others to be accepting of it!!


licks2 2 years, 12 months ago

I am sorry. . .I went and listened to the song boom. . .bye. . .bye and I am incensed by what that man put into song!!! I AM DEFINITELY FOR CENSORING HIS GROSS SUGGESTION THAT SHOOTING DOWN PEOPLE WANTONLY IS LIKE SPORT!!



ButchPlease 2 years, 12 months ago

Hey, he wrote it a long time ago. That was when he was 15 and Jamaica was really intolerant. (Granted, that may have exacerbated the problem a bit.) I just hope he can...not necessarily denounce....but like, admit that the song hurt people and encourage people to be more tolerant to members of the LGBT community.


sheeprunner12 2 years, 12 months ago

Why is The Bahamas getting mixed-up with Buju?????? .......... Bad idea


Free_Thinking_Atheist 2 years, 12 months ago

People over EVERYTHING, Over your Racism, Over your Ideologies, Over Your Bigotry, over your class of people and over your religion. if anyone of these things is what leads you to hurt or condemn PEOPLE it is not an opinion it is plain wrong.

I don't know Erin Green, but her opinion on hate speech i absolutely agree with. Its 2019 and its time Bahamians come up out of this 1940's mentality. The First commentator said that Erin Green wasn't concerned about how Bahamians feel about her lifestyle, Using that logic, That's like saying Black people should be concerned about how racist white people feel about the fact that they are black. Her lifestyle is not the issue here. She simply stated that the song is hate speech...It most certainly is.

Anyone can change for the better. But i am concern about a people who is more concern about Erin Green's lifestyle and little to no concern is shown to the fact that Buju Banton was just released from jail for being a convicted drug trafficker.


ButchPlease 2 years, 12 months ago

That person wont see it unless you reply, and my reply was a bit.....insulting. But I agree with you. People need to get their priorities straight and it's actually NOT illegal in the Bahamas to discriminate against LGBT people.


John 2 years, 12 months ago

Many believe there is a connection between this song (Boom bye,bye) and BuJu getting charged, convicted, sent to jail and then kicked out of the US. The song truly reflects the non tolerance of gays in Jamaica during the time it was written. A time when many young men in Jamaica, who had gay tendencies, would try flee to the US to avoid losing their lives or being beaten up. Jamaica has become more tolerant now, at least in some places especially in light of its tourism market . But how will Bahamians fare? When this song was played in nightclubs and even at private events, wedding receptions included, it would almost always end up in riotous bloodshed, especially if the dj was ignorant and inciting the crowds to ‘headshot an bun dem.’ And ‘Dem’ being invited guests and paying customers who had just as much right to be at the event as anyone else, including the dj. So this will be a test of how much Bahamians have matured and become more tolerant of others. Some say if BuJu doesn’t sing the song, they will chant it themselves. Then after the concert is over, the wild guess is they will go back to hating on Haitians.


ButchPlease 2 years, 12 months ago

I have to say I'm offended, but that's slightly true


joeblow 2 years, 12 months ago

Its interesting to watch the LGBT community use subtlety and wordsmithery to accomplish their objectives of controlling speech and behavior opposed to their lifestyle. It is now considered hate speech in Canada to refer to a man who believes he is a woman as he. They may not use Bujus words (with which I do not agree) but they are forcing social conformity to their agenda by increasing social pressure while labeling speech as hateful that opposes their worldview.


ButchPlease 2 years, 12 months ago

Are you an actual idiot? People are actually getting hurt because of hateful people and ignorant people like you who go on about the "gay agenda". Honestly, the thing with Canada, it's considered hate speech the same way people are called the n-word. Sometimes its not to insult, but other times its an on purpose thing to hurt people. Transgender women are called transgender women because they are one, and when some people (probably you) decide to call them that, it hurts because you're not respecting their decision as a person. It's hate speech because, yes, it undermines others' freedom of speech. They're not asking you to agree with anything going on, who said anything about that?, they're just asking not to be beat up or insulted for who they are, and to respect their decision by calling them what they'd like to be called. If you didn't want somebody to call you something, maybe it made you uncomfortable, and they insisted on doing it over and over, wouldn't you feel upset? Hopefully you understand now. Also, please consider what you're posting before you do it. You never know how much your words may hurt others.


momoyama 2 years, 12 months ago

I personally am a straight male who does not approve of the gay lifestyle. However, out of respect for my boyfriend, who is gay, I cannot tolerate this Buju coming here!


ButchPlease 2 years, 12 months ago

Um? You are straight with a boyfriend?


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