Why’s this significant? In light of the latest act of homophobic violence in Jamaica, it’s very significant, and Madison Square Garden management needs to know about it. But first, a little history.
Keith has a pretty good explanation of why it’s significant.
Listen to Buju Banton in “Boom Bye Bye.” He says, “Anytime Buju Banton come, batty boy get up and run, ah gunshot in ah head man … Boom, bye bye, in a batty boy head.” The phrase “batty boy” is Jamaican patois slang to refer to a gay man. The lyrics to the song, loosely translated by the British press, mean the following: “Anytime Buju Banton comes along, gays get and up and run. A bullet in the head … Bang, bye, bye, in the gay man’s head.”
I’ve posted the lyrics to “Boom Bye Bye” before, but here’s a snippet as a reminder.
(Boom boom boom) Boom bye bye
Inna batty bwoy head
Rude bwoy no promote the nasty man
Dem haffi dead
Boom bye bye
Inna batty bwoy head
Rude bwoy no promote no batty man
Dem haffi dead
And here are some quotes from the mob, via the article about the recent bashing.
“B***y boy fe dead,” persons among the mob shouted.
The sentiments were echoed by the rest of the riled-up crowd.
…”Falmouth no pet no b***y boy. We no want none a them bout here,” one woman yelled.
Controversial reggae star Buju Banton has two words for the gay rights groups that have sporadically protested his concerts across the U.S.: “F*ck them.”
“I have never bashed any gays before, and if I bashed gays, I bashed them 16 years ago,” Banton tells Billboard.com. “There’s no tolerance from [the gay community]. I’m not a gay-basher. I’m not a homophobe.”
His manager added this.
‘Buju has not actually performed ‘Boom Bye Bye’ in years. He has, however, railed off the first couple of lines of the song as a springboard to discuss with fans the ongoing troubles he’s been faced with over that one song for these last 15 years. It’s a pity the camera phone didn’t catch all that in Miami.’
Here’s what the camera phone did catch in Miami.
The video of the bashing has been removed from YouTube, but I’ve saved a copy to my hard drive and posted it elsewhere.
I don’t know what kind of discussion ensued after Buju “railed off the first couple of lines” of his song in Miami. It would have been nice to hear that Banton, rather than discussing his “ongoing troubles” over the song, took the opportunity to speak out against the kind of violence extolled in the lyrics, and that’s playing out right now in Jamaica, of which it’s currently said that “If you’re gay in Jamaica, you’re dead.”
Following the murder of gay activist Brian Williamson in Kingston in June 2004, the Jamaica Observer published a letter which read, “To be gay in Jamaica is to be dead.” Despite the international attention which followed the murder, the situation for the |OLGBT community in Jamaica has deteriorated further.
On Sunday 8 April 2007, a crowd allegedly surrounded a church in Mandeville and hurled different objects through a window at the back of the church. The attacks were directed at persons in attendance of the funeral being held there, who the crowd believed to be homosexual.
On 2 April 2007, another crowd reportedly threw stones and bottles at a group of costumed men who were dancing in the carnival procession along Gloucester Avenue in Montego Bay. According to reports, the crowd was angered because the men were supposedly gyrating in a sexually suggestive manner and demanded that they leave the stage.
According to eye-witnesses, the men were attacked, chased and beaten by the mob of around 30 or 40 people. At least one of them had to be hospitalised due to injuries.
These two incidents occurred only two months after a group of men were targeted in a similar manner in a pharmacy in Tropical Plaza, Half-Way Tree, in Kingston. A human rights defender told Amnesty International that a mob of at least 200 people had gathered outside the store, calling for the men to be beaten to death because they were homosexual.
…The climate has been exacerbated by the popularity of ‘murder music’ produced by unrepentant artists such Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, Elephant Man, Sizzla, Capleton, T.O.K. and Shabba Ranks. An campaign against homophobia by reggae and dancehall singers has been launched by OutRage! and the UK-based Stop Murder Music Coalition (SMM) and others.
An agreement to stop anti-gay lyrics during live performances and not to produce any new anti-gay material or re-release offending songs was reached in February 2005 between dancehall record labels and organisations opposed to anti-gay murder lyrics. It seems that this agreement was nothing but begrudging lip service and an attempt to protect loss of sponsorship contracts.
Now both Banton and Madison Square Garden (which is owned by Cablevision, the same company that owns Logo) have an opportunity. Both have an opportunity to speak out against the kind of violence that has been directed at LGBT people in Jamaica.
Banton can take the opportunity to speak out against anti-gay violence unequivocally, in a way I haven’t been able to find record of him doing yet. Banton can be contacted via his MySpace page.
Madison Square Garden also has an opportunity to either encourage Banton to speak out against anti-gay violence (which, not incidentally, reflects his lyrics) or to make their own statement by canceling his performance. Madison Square Garden can be contacted via the information below.
Madison Square Garden
4 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, New York 10001
Guest Relations – 212.465.6225