But Banton’s Gargamel label recently announced that the tour was on with more than 30 cities booked. His MySpace Music page lists canceled shows as TBD, indicating he’s seeking out other venues. In Philadelphia, the first city in the tour, the concert was initially canceled, but then the promoter and venue agreed to have the show anyway.
To counter the tour, San Diego gay rights activist Syd Stevens launched http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/ over the Labor Day weekend. The site not only gives updated information about the tour and how to contact concert venues to protest, it also aims to counter myths peddled by Banton’s business allies.
“I felt it was necessary to create a centralized information clearing house on the web, like we did for the nationwide anti-Prop 8 Day of Decision protests. I want to empower local activists to post their letters, organize protests and boycotts and remain unified nationally. Many people don’t know who Buju is. Those who do likely know about his hate lyrics, but they don’t seem to know he was also involved in an armed assault on six gay men in Jamaica.”
While a Jamaican court acquitted Banton of the attack, LGBT activists have a great degree of skepticism about the kind of justice that gay victims could get in a country notorious for its violent homophobia. Gay sex is punishable in Jamaica by up to ten years in prison. When Jamaica’s foremost gay rights campaigner Brian Williamson was murdered in a hate crime in 2004, a Human Rights Watch researcher who went to the murder scene reported that a mob had gathered and was celebrating the murder by chanting the chorus Banton’s “Boom Bye Bye.”
“Let’s just say that the gay victims in Banton’s 2006 trial probably got as fair a shake as Emmett Till got in the old U.S. South,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network (www.GayLiberation.net).
Pro-gay protesters accuse Banton’s publicists of trying to resuscitate the tour by launching a disinformation campaign, falsely claiming that the singer no longer performs his infamous “Boom Bye Bye” and hinting that no longer harbors violent attitudes against gays. But as gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell notes, “Banton still performs this song and it is still on sale via compilation albums. He is still making money out of this murder music. He denies that the still performs this song, but he does.”
For several years Tatchell has been a leader in the struggle against so-called “Murder Music.” In conjunction with the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), that country’s leading LGBT group, Tatchell developed the “Reggae Compassionate Act,” a pledge whereby former performers of music that advocates violence against gays could publicly disavow that music and pledge to no longer promote violence. As evidence of Buju Banton’s continuing duplicity, Tatchell and other activists note that Banton signed the Compassionate Act in 2007, but then later claimed to have never signed it.
The http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/ website has a page for each city on the tour with local contact information for the letter writing and phone campaign. Local activists are encouraged to organize protests and boycotts of venues that refuse to cancel.