Buju Banton’s violations of the Reggae Compassionate Act
By Peter Tatchell, international coordinator of the Stop Murder Music campaign
London, UK – 9 October 2009
Jamaican reggae and dancehall singer Buju Banton is currently on a major US concert tour. Already, many of his concerts have been halted as a result of LGBT protests. Our congratulations and thanks to US activists.
This briefing sets out the case against Banton and why his concert tour should be stopped.
Jamaican LGBT group (J-Flag) want a global boycott of Buju Banton over his repeated violations of the RCA. They want his US concerts cancelled. So do black LGBT groups in the UK.
Banton has not truly changed. He was offered a truce many times since 2004 and he rejected or reneged every time. He broke his promises.
For many years and on many occassions, the Stop Murder Music (SMM) campaign offered to call off the campaign against Banton if he ceased encouraging, glorifying and promoting the murder the LGBT people and promised to not do so in the future. Banton refused.
Buju signed the Reggae Compassionate Act (RCA) in early June 2007. It is signed under his real name, Mark Myrie.
His signing was brokered and organised by UK and European reggae agents and promoters, who delivered to us his signature on the RCA. They now feel that Buju has betrayed them by reneging on it.
Just weeks after Banton signed the RCA, through his spokespeople, he denied signing it and denounced the RCA in the Jamaican media, including Radio Jamaica, The Gleaner and the Jamaica Star. He has repeatedly violated the RCA by performing Boom Bye Bye since he signed it.
From the early 1990s, when he first released the song, he has sold and profited from Boom Bye Bye (mostly on compilation albums). Contrary to claims by his representatives, I have been told that he still holds the copyright on the song.
His signing of the RCA is worthless. What Banton says cannot be relied upon.
In August 2007, Buju Banton told the London police and the management of the Brixton Academy (a major London music venue, where he was scheduled to perform) that he has not and will not sign the RCA (despite having done so).
At a meeting at Brixton Police Station in London in early August 2007, I witnessed his spokespeople deny that he had ever signed the RCA. The police and venue management insisted that must sign the RCA as a condition for his concert to go ahead. They resisted but reluctantly agreed.
It was arranged for Buju to sign the RCA on Sunday 12 August 2007, just before his London concert. When he arrived, he refused to do. As a result of his failure to honour his pledge, the venue management told me and the police that they would never allow Banton to perform at the Brixton Academy again.
Buju has performed Boom Bye Bye, in whole or part, after signing the RCA and has abused gay rights groups with the epithet “Fuck them”:
In 2004 and 2005, Banton was claiming that he no longer performs Boom Bye Bye. This is not true.
Here is video proof that Buju Banton was still performing part of Boom Bye Bye after he claimed that he was not performing it – Miami concert, 29 May 2006:
US concert organisers switched off Banton’s mike after they deemed he had attempted to sing Boom Bye Bye at New York’s Reggae CariFest on Randall’s Island, New York, on 25 August 2007 – after he signed the RCA. .
On 27 October 2007, Buju Banton sang part of ‘Boom Bye Bye’ at the Guyana Music Festival – after he signed the RCA:
So much for his management and PR company claims that the song was 17 years ago and that he has since “moved on” and put the song behind him.
Although he was not convicted of involvement in a gay-bash attack in that took place in Jamaica in 2004, many people believe he may not have been innocent. Some of his gay victims were too afraid to testify against him. They feared being killed. The Jamaican police seemed to collude to protect Banton from arrest and charges – taking one year to execute a warrant for his arrest and then only after international pressure. They did little to gather the necessary evidence. The poor quality of the police investigation and prosecution contributed to Banton not being convicted.
Banton has been given so many chances to drop his incitements to kill LGBT people. He has refused, or agreed and then gone back on his word.
The social context and background ethical issues to consider:
Would a venue host a white racist singer who had encouraged and glorified the murder of African American people? No, they would not.
The criterion for opposing incitements to homophobic murder should, in my opinion, be the same as for incitements to racist murder. Zero tolerance for both.
This is not a free speech issue. Incitement to murder is a criminal offence in Jamaica and the US. Free speech does not include the right to incite the killing of other human beings.
Everyone has a right to be spared threats to kill them. Homophobic songs that contain threats to kill “batty men” (faggots) diminish freedom of speech because they cow LGBT people into silence and invisibility. They are not able to speak freely. Not a single LGBT Jamaican is able to go public and be interviewed on TV about their sexuality, because they would identified and be at risk of being killed. Where is their freedom of speech?
In Jamaica, Boom Bye Bye is still hailed as an anti-gay anthem, and is sometimes sung by mobs when they bash LGBT people. The leader of the Jamaican gay rights movement, Brian Williamson, was brutally murdered in a homophobic attack in 2004. Crowds gathered outside his house, where they rejoiced and sang Boom Bye Bye.
We are asking venues to show compassion for the LGBT people of Jamaica by refusing to host a singer who has contributed to their pain, suffering and death.
People like Buju Banton, who sing about killing LGBTs, should not be rewarded with concerts and blood money.
Lyrics of Buju Banton’s Boom Bye Bye
Jamaican patois, with standard English translation and explanation underneath
Boom bye bye
Boom [as in gun sound] goodbye, goodbye
[as in we won’t be seeing you again, you’re dead]
Inna batty bwoy head
In a queer’s head
Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man
Rude boys don’t promote no queer men
Dem haffi dead
They have to die
Send fi di matic an
Send for the automatic [gun] and
Di Uzi instead
The Uzi instead
Shoot dem no come if we shot dem
Shoot them, don’t come if we shoot them
[as in don’t come to help them]
Guy come near we
If a man comes near me
Then his skin must peel
Then his skin must peel
[as in pour acid over him]
Burn him up bad like an old tyre wheel
Burn him up badly, like you would burn an old tyre wheel.