A few weeks ago I was made aware by my very community active friends Gordon and Deborah, that a very popular Jamaican singer, Buju Banton, was scheduled to perform on the main stage at the
annual African/Caribbean International Festival of Life's July Fourth concert here in Chicago. Mr. Banton is well known not only for his music but for his flaming homophobia. His hateful lyrics, rhetoric and actions are anti-GLBT to the point of encouraging violence and even murder. His popular song Boom Bye Bye is an ode to the murder of homosexuals. His concerts have been protested in several countries with public officials in other countries calling for a complete ban.
Deborah and her organization Sankofa Way, in concert with The L.I.F.E. Association, The Coalition for Justice & Respect, and the Black LGBT & Allies for Equality, have been protesting this artist and any homophobic artist at any private club or theater where they perform.
The International Festival of Life billed as a "family festival" with the theme of "Bringing Nations Together", would be held in a city park. These organizations held a joint news conference at City Hall to protest allowing this outrage on city property, and call for sponsors to withdraw or justify their support for an artist who stands for hatred and killing. They also made clear that even if Banton does not sing his more hateful songs, he represents homophobia.
I quickly dashed off e-mails to all sponsors including main sponsor NBC 5 here in Chicago. Coming close on the heels of the Imus situation, the Public Relations Director I contacted and both news persons whose faces were representing channel 5 with the festival got back to me with the quickness. After several phone calls and e-mails, before the day was over, NBC had withdrawn their sponsorship of Banton. How 'bout that!
Now A Major Victory!
Gotta hit them in the wallet! Deb tells me that Mr. Banton has joined other homophobic performers in signing the Compassion Act. This is a promise to stop the hate in their music and public speech. Certainly this does not signify a change of heart. But, the cancellation and loss of sponsors for hundreds of shows have caused a change in behavior.
I believe in free speech. But IMO, for people from a homophobic culture, these hate filled dancehall songs are like yelling "fire' in a public building.