Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Letter My Partner and I Sent to WaterStreet Music After We Found Out Homophobic Performer Buju Banton Will Be Performing Here In Rochester.

[Blogger's Note: This is the letter my partner and I sent to the following contact: waterstreetmusic@aol.com We were told in a reply email that we were part of a national "gay lobby meant to destroy the livelihood of a man..."]

To: John Chmiel, Water Street Music Hall staff, et al

As members of the Rochester community, we are respectfully writing to voice our concern over the appearance of Buju Banton at the Water Street Music Hall on September 19.

Please consider the following:

--- Are you aware of the controversies surrounding Buju Banton's past violent anti-gay hate speech? If not, here's the link:

http://minnesotaindependent.com/44049/first-avenue-cancels-appearance-by-anti-gay-reggae-artist

Here's another link which views the common belief that Banton's music as something of an anthem for violent anti-gay murders:

http://www.passportmagazine.com/departments/Jamaica.php?rand=1

Here's another link of his relationship to very real atmosphere of violence towards gays and lesbians in Jamaica:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/jamaica-a-grim-place-to-be-gay-1786273.html

--- You may have read of the cancellations of Banton's concerts elsewhere in the country.

If not, here's the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/arts/music/31arts-BUJUBANTONSH_BRF.html

Here's another link: http://lezgetreal.com/?p=21572

--- You may also have heard that Banton signed what was called the Reggae Compassionate Act a few years ago to denounce antigay lyrics and activity, but Banton later attempted to deny signing such a statement, odd behavior from someone who truly wished to move away from his past advocacy of antigay violence:

http://www.radiojamaica.com/content/view/79/26/



Nor should it be easy to ignore Banton himself being investigated for actual, physical violent antigay attacks, as recently as 5 years ago: ("In 2004, he was investigated over the beatings of six gay men in Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston; he was acquitted in 2006 for lack of evidence. Human rights activists pointed out at the time that Jamaican authorities tend not to handle such cases aggressively.") See the Minnesota Independent link above for verification.

Had Buju Banton made genuine rather than convenient effort to apologize for his advocacy of violence towards gays, this might be a different situation altogether. But as in the Jamaica Observer article above, by backing off, qualifying, or downplaying such efforts, Buju Banton has made pretty clear that any passing movement he's offered to stop vocalizing homophobia has been only in the interest of attempting to preserve whatever concerts he can hold on to and money he can still make in the U.S. and Europe, and what Banton's publicists have said is sometimes in stark contrast with what Banton himself has suggested.

The Water Street Music Hall offers a great and diverse selection of concerts that appeal to various segments of the community and we have nothing but respect for your venue. However, we would like to inquire as to if the Water Street Music Hall would accommodate a performer with quite the same history, had it been aimed at a minority other than the GLBT community? We sure hope not. Or perhaps you are unaware of Buju Banton's history? We say this out of concern that you may unknowingly be doing irreparable damage to both the Water Street Music Hall's reputation, as well as your relationship to the Rochester and surrounding areas GLBT community, as well as their friends, families, and allies; many members of this community having been (and hopefully continuing to be) frequent customers and supporters of many shows at your venue.

Surely there are other artists who can represent the reggae community, without Buju Banton's disturbing history? And who might better serve the purpose and standards of Water Street Music Hall and maintain your venue's quality, without damaging its relationship to the permanent Rochester community?

3 comments:

  1. A local club here in the SLC just cancelled a performance by this guy for these very same reasons. Good for you for making it so completely clear.

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  2. I am *so* with you on this fight!

    Anne

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  3. You probably know that Water Street is now planning on hosting Beenie Man (dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays) on March 12th.

    Did Buju Banton go on?

    I'd urge you to contact the club again, and contact local politicians and newspapers and ask them to speak out against these murder music performers and their hate.

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