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Local Coalition to Protest Reggae Musician

by Amy Wooten


Several local organizations are uniting to protest the inclusion of anti-gay Jamaican reggae musician Buju Banton at Chicago’s July 4 African/Caribbean International Festival of Life, to be held in Washington Park, 5500 S. Cottage Grove.

The L.I.F.E. Association; Sankofa Way Spiritual Services; The Coalition for Justice & Respect; and Black LGBT & Allies for Equality have joined forces to voice their concern over the inclusion of Banton at this local festival.

“This is an artist that represents hate and violence, and that is not what this city is about,” said Sankofa Way’s Damien Varnado. “Why, on public grounds, would this be allowed?”

Banton’s popular song, Boom Boom Bye, calls for the murder of gays. Protests have been held against Banton concerts all over the world, as well as the events of other anti-gay Jamaican artists such as Beenie Man, who encourage anti-gay violence in their lyrics. In some instances, protests have led to the cancellation of shows.

In September 2006, Gay Liberation Network and Black LGBT & Allies protested outside a Banton show at the House of Blues.

On June 8, 2007, at City Hall, members of the various pro-LGBT groups shared their concerns about Banton’s upcoming performance.

“We are calling for Buju Banton to use his leadership and visibility to help bring an end to violence against Black LGBT people,” said Sankofa Way’s Rev. Deborah Lake, according to a press release. “None of us are against the festival. ... But we cannot allow Buju Banton to be welcomed into Chicago on public grounds without addressing how his lyrics continue to hurt Black people.”

In an unusual development, a music rep was present. Tracii McGregor of Gargamel Music, Banton’s music label, came from New York to defend the musician. “Mr. Banton has received many awards, and has done a great deal to help people.” McGregor also said that Banton wrote Boom Bye Bye when he was a young teenager.

Marc Loveless of the Coalition for Justice & Respect said that Banton should say that the lyrics he penned are hateful and wrong.


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