(Back row, L - R: Jonathan, Buju p.r. rep, Bevan Dufty, Andrea Shorter, Eric Mar, Rebecca Rolfe, Tracii McGregor. Front row, Michael Petrelis and Buju Banton.)
Four members of San Francisco's gay community met this afternoon for 40-minutes with Jamaican singer Buju Banton in Larkspur, up in Marin County, to discuss his troubling history with gay people.According to Buju and his advisers, this was his first meeting ever with gay advocates, and they really want to put an end to the controversy that continues to dog him over violent homo-hating song he sang in his late teens, "Boom Bye Bye."At the meeting were gay leaders Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who arranged the meeting, Rebecca Rolfe, executive director of the SF gay community center, Andrea Shorter of Equality California and myself. Also present was Supervisor Eric Mar, a progressive straight leader in the Asian community, and, of course, Buju and Tracii McGregor, president of his music company.
About ten minutes into the meeting in the hotel lobby of where the singer is staying, some of his p.r. people joined the conversation.The meeting was very civil and productive, even though at times I had to play the "bad cop" activist, especially when Buju was dominating the discussion, and we made several suggestions for him to consider, in order to start to undo some of the problems he has in the gay community because of his past anti-gay lyrics.
We proposed that he think about making statements in Jamaica calling for love toward gays, donating to the JFLAG group, hold a town hall meeting in Kingston about the need to respect gays, and sing about loving gay people. All the suggestions were rejected, frustrating us.It was explained by us that American gays are not singling him out, as we advocate for gay tolerance in Jamaica, but that we have also applied pressure on the government and business leaders to affect change that benefits gays across the island nation.
While there certainly was little movement on his part, and we didn't agree to tell any other gays to stop protesting his concert tour or suggesting he do more to confront the terrible, and sometimes deadly, anti-gay violence in Jamaica, we felt it was a very positive step forward that the meeting took place.Our hope is that we will continue to speak with him and his representatives to address the pervasive hatred gays face in Jamaica, and work together to reduce homo-hate. I believe Buju fully understands that today's meeting was a beneficial first step and that the gay community will want more concrete steps taken, before our actions against his concerts cease. Many thanks to Bevan for arranging this important first meeting, and thanks to Buju for taking the time to listen to us, and to let us hear his views.