Barbershops in Jamaica like hairdressing parlours are rife with gossip and have become known for hosting sometimes heated exchanges on the latest opinions of the day usually led by the technicians who serve customers needs even as newspapers, magazines and pamphlets and other paraphernalia adorn the centre tables of shelves for customers’ perusal, a television set or radio may also be blaring showing the latest news from CNN or a local television.
One such news item sparked a heated discourse last weekend to which I was privy to be there while waiting my turn to be groomed by my favourite barber. A customer arriving brought with him a set of newspapers where amongst them was the Star News with a headline which on Saturday March 27th read that Buju Banton was denied bail at his hearing in Florida. See the article below or here. The conversation was sparked by the said customer who caught the attention of the barbers who obviously like when customers and themselves chat about the latest news. The comment however that launched a crushendor was voiced by an older barber when at the time the Lotto cash pot draw was being broadcast on television the conversation temporarily stopped as many of the men waiting pulled out their tickets to see if their chance purchase had won for the five o’clock draw, the second of three daily draws that are televised, the number 26 was played as the winning number and the lucky mark as is customarily linked to all numbers played in this case was white man, then came the comment that white men were gays who were putting pressure of Buju Banton the inference also came from the number two that was played at the one o’clock draw and the Jamaican perception for the number two which means gay. Many started to speculate what was going to be drawn at the seven o’clock lotto draw as is always done as numbers are always linked to some superstition or current happenings and thus informs the gamblers’ purchase of said numbers. A few of the men agreed that something gay may be played so 26, 2 would have been replayed or some other number for black men or something sexual.
After that exchange the main matter at hand on Buju was resumed and many believed he was the victim on discrimination from the gays because of the song Boom Bye Bye. “Dem white bo deh deadly” (those white boys are deadly) one barber said loudly he went on to express he felt Buju was set up, many others present agreed. I was quiet during the whole thing as I wanted to hear the views, my barber who by this time was shearing my head prompted me to speak I quickly dismissed it and said I don’t know what to think. One customer introduced the fact of the alleged evidence the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had on Buju Banton on tape tasting the cocaine he was alleged to have been trading, he was promptly rebuffed by nearly all concerned at the time he retreated and barely spoke again during the exchange. They didn’t believe that the DEA had anything on Buju and that it was fabricated, one man believed as I do that Buju’s lawyer didn’t seem as if he was genuine as he was more of a public relations specialist than a lawyer, he questioned why it took so long for him to ask for bail and why was he, Buju Banton was allowed to be moved to a maximum security prison from general population. The others listened intently as he openly posed the questions, he seemed to be well read on the issue more than the others who were in the exchange.
The erudite speaker continued for a good while concluding that he didn’t believe Buju Banton was going to get off that easily as he is being used to teach other DJs who have anti gay songs a lesson, he also tied in the conversation the extradition matter with Dudus Cooke and said since the United States government cannot get their extradition request for the reputed gang leader honoured they may use this trial as diplomatic leverage, the recent attempt at embarrassing the Jamaican government by revoking the visa a prominent business man that had close ties to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party administration was compared to as well by another barber tying in all the current issues into one.
This clearly shows to me that we must never underestimate the views of the ordinary citizen; People are talking and are expressing their views and sifting through the clouds of information floating out there. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of reasoning from the men in the shop I must admit I wanted to speak so badly but I didn’t want to prejudice the moment so I bit my lips. So the negative perception of gaydom being a white import is still an underlying issue just by virtue of this example of an exchange in public. But also as one man put it there are black men who are gay too which suggests that people know their reality in Jamaica and worldwide. The issue of tolerance in a sense was not lost as well one man expressed that he doesn’t care about peoples choice so long they don’t come to him with it as he knows that some men who have women or who are married also are batty man, as he puts it.
I like outdoor talk like this as it gives me a chance to get a feel on the ground.
Maybe I may develop the courage and tools to go out and do a poll in public places on homosexuality and related issues.
What do you think?
Peace and tolerance