Reggae star Buju Banton has become the latest homophobic performer to renounce homophobia and condemn violence against lesbians and gay men.
He has signed up to the Reggae Compassionate Act in a deal brokered with top reggae promoters and Stop Murder Music activists.
His decision is in marked contrast to his attitude in October 2006, when two of his concerts in the US were cancelled after pressure from gay activists
“Fuck them,” was his response.
He made the comment to American music site Billboard.com, who asked the singer about his cancelled concerts around the world.
“I have never bashed any gays before, and if I bashed gays, I bashed them 16 years ago,” said Banton. “There’s no tolerance from [the gay community]. I’m not a gay-basher. I’m not a homophobe.”
It seems the economic reality of his defiant stance has prompted a change of heart.
Last month artists Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton, who like Banton had previously released anti-gay hate songs, including incitements to murder lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, signed up to the pact.
The Act reads:
“It must be clear there’s no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia.
“We do not encourage nor minister to HATE but rather uphold a philosophy of LOVE, RESPECT and UNDERSTANDING towards all human beings as the cornerstone of reggae.
“We agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community.”
Mr Banton became notorious for his 1992 song Boom Bye Bye which advocates shooting gay men in the head, pouring acid on them and burning them alive.
His decision to stop performing homophobic songs is another victory for the three-year-long Stop Murder Music campaign, which has resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of concerts and sponsorship deals, causing income losses estimated in excess of $5m (£2.5m).
“The Reggae Compassionate Act is a big breakthrough,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is coordinator of the worldwide Stop Murder Music campaign.
“Having these major reggae stars renounce homophobia will influence their fans and the wider public to rethink bigoted attitudes. The beneficial effect on young black straight men will be immense,” he said.
The fight against other homophobic performers continues:
“The other four murder music artists – Elephant Man, TOK, Bounty Killa and Vybz Kartel – have not signed the Reggae Compassionate Act.
“The campaign against them continues. These singers have incited the murder of lesbians and gays. They should not be rewarded with concerts or sponsorship deals.”
“The Stop Murder Music campaign urges organisations worldwide to
intensify the campaign to cancel these five singers’ concerts and
their record, sponsorship and advertising deals,” said Mr Tatchell.
A spokesman for the Jamaican gay human rights group J-Flag told The Guardian:
“I really hope that his actions are genuine and it is not just because international pressure is hurting his pocket. We hope it is a sincere commitment that will end homophobic violence.”
Mr Tatchell commented:
“This deal is already having a huge, positive impact in Jamaica and
the Caribbean. The media coverage has generated public awareness and
debate; breaking down ignorance and undermining homophobia.
“Having these major reggae stars renounce homophobia is influencing
their fans and the wider public to rethink bigoted attitudes. The
beneficial effect on young straight reggae fans is immense,” he said.
This view is mirrored by fellow Stop Murder Music campaigner, Dennis L Carney, Vice-Chair of the Black Gay Mens Advisory Group (BGMAG) in
Mr Carney is of Jamaican descent, and also played a leading
role in negotiating the Reggae Compassionate Act. He added:
“I am thrilled that Beenie Man, Sizzla, Buju Banton and Capleton have signed up to this historic agreement with the Stop Murder Music
“We welcome their commitment to not produce music or make
public statements that incite hatred and violence against gay people.
“This is a giant leap towards restoring peace, love and harmony to
reggae music. These performers are sending a clear message that
lesbians and gay men have a right to live free from fear and
persecution – both here in the UK and in Jamaica,” concluded Mr