Phil Reese

Recording Academy blows GLAAD off, calls Buju Banton's gay-murder lyrics his "cultural perspective."

Filed By Phil Reese | December 10, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: boycott, Buju Banton, glaad, murder, petition, recording academy

Over the last decade, Buju Banton has reemerged as one of the most blatantly homophobic celebrities in the world--especially after 2006 when a judge dropped all charges against him for storming the residence of six suspected gay men and severely beating them to the point of permanent injury. He has repeatedly been caught singing his 1992 pro-murder hit "Boom, Bye Bye" after pledging not to sing it anymore. In 2007 he was the last signer of the "Reggae Compassion Act" pledging to refuse to sing homophobic lyrics anymore, only to immediately after deny ever signing it.Buju_Banton_(Apollo_theater,_2007).jpg

In October 2009, after agreeing to meet with members of the San Francisco gay and lesbian center about the homophobic content in his music, Buju Banton refused their requests to stop promoting the murder of gays and lesbians, and to make an anti-violence statement. days later he proceeded to pronounce, "This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs 'there is no end to the war between me and faggot' and it's clear."

His song "Boom Bye Bye," doesn't just make homophobic statements. The entire song is an anthem about viciously, aggressively and violently murdering gays. One of the first lyrics in the song describes shooting a gay man in the back of the head as he runs away. Later in the same verse, Banton describes charging into the private home of a gay couple with an uzi. Later, he describes murdering, skinning and burning gays and lesbians. Then there is his song "Batty Rider" which spends describes chasing and gunning down gay men for the fun of it, during the course of which he repeats the word "murder" over a dozen times.

So the Recording Academy nominated him for a GRAMMY.

To be fair, they didn't nominate "Boom Bye Bye" for a GRAMMY, however, the battle over Banton's statements and music has been especially hyped up this year with his North American tour, and the cancellation of dozens of his shows. The Recording Academy, which puts the GRAMMYs on annually ignores the extremely sensitive nature of promoting such an artist with a nomination in such a heightened atmosphere.

When responding, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) the LGBT community's major media watchdog, swiftly began circulating a petition to urge the Recording Academy to consider the consequences of "nominating Banton for a prestigious Grammy Award the Recording Academy is turning a blind eye to Banton's support of deadly violence against gay people." GLAAD is hoping their petition will help convince academy members not to support this nomination.

Which the Recording Academy followed up with:

"The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Awards have a long history of supporting freedom of speech and creative expression, and of supporting artists and the music they create. Artists of a variety of political or cultural perspectives have been nominated or featured on the telecast, despite protests and backlash. The Academy acknowledges that there are very strong and diverse opinions on many issues and in many instances, we have helped initiate dialogue on matters that require education and further discussion. It takes tolerance to teach tolerance, and it is through dialogue and debate that social discovery may occur. The GRAMMY Awards is a celebration and recognition of outstanding musical achievement by music makers, regardless of politics, and that will continue to be our mission."

Freedom of speech is wonderful, but the problem with this is--not only has Buju's own fans put his aggressive lyrics into action, Buju himself has in that 1994 incident that left one man blind.

GLAAD returned with a powerful response of their own:

"While we appreciate the Recording Academy issuing a response, we firmly disagree with their justification for nominating Buju Banton for a Grammy Award," said Jarrett Barrios, President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). "Advocating the murder of gay people is not a 'political or cultural perspective.' We urge Recording Academy members NOT to support Buju Banton's nomination. Ignoring his continued promotion of brutality against gay people sends a message that violence against our community is OK."

Where would the GRAMMYs be without the gays? If Buju Banton had his way, every producer, writer, half of the performers and presenters and almost the entire male television audience would take a bullet to the head. Perhaps this year the night of the GRAMMYs, we should all find something else to watch instead. I mean, we can always YouTube the good performances in the morning, and--even better--we don't have to see the bad sketches and filler, nor the performances that get buzzed about as the real stinkers. We can always find out if Buju won his award for being such a great guy the next day. We'd miss none of the good stuff, and could potentially skip all of the bad stuff.

However, if none of the gays were watching the GRAMMYs this year, the Recording Academy would have a serious problem on their hand. Maybe next time instead of shooting out a flippant and patronizing response, they take some time to consider the consequences of this nomination a little harder. If there is a next time. I don't think networks run award shows with no audience.

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Certainly even a bigot enjoys freedom of speech. But the recording industry would never nominate a white performer who sang similar themes about African Americans. To do so would lose it the sponsors of the show. We have the freedom to boycott the show and, far more importantly, its sponsors. If we do so, the Grammys will acquire the "heightened sensitivity" it affords others.

battybattybats battybattybats | December 11, 2009 12:55 AM

Hmm Imagining for a moment that the backlash against this action was enough to have the ratings tank so badly the Grammy awards are no longer televised... oh what a powerful message that would send!

Oh, please, don't fool yourself by thinking that gay viewership is more than a minuscule portion of the audience. Losing gay viewers is hardly a dent in their ratings.

And heterosexuals, as usual, will be either clueless or indifferent to the whole ordeal in general.

I don't think any of us are fooling ourselves that we could get the Grammy Awards taken off the air by not watching it Lucrece, but personally I don't think that doesn't mean we shouldn't make a stand.

If you or I not watching it, and explaining to people why not, makes at least one person think then it's made a difference. We can't expect to turn around things overnight, but each small step brings us closer to a better, more equal place.

We should not be naïve about this. I think a big protest at the Grammys is the way to go. Say 5,000 or so.

Maybe some of our well heeled advocacy orgs can do this when they are done arguing us to death on 2010 v 2012. Where is the HRC when you need them?

How about LGBTQ elected officials? Call me crazy but Banton has aided, abetted, committed, and nurtured violence against us. Tolerance is for harsh meds not violent haters.

BTW, is reggae tired or what?

Blowing up cars near crowds of people used to be an Irish cultural perspective. D'ye suppose that the Grammys would support that?

I think not.

I'm not so offended by the idea of allowing Buju his free speech, I'm more offended by the Recording Academy's flippant response to GLAAD. It took the tone of: "Oh those uppity homos are pissed again. How do we tell them to shut up this time?"

Rather than take care to craft a SYMPATHETIC response to GLAAD "The Recording Academy will never condone the incitement of acts of violence against a group of people, and detest the horrible acts of violence described in Banton's older songs. However Banton was nominated for this year's album, blah blah blah for promoting blah blah blah..."

There was a better way to handle this. They didn't choose to go that route. So they get a boycott.

And yes I DO believe a boycott would make an impact if GLAAD called for it and the rest of the gay organizations got on board. If the weeks before the GRAMMYs GLAAD, HRC, the Task Force, GLSEN and PFLAG all sent out "Have an 'not watching the GRAMMYs' ____ organization fundraiser houseparty at your house!" emails, not only could we drum up enough support to make it noticeable, AND they could raise a little money for themselves. And if they're houseparties we can guarantee even MORE people will avoid the GRAMMYs. Will they do that though? We'll see. Its like pulling teeth to get any of our organizations to make a strong statement against ANYTHING.

We'll never stop the GRAMMYs from nominating homophobic and transphobic artists. Its the nature of how the nominations work. The members of the academy are independent people. They're allowed to nominate whomever they want, and the academy is going to support their members' decisions--as they should (gee, wouldn't it be nice if our organizations supported our opinions?). I don't think we're asking them to un-nominate Buju or censor anything offensive.

However, we can force them to rethink the way they interact with our community when they do nominate someone who has a history of antagonism with LGBT people. We can change the way that's handled in a PR sense so that the academy stands by us, our rights and our lives, even if they are sending a known homophobe to the podium.

This delicate line can be towed. Remember when Roman Polanski won Best Director in 2002 for the Pianist? I dislike Roman Polanski to the bottom of my soul, and am so happy he's seeing jail-time. That said, The Pianist was a damn good movie, and the best movie that year. The Motion Picture Academy pissed a lot of people off when they nominated it, but they couldn't not. The instead were sensitive to people's concerns, they responded with compassion, and they handled it well.

The Recording Academy is handling this like sh*t. And if we have a massive boycott of the GRAMMYs, they will be forced to recognize that they are handling this like sh*t.

Queer boycotts don't work? Tell that to Anita Bryant. Because she's had such a career since the Florida Orange boycott, right? Noone noticed that one, right? We made no impact there, right?

Well, since the Recording Academy feels this is a "freedom of speech" issue, queers should respond that there should be an open hunting season on this worthless loser.

In my opinion, there is zero tolerance against comments or jokes against individuals in all groups except members of the LBGT community.

Maybe at some level society is saying that anti-LBGT attitudes/behavior is tolerated.

This is absolutely a freedom of speech issue. While I disagree 100% with what this guy says in his music, he has an absolute right to say these things. And members of the LGBTQ have an absolute right to condemn and expose the things this moron says.

I once saw a leader of the NAACP defend the rights of Neo-Nazi Tom Metzger, to to espouse his ideas to the public, on the the theory "that the more people heard his ideas, the more people would realize how stupid they are".

The fight for equality cannot be won by silencing those that don't agree with you. That is the path of the oppressor.

Christopher D | December 11, 2009 2:33 PM

Having the right to say things and having the right to be honored for them are two different things. The latter is a right that doesn't exist.
Banton can say what he wants. That doesn't mean that Pepsi has to sponsor him or the Grammies have to give him an award or that he even needs to be given a recording contract.

BLOW Buju...out of the water!
Boycott, write letters to the editors (gay & black
media), sponsors, picket, whatever.
Let's make this very SICK guy OUR target to show that we do have what it takes to get respect.

"It takes tolerance to teach tolerance, and it is through dialogue and debate that social discovery may occur."

Wow! They actually claim tolerance as their *justification* for choosing to glorify a man who glorifies murder?

That's... that's just astonishing chutzpah.

When I began this string, I acknowledged that a bigot had a right to free speech. And I would defend that right vigorously. By the same token, I have every right to be upset with what was said, and to protest those who would reward the speaker for his thoughts. The leader of the NAACP might have defended the right of the person who said African Americans should ride on the back of the bus, but I assure you he didn't ride the buses of the company who agreed with that notion.

I can appreciate the concept of freedom of expression including words of hate. What if these words take action are is the case in Pasco County, Florida?


My last posting was in reference to the young
Gay male who was killed when a house he was in
was attacked by Neo-Nazis.

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