In response to Toad’s Place’s decision to host artists accused of performing songs with anti-gay lyrics, Yale’s Queer Political Action Committee renewed its appeal to the Yale community on Thursday to boycott Toad’s Place.
In a press conference that began at 4 p.m. outside Toad’s on Thursday, QPAC protested the club’s “One Love Festival,” which took place at 8 p.m. last night and included the artists Buju Banton and Capleton. But Toad’s owner Brian Phelps said the artists in question should not be considered offensive.
QPAC organizers said their action — the second time the group has demonstrated against Toad’s choice of artists — has two purposes.
“One is to let Toad’s know that their behavior continues to be unacceptable,” QPAC member Jessie Ellner ’06 said. “The second is to inform Yale students about the situation and discourage them from going to Toad’s. Visiting Toad’s is a tacit endorsement of their behavior.”
QPAC Coordinator Hugh Baran ’09 said the group hoped the event would remind students and educate new freshmen about the group’s ongoing boycott of Toad’s, which began in November 2005 after a performance by Banton in which the artist referred to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals as “heathens” and criticized same-sex families.
Baran said that despite repeated attempts to contact Phelps about his decision to host the controversial artists, the club has not acknowledged QPAC’s concerns.
But Phelps said QPAC is blowing the situation out of proportion. He said Banton’s lyrics are almost entirely in Jamaican slang and that homophobia is characteristic only of Banton’s earliest work.
In an official letter to Phelps, Tracii McGregor, the general manager of Gargamel Music, Inc., which manages Banton, stated that “those who have followed Buju Banton’s artistic development … know of his prodigious growth into one of the world’s most prolific singer/songwriters — one whose consistently positive messages of peace, love and spiritual enlightenment are never lost in the music.”
Still, Baran said some of Banton and Capleton’s lyrics are inarguably homophobic. Banton’s hit song “Boom Boom Bye” features the chorus, “Boom Boom Bye / Inna batty bwoy head”; the phrase “batty bwoy” is Jamaican slang for “queer.” Capleton’s “Bun Out Di Chi Chi” contains the words: “Burn out a queer / Blood out a queer.” In another song, “Give Har,” Capleton sings, “All boogaman and sodemites fi get killed.”
Violent anti-gay lyrics in popular Jamaican music have drawn international attention in the past several years, as 40 gay-hate crimes have been documented in the country since 1997. A November 2004 Human Rights Watch report states that “Jamaican dance hall music, a powerful cultural force in Jamaican society, reflects and reinforces popular prejudices against lesbians and gay men … and celebrate[s] their social cleansing from Jamaica.”
Still, Phelps said the “One Love Festival” is not about violence.
Thus far, several people said the boycott against Toad’s has dissuaded them from visiting the club, but QPAC member Andy Kohler ’07 said many students remain indifferent. Kohler said some students have no reason to stop frequenting a club that is central to the social lives of many Yalies.
“It’s not that big of an issue,” Justin Bellamy ’09 said. “I think it’s ridiculous to protest against something like song lyrics.”
Beenie Man, a Jamaican singer/songwriter whose lyrics have also come under fire for expressing anti-gay sentiments and whose performance at Toad’s last year drew criticism from QPAC as well, is performing at Toad’s in early October. Baran said QPAC sees the event as another opportunity to educate the Yale population about the boycott and the situation of homophobia in Jamaica.