Schiff and Shapiro: Tell Toad’s you care

Once again, we, along with many other LGBT students on campus, felt unwelcome at Toad’s.

On Wednesday night Buju Banton, a reggae artist with a complicated anti-gay history, performed at the club. After intense discussion and research, the LGBT Cooperative decided to take a “positive protest” position on Banton’s performance.

Banton’s views — and even his statements — regarding gay people have been disputed since 1992, when he released his song “Boom Bye Bye,” which condones extreme violence against gay people. One lyric encourages individuals to burn gay people alive. The song is disgusting and hurtful.

In 2007 Banton (under his given name, Mark Myrie) signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, which reads, in part: “Artists of the Reggae Community respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender. … [W]e agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community.” Despite the wide availability of this public document with his signature on it, Banton has since denied signing it. And he continues to perform “Boom Bye Bye” and make anti-gay comments at his concerts.

At Toad’s on Wednesday, Banton seemed to shy away from making political statements, and he didn’t perform his vile song. Did he act this way because he is a reformed homophobe, or because of the recent heavy press coverage and national attention he has garnered — a wave of protest that has assisted in shutting down seven concerts so far on his current U.S. tour?

We don’t know. We were committed to withholding immediate judgment or condemnation of Banton until after his performance. With that concern in mind, our flyer campaign wasn’t meant to attack Banton, but firmly remind him: “Banton, we are giving you the benefit of the doubt, but we are listening.”

When we wrote to Toad’s to register our discontent at the venue’s decision to invite Banton to perform, we received in return a form letter bashing the “gay lobby” and painting his 1992 song as a single youthful mistake. The letter ignores the fact that Banton performed the song for a decade before he was forced to stop performing it regularly, that he still performs it on occasion and that he still profits from it.

More important, the letter signified Toad’s refusal to seriously engage people concerned with Banton’s homophobic history, and reflected its reluctance to reshape Toad’s into a safe space for people of all sexual orientations.

While Banton’s explicit homophobia is an issue, our bigger concern is Toad’s. Many of us in Yale’s LGBT community have had experiences of being physically or emotionally attacked at Toad’s due to our gender presentation or sexual orientation. Friends of ours have been verbally harassed in the street; others have been physically intimidated inside.

Yet the club’s management continues to ignore our pleas for assistance in making its space LGBT-friendly. It is not enough that Toad’s occasionally invites bands with strong LGBT followings — especially not when they are followed up by acts like Banton’s.

The LGBT Cooperative planned a flyer protest Wednesday night to remind Banton of his commitment to reggae as a vehicle for peace, and as a reminder to Toad’s that the LGBT population of Yale and New Haven will continue to make itself heard.

Although Toad’s is not a Yale institution, it is still one over which we have some control. We know that Toad’s is a staple of the Wednesday and Saturday night experiences for many Yalies (and even for many at other schools, and from the area). But not everyone feels comfortable in that space. Because of incidents ranging from use of the word “faggot” to physical punches and shoves thrown at women and men who are read as gay, LGBT people feel unsafe and uncomfortable at Toad’s. By inviting a known homophobic artist, Toad’s reinforced the idea that it is an anti-LGBT space.

Through a petition, individual messages and a boycott of Toad’s, at least for one night, those in the Yale community and the area who wish to stand up for LGBT peers can force the management to make Toad’s a safer space for our entire community.

Our focus on Toad’s is part of a larger effort to increase the number of spaces available and accessible to LGBT people around the world. Our efforts, along with yours, will help ensure a truly vital and safe community for all students at Yale.

Rachel Schiff, a senior in Silliman College, and Sophia Shapiro, a junior in Calhoun College, are the co-coordinators of the LGBT Cooperative.

Comments

  • Q

    Question:

    How many of you people are reggae fans to begin with? Smart money says you wouldn’t have been at the concert in the first place.

  • Y’08

    Toads (like any other normal functioning business) doesn’t care for your petitions. They care for your money. Either grow the balls to push for an indefinite campus-wide boycott (good luck with that, I doubt it will get anywhere but props to you if it does!!) or stop whining.

  • Pierson90

    So, how was the music Wednesday night?

  • An observer

    Ok, so you are saying you gave Buju Banton the benefit of doubt, yet you are protesting his invitation to perform? One thing though. How do you intend they make Toads more gay friendly? It’s not their fault that there are people in there who throw punches at gay people. It’s a club for all and that’s why they have bouncers to deal with such violence. I feel like you’re just making a lot of this up just because Toads invited Buju banton.

  • ba80

    Why do you even want to go to that disgusting place? Boycott it…take your business to a club that appreciates it and can use it, or go to see some of your Yalie friends in their performances on campus. Don’t waste your time at Toad’s!

  • Y ’98

    It sounds as if you have more of a problem with the meat heads who go to Toad’s than Toad’s itself. Why don’t you “positive protest” clientele?

    I see the Coop hasn’t changed much in the past decade. Instead of taking this energy and funneling into arguably more important issues in the LGBT community like classroom and workplace discrimination, access to healthcare, marriage equality, etc., you squander it on Toad’s? Why don’t you work to change the University’s new policy regarding benefits for same-sex partners of students? You know, the one that now requires students to get a quickie marriage in CT (if they haven’t already been married in one of the very few states that offers such things) before their spouses have access to things like health coverage. Didn’t know about it? Perhaps if you paid a bit less attention to Toad’s…

  • Lady Mack

    Rachel and company are clearly confused. Here is a glowing article on Buju Banton that ran in this very newspaper back in 2001, just after 9/11. It’s ridiculous to see these naive young people jumping on a bandwagon without doing their own research in their own backyard.

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/scene/performance/2001/09/14/body-broken-but-bujus-spirit-soars/

  • Sam Moco

    Buju Banton is still performing “Boom Bye Bye.” You can hear Buju Banton say “There is no end to the war between me and faggots” on this YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46PASiOjdP4 “BUJU BANTON FIRE BURN BATTY.”

    There’s more at http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/

    Buju Banton and other reggae performers like Beenie Man are calling for genocide against lesbians and gays.

    For much more see: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/9/17/783251/-Toyota-Sponsors-Murder-Music-in-FL,-Hang-Lesbians-Beenie-Man-joins-Queers-Have-to-Die-Banton

  • Yale ’13

    I went to the Buju Banton thing at Toads, and if he comes back, I’m going again; You gays at the co-op need to stop demanding special treatment and shut up. No one cares if Toad’s comes off as anti-gay; just don’t go there and do us all a favor.

  • Sam Moco

    Buju Banton’s infamous song “Boom Bye Bye” says “gays must be killed’ and it calls for gays to be shot in the head, shot with an Uzi, have acid thrown on them and be burned like an old tire. This song has been controversial since it was released in 1992.

    In all those years, Buju Banton has never distanced himself from this song.

    For videos that show Buju Banton reiterating the anti gay statements in “Boom Bye Bye,” see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46PASiOjdP4 “BUJU BANTON FIRE BURN BATTY” and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ8Z0biU_Zw “Elephant Man Buju Banton Shabba Ranks” In the latter video he refers to the churches and asks “What have I done wrong when I say that homosexuality is wrong?” With these words, Buju Banton is actually saying that he stands by the “kill gays” message of “Boom Bye Bye.”

    In Jamaica, there is tremendous violence and hatred directed at LGBT people. Buju Banton and some of his dancehall artiste friends must bear some responsibility for this. There are online reports by groups like Amnesty International and many other reports of this extreme violence in Jamaica. One very good account is in this Time Magazine article: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1182991,00.html “The Most Homophobic Place on Earth?” Britain and Canada have given asylum to a number of Jamaican gay men because of the extreme homophobia and violence in Jamaica.

    For more information see http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/
    and http://www.petertatchell.net/popmusic/buju-bantons-violations-of-the-reggae-compassionate-act.html