The Queer Political Action Committee plans to stage a protest against Toad’s Place on Sunday for hosting allegedly homophobic rapper Buju Banton.
The rapper’s controversial image stems from homophobic lyrics in some of his older songs and charges that he assaulted six gay men in Jamaica in June 2004. Banton was released on $50,000 bail in September. QPAC’s demonstration, officially endorsed by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative, will not be disruptive, but aims to have an impact on concert-goers outside Toad’s, QPAC coordinator Hugh Baran ’09 said.
Some of the students who are planning the protest suggested that Toad’s might have chosen the performance date to minimize reactions from Yale students, most of whom will have left New Haven by Sunday.
But Toad’s Place owner Brian Phelps said the concert was arranged to fit Banton’s schedule, not the Yale calendar. He said Banton will not perform any of his controversial songs.
“They’re not going to be saying anything against the gay community,” Phelps said. “That was part of our agreement. … We wouldn’t allow it.”
Baran said he thinks Banton — whose 1992 hit “Boom Bye Bye” included lyrics about shooting gay men in the head and prompted international outcry — is still a committed homophobe, and that Toad’s agreement to host his concert amounts to an endorsement of homophobia.
“This man is a gay-basher of the worst variety, and by allowing him to perform, Toad’s is directly supporting his homophobia as well as a terrifying anti-gay movement in Jamaica … which has shown itself willing to kill to deny LGBT people their basic human rights,” Baran said.
But Banton’s agent, Peter Schwartz, said he thinks protesters do not realize that while some of the performer’s earlier works contain some inappropriate lyrics, the rapper has since moved on.
“He doesn’t perform any material of the sort,” he said. “The material is from 1992, not 2005. I think this community is really in the dark.”
But LGBT Coop member Patrick Ward ’08 said he thinks it takes more than words to show that a person has changed. Ward said he hopes Sunday’s protest will show the Yale community’s disgust toward Phelps’ choice of artists.
“It is an event to show Toad’s that the Yale community does not support their actions in bringing homophobic performers to their state,” he said.
In the past, Toad’s has hosted other performers with histories of singing homophobic lyrics, most recently Beenie Man on Oct. 12. Phelps said performances at his club do not contain homophobic content, and that the rappers and their managers come with peaceful messages.
“I’ve never heard anything hateful, [but] I don’t understand a word out of their mouths,” he said. “They say their message is about peace and justice.”
Gonzales said he thinks Phelps is overlooking the problem in order to boost revenue.
“It’s his evasive way of gaining profit by using a celebrity while undermining everything that we are trying to avoid and get rid of,” he said.
Banton is also set to perform on Nov. 21 in Providence at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel. The Queer Alliance at Brown University said it was not endorsing any protest against the rapper and declined to comment any further.
But the Brown student group Voices Against Hate is organizing a protest outside the venue, said Joe Brummer, a spokesman for the group. He said the group is calling for a boycott of all shows at the hotel.
“We are asking that members of the Rhode Island community refuse to give their money to artists, clubs or businesses that actively promote hate,” he said.
Sunday will be Banton’s seventh performance at Toad’s. Schwartz said Banton’s previous shows have not triggered protests.