A performance by controversial rapper Buju Banton at Toad’s Place last week drew protests from a group of Yale students, who led chants outside the nightclub alleging that Banton is homophobic.
Approximately 15 Yale students gathered outside the popular New Haven venue on Nov. 20 in a demonstration organized by the Queer Political Action Committee, QPAC Coordinator Hugh Baran ’09 said. The Hartford Courant reported on Nov. 22 that towards the end of his show, Banton dismissed the idea of homosexual couples and called gay people “heathens.”
Toad’s Place owner Brian Phelps said prior to the concert that it is Toad’s policy that no performance should include any homophobic content.
Baran said he thinks Toad’s broke its commitment to tolerance, but he said he hopes they will abide by it in the future.
“Toad’s said that they had made an agreement with Buju that he would not perform or say anything homophobic on stage, and yet according to the Hartford Courant he did just that,” he said. “I hope Toad’s will enforce that agreement they made and bar him from the club [in the future].”
Toad’s officials could not be reached for comment.
Banton’s agent, Peter Schwartz, said in an e-mail that he could not confirm or deny the Courant’s claims. But he said he thinks Banton has a right to free expression, and he said the rapper is not inciting violence against homosexuals.
“People, including Buju, are entitled to have whatever beliefs and opinions they like and express them when they’d like,” he said. “The statements he made in that article did not call for violence at all and should not be interpreted as such.”
Ida Assefa ’08 said she thinks that while Banton’s comments do not directly encourage violence against homosexuals, his past record makes the message of hate implicit in them.
“If he said that at the concert, then I think that is very much a call to spread bigotry and hatred for people who are different,” she said.
This is not the first time that Banton’s actions have incited controversy. Some of his older songs contain homophobic lyrics, and the rapper has been charged with the assault of six gay men in Jamaica in June 2004. He was released on $50,000 bail this past September.
Baran said he thinks the protest held outside Toad’s before the concert, which convinced seven people not to attend, was successful, but he was disappointed by the lack of attention paid to QPAC’s message.
“Overall, the crowd’s reaction to our protest was not positive,” he said. “It seemed that for most of them our protest was more of an annoyance than anything else, and most treated it as such.”
Brown students organized a similar protest outside Banton’s Nov. 21 concert at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, R.I., which was organized by Voices Against Hate, a Providence-based group, VAH representative Joe Brummer said. He said his group is on a long-term campaign to prevent artists like Banton from performing in Rhode Island.
“We will continue our boycott of Lupo’s until he agrees not to have Buju Banton or Beenie Man back again until they have taken this music off the shelves,” Brummer said.
QPAC plans to organize a similar campaign in New Haven, Baran said.
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