The Queer Political Action Committee has announced a boycott against Toad’s Place for hosting a number of allegedly homophobic artists.
The organization will embark on a two-week campaign urging students to sign a petition and pledge to stop attending Toad’s until the club stops inviting controversial artists to perform, QPAC coordinator Hugh Baran ’09 said. Davon Collins LAW ’07, a member of QPAC, said he is confident the campaign can change the nightclub’s attitude towards the issue, although Toad’s owner Brian Phelps said he does not think the club has promoted homophobia in any way.
Collins said Toad’s decision to recently host performers like Buju Banton, whose concert on Nov. 20 stirred controversy following reports that the rapper embarked on an anti-gay rant towards the end of his show, reflected the fact that although American society does not tolerate threats of violence towards most minority groups, homophobia is still often perceived as acceptable.
“I don’t think Toad’s would even consider inviting a singer who would advocate lynching blacks or gassing Jews on or off stage, but somehow violence against homosexuals is still acceptable,” Collins said.
But Phelps said his establishment is firmly opposed to any form of hate and violence. He said he thinks reports on the Banton performance, in particular one published in the Hartford Courant, may have been exaggerated and that he was personally unaware of any incident before the article was published.
“We’re not gay-bashers. We’re not promoting anything,” Phelps said. “I told all my guys to keep an eye on [Banton’s comments], and no one reported anything.”
Banton’s agent, Peter Schwartz, said in an e-mail that he could neither confirm nor deny the rapper’s alleged comments, which included a remark comparing homosexuals to “heathens.”
Despite the controversial image of some of the artists Toad’s hosts, including past performers Beenie Man and Capleton, Phelps said the club’s concerts have almost all been very well attended.
Baran said he thinks that while these concerts may appeal to certain segments of the New Haven community, Toad’s needs to consider the well-being of the community as a whole.
“Toad’s, as a prominent cultural institution in our community, has a social responsibility to say no to violence towards anybody,” Baran said. “Simply because there is an audience that will pay to support hate and violence doesn’t mean that Toad’s should serve them.”
Phelps said he thinks the disagreement is over individual artists, not Toad’s policy, and that he may seek to open a dialogue between the activists and the artists’ agents.
“I would like to get [the agent] involved in any type of dialogue, as he has [the artists’ information] at his fingertips,” he said.
A number of students said they were sympathetic towards QPAC’s concerns on the whole, though some were unsure as to whether the campaign would succeed.
Anna Gorovoy ’09, who has never attended Toad’s, said that if she were a regular attendee, she would refrain from attending the nightclub until the issue is settled.
But Brennan Turner ’09 said he thinks it will be hard to convince Yale students to stop going to one of the city’s most popular venues.
“Even though many students might be sympathetic to the gay community’s concerns, I don’t think many will be willing to stop going to Toad’s for the cause,” he said.
QPAC has set a goal of 1,000 student signatures to its petition, Baran said.
Collins said the organization may also host counter-parties at the beginning of next semester to provide an alternative to Toad’s.