The following is by Jamaican poet and LGBTQ activist Staceyann Chin. This was her response when asked by Marco Werman of Public Radio International (PRI) if she and other homosexuals can forgive Buju Banton for a song he did over 25 years ago. The song is named “Boom bye bye” and was deemed to be very anti-homosexual at the time of its release.
I don’t think that it is my place to forgive Buju Banton for “Boom Bye Bye.” I think he walks his own journey. I see him as a man who is, like me, trying to find his way in the world, trying to find his purpose, trying to do the things that he thinks are right. And if one of the things that he thinks is right is going to hurt somebody else, I’m going to take him to task for it, always. But I’m not going to try to obliterate him as a human being. You know, his music has been a trumpet for many, many people whose pain he speaks and sings and articulates in a very important way.
The first time I heard Boom Bye Bye by Buju Banton, I threw my hands up and sang along because I was a teenager in Jamaica. I sang with gusto along with my peers to the song. Later, I became aware of the fact that I wanted to partner with women, and it became complicated for me because the song was actually saying “kill gay people, kill gay men, shoot them in the head,” which is in no way permissible when you are a person who is gay because you’re actually advocating for the death of your own kind, your own person. After the experience in Jamaica where I was attacked by some violent homophobes, I came to the US and started to articulate a politics around micro identity. I began to see how what I went through was not only problematic, but I began to see that I had a right to respond and I could join the fight to speak out against this kind of violence
The optimist in me, the lesbian, Jamaican, activist optimist, the lover of where I’m from… it’s a very complicated place to sit, being more than one identity at the same time, and maybe those two identities don’t coexist comfortably. I grew up with reggae music and so there’s a part of me that really loves it and really answers to it when I hear it. I came out as a lesbian on the university campus in Jamaica and was violently assaulted by a large number of boys who wanted to — their intention must have been to either punish me for being gay or to convert me to being straight. That violence lives with me my whole life. And so the two things inside of me are consistently at war. They are always talking to each other in loud voices, and they are always wrestling on a mat and they are always trying to find a way to live together because it is so much a part of me.
Buju Banton is, in every way, a human being just like me, just like you. But he’s also extraordinarily talented and extraordinarily able to speak from a place of deep truth about poverty in Jamaica, about people’s lives. He’s able to articulate an experience that has been missing from much of the music we call ours. Not since Bob Marley has there been an artiste that speaks with such truth, with such depth, with such beauty about the lives of poor people and the struggle to be recognised as human, for blackness and being from Africa to be the center of one’s pleasure and one’s power.
Staceyann Chin left Jamaica after the alleged attack. No one was ever arrested or charged for the attack. 18 Karat Reggae could not confirm if the attack was ever reported as the Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF) says it has no record of an attack of the name or circumstances that we were inquiring about.
Buju Banton was recently released from an American prison where he served a 10-year sentence on drug charges. Many in the Reggae community believe that the Rasta artiste was set up by the homosexual community.