After fighting reggae singer Buju Banton's appearance at the July 4 African/Caribbean International Festival of Life in Washington Park, the coalition that was able to persuade corporate sponsors to pull the plug on their dollars laid out its plans to combat anti-gay music in the future.
At a news conference July 5, Rev. Deborah Lake of Sankofa Way announced that the coalition has an 'ongoing mission to bring an end to the use of hate.'
In June, local organizations such as Sankofa Way, Coalition for Justice & Respect and Black LGBT & Allies for Equality called out to the community to write and call sponsors, voicing their concerns regarding having Banton perform at a city festival. Banton's song Boom Bye Bye, written when he was 15, includes lyrics that condone murder and violence against gays.
After the community responded, the festival lost many sponsors, including local TV station NBC-5, The University of Chicago and the Chicago Park District. 'The community responded with a strong outcry,' Lake said.
Local leaders also voiced their disappointment. Members of the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations' Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues sent letters to Chicago Park District CEO Timothy Mitchell, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and Mayor Richard Daley expressing their concern. The festival's promoter, Ephraim Martin of Martin's Inter-Culture, LTD, issued a statement saying that he is 'totally against the lyrics of the song' and lyrics that condone violence.
Despite the fact the coalition could not stop Banton from performing, Coalition of Justice & Respect's Mark Loveless, who attended the concert, said that Banton did not perform the anti-gay song during his 30-minute performance, and instead provided messages of love and respect. Earlier in the evening, however, a clip of the song was played by a DJ at the festival. Although Banton did not perform the song, Loveless said, 'It is not a disconnect; it's the sum total of his work.'
Loveless added that although other reggae artists have removed hateful lyrics from their work, Banton has yet to formally apologize.
'Together we made a difference…by understanding the connection between hate language and violence,' Lake said.
But the fight is not over, Lake said, adding that the marriage between the creators of hateful lyrics and corporate sponsorship is very detrimental, leading to the spread of HIV in the African-American community, a decline in education, the continuing degradation of women and girls and escalated violence against LGBT people. 'We will continue to voice our concern until there is a divorce,' Lake added.
The coalition has begun a second stage, one they call an anti-hate language initiative. First, the coalition urges those who want to help combat the use of hateful, anti-gay lyrics in songs to contact Sankofa Way ( firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-624-5669 ) to become involved in future initiatives. Lake also expressed that the coalition will build on collaborations already formed to help spread the message that hateful lyrics lead to violence, and build nation-wide collaborations to discourage performances by anti-gay musicians.
Lake said that taking legislative action is 'not off the plate,' but the main focus right now is to continue building collaborations to fight anti-gay music. 'We are not talking about censorship; we are talking about ending violence,' she said.