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Community Leader Reflects on Reggae Musicians
by Andrew Davis
2007-09-01

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The Rev. Deborah Lake, leader of the local pro-LGBT spiritual organization Sankofa Way, has her own take about reggae musicians Beenie Man and Buju Banton.

Both artists have signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, which calls for the renouncement of homophobia as well as the condemnation of violence against the gay and lesbian community. ( Artists Capleton and Sizzla also signed. ) However, both musicians have recently denied signing the pact, leading Peter Tatchell of Stop Murder Music to produce the documents that were signed with the artists' real names ( Moses Davis for Beenie and Mark Myrie for Banton ) .

'I saw the documents with their real signatures,' Lake said. 'I think that their backing away reflects a predicament a lot of us find ourselves in, especially when we try to pander to certain people. Buju, in particular, made his career on [ the anti-gay song ] Boom Bye Bye, and he has a very loyal following who sees him as a role model. They're not going to let him change horses in midstream easily. So he's [ wondering ] if [ signing the agreement ] will expand his fan base or if it will cause him to lose his fans. It boils down to an economic threat for Beenie Man and Buju. They need to stand by their signatures.'

However, Lake sees another aspect that she feels should be addressed. 'No one's talking about the trauma that Boom Bye Bye [ engendered ] ,' she said. 'The lyrics, from what I understand, deal with male-on-boy rape. It's clearly traumatizing [ for Banton ] . He can't let go of the anger expressed in those lyrics.'

Lake compared the situation to what she sees happening in church. 'Pastors in churches pander to certain vocal segments of the congregation,' she said. 'Regardless of what's in their hearts, [ ministers ] make decisions based on what the loudest people say. It's unfortunate. You wonder who's the leader and who's the follower.'


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