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Bluebird cancels show amid protests

GLBT groups angered by singer's anti-gay song lyrics

By Sarah Core | Indiana Daily Student | Thursday, September 14, 2006


After facing harsh criticism from community members and two IU civil rights groups, the Bluebird has canceled tonight's performance by a controversial Jamaican artist.

Buju Banton, a reggae musician known for controversial music he wrote in the '90s advocating the murder of gay people, was scheduled to sing this evening at the Bluebird, 216 N. Walnut St. But after the Hoosier Rights Campaign and OUT began a campaign to protest the performance, Dave Kubiak, the owner and manager of the Bluebird, decided Wednesday to cancel the show.

"It became a bigger social issue and a responsibility to the community," Kubiak said. "You want all people to feel welcome to be there."

Members and supporters of Bloomington's gay community are pleased.

"There's been a big show of community interest and disapproval of this show," senior Morgan Tilleman, the president of the Hoosier Rights Campaign, said. "The Bluebird made the right decision, and we are very happy they are doing this."

Senior Christina Patterson, a member of OUT, said she was happy with the end result of the two groups' efforts. "It's great that the Bluebird realized that it wasn't a good thing to have someone like that spreading negativity, especially after all that we've done," she said.

"I think it shows that they care about what people think," said junior Meredith Evans, who joined a Facebook group for students preparing to protest the performance.

Even though Banton performed at the Bluebird in 2003 without making offensive remarks, Kubiak said the large reaction from the community forced him to rethink the upcoming performance.

"I try to do what's best for the Bluebird," Kubiak said. "I didn't know what the windfall was going to be. You have to look at the long-term reputation of the Bluebird."

The Bluebird will be taking a large financial loss for canceling the show, an action that is usually unheard of in the music industry. Kubiak is still in negotiations with Banton's management, and the final tally could reach an excess of $5,000, he said.

Banton's record label, Gargamel Music, Inc., expressed disappointment over the cancellation of the show. Vice President Tracii McGregor called the protests of Banton's performance "very reactionary and baseless."

"If you are trying to judge a man by his music, then you must judge him by his body of work," McGregor said, citing Banton's previous AIDS work and award-winning music, which includes a Grammy nomination.

Banton's anti-gay song "Boom Bye Bye" was written in 1992. In it he sings about shooting gay men and throwing acid on them to kill them, according to translated versions of the song.

The Hoosier Rights Campaign and OUT said Banton is inciting hate crimes by not apologizing for the song and continuing to perform it on occasion.

In addition, last year Banton was accused of being involved in a brutal 2004 assault of six gay men in Kingston, according to The Associated Press. One of the victims reported the incident to the police, and Banton was subsequently arrested. McGregor said the incident occurred close to his studio. Banton was cleared of those charges in January this year, she said.

Instead of the planned concert and protest, an acoustic duo will perform at the Bluebird tonight at 10 p.m. The protesters plan to attend as a thank you to the bar for supporting them.

In Chicago on Wednesday night, Banton performed at the House of Blues, while the Gay Liberation Network and Black LGBT & Allies for Equality protested, Tilleman said. A concert held this summer near Brighton, England, was also canceled due to pressure from the gay community and local government.


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