Reggae artist Buju Banton didn't realize "faggot" had become a bad word.
At least, that's the story according to friends and colleagues of the artist, who stood in front of Trincity/Palm Beach Club last night, watching the protesters rally across the street.
As we mentioned yesterday, protesters affiliated with various gay rights groups had prepared to protest the artist's appearance in Deep Ellum last night. And sure enough, dozens of people holding flags and signs stood behind police barricades and shouted over Main Street at the club during Banton's show.
"Attention Palm Beach Club!" said Daniel Cates, co-founder of Equality March Texas, as he lifted a loud speaker to his mouth. "By allowing Buju Banton to perform this evening, you are promoting the brutal execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We will not stand for murder music in our community."
Leaning against the club's wall was Gramps Morgan, who was on tour with Banton as his opening act.
"Hear that?" said Morgan, in disbelief. "They're calling it murder music... You cannot call reggae music murder music."
The ugly truth? Many of the protesters hadn't listened to Buju Banton's music. They had only read about the inflammatory lyrics on various Web sites--and they believed them.
"I don't listen to his music," said Lividia Violette, 24.
Another activist, Rick Vanderslice, said he had only read about the lyrics online on a gay rights activist site. "I've not listened to them, but seen them in print."
And finally, Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction, said he also read about on-line: "The lyrics come from news sources which I thought were reputable," said Wilkinson.
Back across the street, Morgan waved off the protest.
"They have no idea what they're protesting about," he said. "They just got news because they're united. It shows you how powerful unity can be. They got news from their heads and they're just rolling with it."
But several news sites were quoting Banton as telling a Jamaican newspaper that "the war between me and the faggot" seemed far from over. Morgan didn't deny that Banton had indeed said that--just that the meaning of his words had been twisted.
In San Francisco, Banton had met with the gay community. Both sides had agreed to bridge the culminating divide. However, later that evening, protestors showed up to Banton's performance regardless. And that's when Banton commented about the continuing war.
The use of the derogatory term, however, was harder to explain. The group outside of the club, mostly from the Caribbean, admitted that Jamaica was more or less a "homophobic island."
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In fact, during a conversation with the evening's DJ, the word came up again. When asked why he chose to use the term, the man seemed confused.
"So, they are not?" said the DJ. "Oh, I didn't know faggot was bad ... In Jamaica it's norm. Here, I didn't know it's offensive to them."
And this is the same explanation Morgan gave for his touring partner Banton.
"[Banton] had a meeting with his manager and some other people and he was educated about the word," said Morgan. "He said, 'I didn't know it offended them.'"