The Sticky Case of Reggae Artist Buju Banton, Sentenced to 10 Years to the Feds

by Eco.Soul.Intellectual

Tampa, FL – In a federal court filled with supporters, reggae artist Buju Banton, real name Mark Myrie, was sentenced to 10 years for being involved in a 2009 drug trade for 5 kilograms (roughly 11 pounds) of cocaine from undercover officers. His conviction for conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, includes a drug trafficking offense, as well as a gun charge.

Banton pleaded not guilty with his lawyers using entrapment as their defense, but audio and video surveillance recorded Banton serving as the go-between for the dealers and buyers. Surveillance also showed him tasting cocaine and bragging about him being involved in previous drug trades.

According to the US District Judge James Moody, 10 years is the minimum federal sentence, and if you know anything about fed time, you are doing at least 80 percent of your sentence, so Bantan will not see the light of day for a minute.

Veteran Jamaican DJ and activist, Jason Walker began a campaign asking for leniency for Bantan during his trial. In a letter from one of his 15 children, his son Mark Myrie, Jr., asked that the courts have mercy upon a man who is a hard working father, artist, and philanthropist, who is a victim of his personal human imperfection.

There have been other free Buju campaigns, and celebs who have come out to support are son of Bob Marley, Stephen Marley, actor Danny Glover, and NBA player and poet, Etan Thomas. Glover wrote in his statement of support, “Society would not benefit from his incarceration.”

A statement that is a true revelation on the failed drug policies in this country that highlight racial and economic disparities; hence the recent trials of Lindsey Lohan, or the admitted cocaine usage of two US presidents, Obama and Bush jr.

Banton is a well-celebrated reggae artist who has created music that has won him numerous accolades. As of late, he just garnered a Grammy for Best Reggae album for his work, Before the Dawn; but his 1992 song, Boom Bye Bye, won him the reputation of being a serious homophobe.

His lyrics, ‘boom bye bye to a batty boy head” literally means to shoot a gay man, and is in support of the social practice in Jamaica (and in the Caribbean and Africa to a large degree) to harm and sometimes kill gays and lesbians by a mob if discovered.

Mixed with ultra-conservative Christian fanaticism, Rastafarian views that are against homosexuality, and a local culture that sees homosexuality as taboo, Boom Bye Bye became a war car for islanders (even local police officers) who participate and support the death of homosexuals.

Gay activists cited Jamaica as one of the most homophobic places in the world, especially at the height of anti-gay terrorism which included the murders of two of the island’s most prominent gay activists, Brian Williamson (June 9, 2004) and Steve Harvey (November 30, 2005). Williamson who has hacked to death with a machete, and Harvey, found dead with multiple gun wounds, sounded off an alarm to protest famous Jamaicans who supported violence against gay and lesbians.

Myrie also was brought on charges in 2004, after a local gay man named Brian accused him and a group of men bursting into his house and beating him and five other men with a board. Bantan who was vocal about his views on homosexuality was slammed with a global anti-Bantan movement.

In the US, many of his concerts were shut down due to protests and in some cases, melee and protests broke out while he was on stage. As a result, promoters and Bantan were losing thousands of dollars. For a while, Banton was more of a liability to the entertainment world than an asset. You see reggae artists bank in their performances in California and on the West Coast, but the LGBT community frequently blocked and put political/economic pressure on Banton.

In 2009, Banton agreed to meet with gay activists, but the meeting was unfruitful. The activists requested that the proceeds to Boom Bye Bye go to the J-FLAG organization and asked for Banton to hold a town hall in Jamaica addressing homophobia. Banton rejected the demands and later that night his concert was pepper sprayed by protestors.

On a radio program hosted by Mutabaruka, Banton said:

 Them come with demands which I and I a go flop dem right now, because give thanks to my culture and upbringing I coulda never endorse them things. I can’t sell myself out, neither would I do that in a thousand years, “” he continued. ” I love everyone in the world. I don’t love no special group from another group. There are other needy organizations out there.

Banton who is a known philanthropist maintained his anti-gay stance, and has become the face of virulent homophobia in dancehall and reggae songs that are against homosexuality.

Banton’s case presents a conundrum. On one hand, it is seen as justice served. While on the other, it is viewed as injustice upheld.

The reggae artist who never had any convictions is an example of failed American policies in this “War on Drugs” because the real issues with drug abuse in the US still has not been properly addressed. At the same time, gay activists and the LGBT community are shaking their heads and thinking that karma was the bitch who has him by the balls.

At the same time, the Banton case is loaded with political objectives and smoking mirrors covered by his culturally-religious-political views. The system took someone who is a bad guy in one arena, and unjustly stuck him in another way to allow him become the poster child for an absurd law that  is justified because of his actions dealing with something else. It is okay to some because they popped a rude boy one way or the other, not realizing that we all can suffer the same fate.