I was involved in the protest of the Buju Banton concert at the Blind Pig on Sept. 30, and after following the media coverage of the event over the last few days, there are a few things I would like to clarify.

First, this protest was not a part of a “gay agenda.” This protest was about equality on a variety of levels. Banton has called for violent action against an underrepresented and underprivileged community. To me, it doesn’t matter what the unifying factor of this community happens to be, but rather that there is someone seeking to harm members of that community.

Furthermore, there were not only matters of homophobia present here but also problems of ethnic prejudice. Jason Berry, the booking manager for the Blind Pig, said in his statement to protesters that Banton’s viewpoints were just a manifestation of Caribbean culture and that our protest was merely an example of two cultures butting heads. As a queer person of Caribbean descent, I take great offense to this. It is a lie that Caribbean culture is homogeneously homophobic. I submit that if the Blind Pig wanted to cater to the small but important Caribbean community in Ann Arbor, they could have done so by booking a Caribbean artist who doesn’t advocate hate and violence — of which there are many. Furthermore, the protest and the protesters have no problems with the Caribbean community in Ann Arbor, but rather the ignorance at the Blind Pig that allowed this concert to happen.

Second, I want to address the topic of “free speech,” which seems to be repeatedly coming up both in the media and in my personal conversations about the event. In no way was the protest infringing upon Banton’s free speech, nor did the protest even have anything to do with free speech. While the freedom of speech as it is interpreted in this country does allow people to voice their opinions openly, it does not guarantee them to be booked for a concert at the Blind Pig, which is precisely what we were protesting. Banton has every right to speak homophobia and hatred in his own life. We just ask that Ann Arbor establishments not promote this kind of entertainment.

I would like to conclude by focusing on another comment made by Berry. In speaking with us, he expressed surprise at the fact that we were protesting this concert, since the Blind Pig had booked not only Buju in the past, but other acts even more controversial for their homophobic lyrics. I wonder exactly how this excuses their endorsement this time of an artist known for his homophobic lyrics. In any case, Berry seemed to be implicitly asking why we had not been protesting at those events, as well. I don’t know the answer to that question, but maybe we are getting tired of dealing with homophobia. Or perhaps we are just beginning to find our voice.

Matthew Leslie-Santana
School of Music, Theatre, and Dance senior

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