Jamaican recording artist Buju Banton won the Grammy award for Reggae Album Sunday afternoon, for his album "Before the Dawn." Banton has previously been the subject of numerous protests by LGBT-advocacy organizations for his virulently homophobic lyrics, some of which directly incite violence against gay people. In October 2009 Banton was quoted in news reports as saying “This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs ‘there is no end to the war between me and f—-t’ and it’s clear.”
Before last year's Grammy awards, GLAAD protested against a nomination for Banton, and was joined by The LA Gay and Lesbian Center and The New York Anti-Violence Project in urging community members and allies to do the same, and for the Recording Academy to speak out artists who promote violence in their music.
Despite reports that Banton had agreed to curtail the use of such homophobic rhetoric, his continued performance of the song "Boom Bye Bye" at concerts made it clear that any promise he might have made had been a hollow one. In that song Banton asserts that “batty bwoy” and “batty man" (the Jamaican equivalent of "fa**ot") need to die, and he will "shoot them in the head" and "burn them."
Jamaican performance artist Staceyann Chin spoke out about his lyrics and his Grammy nomination in December of 2009, and her words still apply today:
“I know firsthand about the struggles that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people encounter not only in Jamaica, but around the world. Buju Banton’s Grammy nomination provides an important opportunity for growth and transformation. We must, as a society, move beyond our differences. I challenge Banton to live up to his past assertions that he has changed and call for greater education and understanding about the harms of promoting brutal anti-gay lyrics.”
Despite his win, Banton won't be celebrating anytime soon. He is currently imprisoned in Miami on federal drug trafficking charges, and will stand trial tomorrow. Banton could face life in prison if convicted.
GLAAD stands behind its assertion that the Recording Academy should speak out against hateful lyrics like Banton's, and hopes that in the future they will make better choices about who to recognize with nominations and trophies.