Public safety is not a gay issue

The Buju Banton show has been canceled. But did it happen soon enough? Did Richmond City officials respond how they should have? Kevin Clay, editor of weighs in.

Editor’s note: The following feature is a guest-spot written by Kevin Clay, editor of, Richmond’s GLBT webmagazine. Please take the time to head over and read their previous coverage on this issue. And thanks to Kevin for sharing your perspective.

A bar fight breaks out at Toad’s Place in February. The mayor calls a meeting.

Reggae artist Buju Banton’s scheduled appearance at The National stirs up controversy. In the works, a potential protest at the concert venue with hundreds that would be bused from the Gay Pride Festival. City officials were hands off.

Whether or not you agree with Banton’s lyrical expression, the recent cancellation of his shows brings to light the city’s disjointed stance on public safety. Public safety is not a gay issue.

The controversy surrounds the song “Boom Bye Bye” written when Banton was 15-years-old. In the song, Banton uses the term “batty boy” – a slur for homosexuals and describes shooting them and pouring acid over their heads.

Richmond’s gay community rallied together against the scheduled performance after a group protesting the show appeared on Facebook. Banton’s appearance at The National on September 26th would have coincided with the 25th anniversary of Gay Pride being held in Richmond.

Before the cancellation, received an email from a reader who contacted city councilwoman Ellen Robertson. In his email, he expressed concern over a protest that could potentially turn violent. Robertson responded to his message saying she would call for a meeting with the Chief of Police, the mayor’s office, and the owners of the National.

In a written statement issued to Style Weekly, a representative to the councilwoman said “Robertson has been advised by the City Attorney that the City has no jurisdiction over the National Theatre.”

The National remained mum on the show until announcing the performance had moved via their Facebook page. Surprisingly, it moved to the Hat Factory, the new incarnation of the former Toad’s Place venue, before being taken off the roster last weekend.

The City backing off of the issue because of its lack of “jurisdiction” is ironic considering there was a public safety meeting following the Toad’s Place incident. In February, after a series of fights had broken out during a show, all available officers were called to the seen leading to several arrests.

With the gay community ready to rally, things may not have turned violent, but emotions were running high on both sides. Regardless of the cancellation, for the City not to take an ounce of prevention and start dialogue between leaders and business owners is irresponsible – especially having advance notice.

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Kevin Clay

Kevin is a lover of nachos, cake, cats and Richmond (in no particular order, but that nacho craving though!)

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