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Banton Concert Canceled

After protest from some in gay community, Buju Banton's concert at the Hat Factory nixed.

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A planned show by Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton will not go on.

The concert, which was originally booked at the National, and then briefly announced for the Hat Factory, had been scheduled for Sept. 26, the same night as the city's 25th annual Pride Festival, an annual gay-rights celebration to be held at the Gay Community Center. Banton has attracted the ire of same-sex activists across the country because of his controversial gay-killing song, “Boom Bye Bye.”

A mass protest was in the works by many in Richmond's gay community, and a Facebook page was started that called for Banton's performance to be canceled. It had collected nearly 2,500 fans before being pulled for service violations. “Thousands of people will be attending the Pride Festival,” reminded Jay Squires, president of the community center. “It's a seven-minute drive to the National.”

The pressure appears to have worked. On Sept. 15, the general manager of the National, Suzanne Paige, confirmed that Banton was no longer on the calendar. A day later, it was announced that the singer would appear instead at the Hat Factory, a new club in the former Toad's Place on the canal. Eventually -- after several days of uncertainty and outright confusion on the part of staff and owners -- it was taken off of the new venue's schedule.
A Sept. 18 e-mail sent to Squires from Jane Sper, an attorney with Kutak Rock representing the venue's landlord, Margaret Freund, was given the subject title: “No Show.”

“The Hat Factory has confirmed that Buju Banton will not be performing there on the 26th,” Sper wrote. Mitch Warnecke, the Hat Factory's general manager, also confirms that the show is off. “To the best of my knowledge, it is not going to happen.”

Many dates on the singer's U.S. tour have been similarly canceled because of protests, including planned appearances in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago. His appearance at the Norfolk's NorVa Theatre on Sept. 25 remains on the schedule as of Style's press time.

When asked what Banton could do to make amends with the gay community and stop similar protests in the future, Squires says: “He would have to unequivocally renounce violence and detail specific efforts where he would do this. They say he no longer performs the song, but he has compilation albums that contain ‘Boom Bye Bye,’ so he's still making money off of it.”

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