'Him nuh mix up'- Fans maintain Buju's innocence
Published: Sunday | December 20, 2009
Dionne Williamson, Buju's 'sister in spirit'. - Photo by Tennesia Malcolm
"IF IT was ganja, we would understand," said 58-year-old Daphne King from her gate at 47 Whitehall Avenue, Kingston 8, next door to the premises where embattled reggae artiste Buju Banton is said to have spent many of his childhood days.
King, along with her neighbours Violet Tyson and Natalie Mertell, had stepped outside the gate when The Sunday Gleaner visited the Kingston 8 community last Thursday to get the views of those close to the 36-year-old who has spent the last 11 days in a Florida lockup.
It was the same day that Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was formally indicted on a charge of conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute, more than five kilograms of cocaine. He is also charged with carrying a firearm during the course of a drug-trafficking crime. The deejay has vehemently denied the charges.
"I know him very well. I never hear of him involved in anything of the sort," King continued. "I don't know how him manage to get caught up in that."
"That is not Mark," said Kenisha Willis, a janitor at Buju's Gargamel Music Studios at 10 Carlisle Avenue in St Andrew.
wrong side of the law
But it is not the first time the Driver A singer has found himself on the wrong side of the law. Myrie was found guilty in March 2004 of possession and cultivating ganja after police raided his premises and seized five fully grown ganja plants. He was convicted and fined $9,000 or 60 days in prison. His legal team appealed the verdict but the conviction was recorded on his file and caused United States officials to place restrictions on his movements within that country.
His friends and well-wishers, however, refuse to believe that the toaster who accepted Haile Selassie as his saviour in the mid 1990s could in any way be 'mixed up' with cocaine.
A man who identified himself only as 'G' and who is said to have been in constant touch with the deejay since his incarceration, joined the ranks of the conspiracy theorists who believe Myrie was set up by gay and lesbian lobby groups
"Is a set-up that. We know seh DJ nuh deal inna dem tings deh," he said from the music studios.
"People wit dem own agenda (set him up)."
Natalie Mertell, 32, of Whitehall Avenue, was more direct in her speculation, claiming that gay men and lesbians "set him up", when she learned of the Drug Enforcement Administration's claim of having captured the deejay on video and audio recordings.
King also admitted that she had no prior knowledge of the video recordings, but still insisted on his innocence, saying, "He's not gonna be convicted."
Banton, who had earlier rounded up his tour of the US promoting his latest album, Rasta Got Soul, had again been at loggerheads with the homosexual community in the United States.
Website towleroad.com reported that "numerous dates on Banton's recent tour were cancelled after protest over the singer's anti-gay lyrics". Though Banton had sat down with gay activists from San Francisco in October, he seemed to have reverted to his militant views, stating afterwards that "This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs, 'there is no end to the war between me and faggot', and it's clear. The same night after I met with them (gay associates), they pepper-sprayed the concert. So what are you trying to tell me? I owe dem nothing, they don't owe I nothing."
This statement reignited a fire that had burned since 1992 when the brash 19-year-old released Boom Bye Bye, an anti-gay anthem which promoted violence and death to homosexuals.
It is said that vigorous protest had forced a reimaging with the deejay re-emerging with a new look and sound. His Til Shiloh album in 1995 became a breakout hit and had positioned him as heir apparent to Bob Marley.
He followed up with albums such as 1997's Inna Heights and Unchained Spirit in 2000. But it was this year's Rasta Got Soul which would earn him the Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album from the Recording Industry Association of America.
Though some believe his arrest will have no effect on whether he wins, there are those who aren't so sure.
For G, his conviction "nuh have nutten fi do wid music".
"If it was for morals and character, a lot of people who win Grammy wouldn't," he said. "It's no problem."
But Mertell was of a different view. "I don't think him a go win."
King believed that with a local incarceration, he would still be in the running for the golden gramophone. "If a did out here it happen, he would have a chance."
No Christmas treat
But even more than the potential loss of a Grammy award was the absence of the annual Christmas treat put on by the artiste for children in the Whitehall community.
They say every Christmas he would treat the children to toys and goodies on the lawns of Victoria Court, but as he battles for his freedom this year, there will be none.
"We will certainly miss him," said King.
"Him is so nice," Tyson continued. "Him nuh mix up and if he can help in any way, he will," she said of the community benefactor.
The community continued to express faith in his innocence.
"He is not guilty of that crime and, by the help of God, he will be free," said Dionne Williamson, Buju's 'sister in spirit'.
"We are not giving up. Tell fans to keep the faith and don't give up cuz it's a big set-up and rumour, and he's coming home," she encouraged.
"Him nuh guilty so him mus get off. Up to now him don't commit a crime. DJ nah have nutten fi do wit dis," G reiterated.