Support for Buju declining
Published: Tuesday | December 22, 2009
Could support in the Jamaican community in South Florida for jailed reggae star Buju Banton be waning?
Veteran Jamaican broadcaster Jamaican Winston Barnes, news director at the WAVS AM radio station in Fort Lauderdale, he said based on the tone of callers to his daily 'Open Mic' show, this may be the case.
"Last Monday (December 14) there was absolute support for him. Most people were saying, 'nuthin' cyaan go so'," Barnes explained. "But by Thursday it was like, 'him fool fi get himself suck in to something like this'."
Banton and two accomplices were arrested on December 10 in Tampa, Florida, by Drug Enforce-ment Administration (DEA) officers, for allegedly buying five kilograms (11 pounds) of cocaine from an agent.
At a court hearing on December 16, he was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the drug. Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, has denied the charges. The 36-year-old is in custody at a Tampa jail and faces a lengthy prison term if convicted.
Barnes, who is a commissioner for the city of Miramar, said the issue has all but died on WAVS, a station with strong ties to South Florida's Caribbean community.
"As more info has come out on it, people have moved on. They are not as sympathetic," Barnes said. He added that little has been heard from reggae artistes who live in South Florida.
"I don't think they want to get into anything like that."
Barnes said the initial response from many Jamaicans to Banton's arrest was that it was a 'gay conspiracy'. His Rasta Got Soul tour of the United States had been marred by protests from gay groups throughout the United States, who cited his 1992 anti-gay anthem Boom Bye Bye as the biggest source of their grouse.
Banton was one of the headliners for the Reggae Bash show in Miami in October. It was targeted by the Equality Florida group but the concert went on after the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union defended Banton's right to free speech.
South Florida is home to one of the largest Jamaican communities in the US. It has been a popular residence for reggae acts like Bob Marley since the 1970s.