WMNF Radio holds emergency meeting to discuss controversy over Buju Banton concert

Late this afternoon, just hours before controversial reggae singer Buju Banton's concert at the Cuban Club in Ybor City was to take place, an emergency meeting was held inside radio station WMNF.

Banton's song "Boom Bye Bye" advocates gay-bashing and murder, and has led  to a letter writing campaign by the LGBT group  Equality Florida to protest Banton's shows in Jacksonville, Miami and in Ybor City.

WMNF has had a relationship with the Cuban Club for years, using the facility for their popular Heatwave concerts.  But after one board member reportedly questioned whether that relationship should continue because of the controversy over Banton, Station Manager Jim Bennett called a meeting at 4p.m. on Friday.

Representing the Cuban Club was La Gaceta editor and publisher Patrick Mantiega, who sits on the Executive Commitee of the Foundation Board of the Cuban Club.

The Cuban Club booked the show earlier this week after the show was canceled at the Ritz Theatre.  During a discussion with Bennett, Equality Florida's Brian Winfield, and several staff and board members of WMNF, Mantiega said the promoter had come to the Cuban Club because the Ritz had not sold many tickets for the event.

But others say that the Ritz wanted nothing to do with the show.

Mantiega said in the last 24 hours, Cuban Club board members had received some hate e-mail for booking the show.  He said that no one with the Club had any clue to the controversy surrounding Banton.

"What we've done is ask this artist not to perform this song, we've increased the deposit, and if he performs this song, we'll keep the deposit, " Mantiega said.   He also said that the promoter agreed to pay for 3 additional police officers to staff the event.

Brian Winfield of Equality Florida told CL that his group was not satisfied with the Cuban Club agreeing to let the show go on, saying they were literally giving him a platform to deliver his hateful message towards gays and lesbians.

Winfield said he was not there to dictate to WMNF what their policy should be towards Banton (WMNF Program Director Randy Wynne said the station has only played "Boom Bye Bye" one time, and has a policy of not airing it.  But he says that they do play other songs from his repertoire.  During the meeting, he said "the bulk of his material does not reflect his message."

"We're asking  community members and leaders like WMNF to stand up and clearly stand against the murderous message that Buju Banton represents and incites violance against gay people," Winfield said.

He said that his group had no intention of protesting in front of the Cuban Club for Friday night's performance.

(Full disclosure.  This reporter was a staff member of WMNF for over 9 years, and still does volunteer work with the station).

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