In a series of three videos released on social media, reggae and dancehall artist Buju Banton is telling his fellow Jamaicans to be “done with this mask wearing.” In the first video, Banton said he was tired of “you intellectual fools trying to tell us how to live our lives” and went on to accuse policymakers of creating fear among the Jamaican people and pushing them into poverty. Banton questioned what he perceives as the lack of action from the Jamaican government to help workers who have been laid off or whose businesses have been required to close early because of the pandemic. “Jamaican people need to wake up,” he said. On April 21, 2020, the Jamaican government made it mandatory for the country’s citizens to wear a face mask when in public spaces and imposed other COVID-19 restrictions including a revised curfew.
In the second video, Buju said that people are being lied to about the coronavirus and referenced stories about Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby as examples of why people should question what they are told. “Don’t you see that they have been lying to us for all this time? Why should we believe them now? How ironic it is that this virus act as if it is more intelligent than man,” he questioned. He then said he would not lead Jamaicans down a “path of destruction” like other public entertainers. He said that his love for the people “supersedes all that this world has to offer” and that he has always been sincere.
In response to Buju’s comments, some fans have expressed their disappointment in the artist’s stance on the mask issue, noting that COVID-19 is not a joke, citing their own experiences with the disease, calling him ignorant, and pleading for people to ignore his comments and “Wear yuh damn mask please!” Buju Banton’s daughter Abihail Myrie tweeted in response, “So anyway y’all wear your masks!!!
Other fans have questioned why, if Buju Banton feels so strongly about not wearing a mask, his online store at Merchbar, where he currently has some 70 items for sale, continues to offer a branded “Buju Banton” cloth face mask priced at $20.00. The mask is currently out of stock until July 2020 and is described as reusable and washable, but not medically rated. Merchbar, which is based in San Francisco, was founded by Edward Aten and John Hecker to provide a single location where music fans can find and purchase merchandise related to all their favorite artists. On its website, Merchbar states that it “works hard every day with merch companies, artists, independent labels and distributors to create a company that not only helps fans but supports artists and the teams behind them.”