A Mending “Therapy”
When reggae artist Buju Banton was scheduled to play the National Theater on the same day as 2009’s Pride festival, it caused uproar within the gay community. Banton’s violent anti-gay lyrics led to the National’s Facebook page to be flooded with comments, and the show was moved to another venue before being moved from downtown and ultimately cancelled.
Today, the National’s management looks to move forward from the incident and mend their relationship with the LGBT community.
Clay Dabney, the current general manager of the National, says the date and booking were unfortunate coincidence.
“I don’t know that anyone knew the content of the material on [Banton’s] song and they definitely wouldn’t have booked if they had known that,” Dabney said. “ It was a horrible artist on a coincidental date. The National – it’s supposed to be for everyone.”
In September 2009, the National remained publicly quiet amidst the negative buzz from the booking created. Behind-the-scenes, Dabney said, management was busy discussing how to move or cancel the show and get out of the booking contract.
Dabney joined the National as a bar back three years ago, then became assistant GM of the venue. Last July, he took his now role and is now able to speak up.
“I never liked the way things went down with Buju Banton. That’s not what we were about,” Dabney said. “We have a beautiful building with great sound and we want to be able to share that with all of Richmond, not just one part.”
Two months ago, Dabney reached out to the Gay Community Center of Richmond to lend the space to a fundraising event benefiting Diversity Thrift. He hopes tonight’s Pop Therapy Dance Party will be a big success and the theater will be able to support more community events.
“Now, we’re able to take the next step further and mend the relationship with the community and Richmond,” he said. “I don’t want to anyone to feel left out or offended. We want to brand ourselves as part of the Richmond community in all aspects. Richmond’s a beautiful growing city and we want to be a part of it.”
Gregg Johnson, director of development and marketing at GCCR, has been pleased to work with the National for tonight’s event.
“They reached out to us,” Johnson said. “We definitely discussed the history with the Buju Banton booking earlier…there is new management and they definitely wanted to be perceived well within the LGBT community here in Richmond.”
Tonight, expect surprise performances and great dance music.
“The National itself is a really spectacular space for a party like this,” Johnson said. “It will be a very festive after-Thanksgiving party.”
Pop Therapy is Friday, November 26 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or at the door and are available at Diversity Thrift, 1407 Sherwood Avenue; DT2, 2218 West Main St. in the Fan; The National Box Office – 708 East Broad St. 18+
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