The Banton’s New Attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, Describes Buju as a “Political Prisoner”
The road for reggae star Buju Banton has not been easy since he began serving a 10-year bid on federal drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. Incarcerated in a Florida prison, Banton maintains his innocence and is resiliently working on getting a new trial as he now gears up to fight a gun possession charge that was previously dismissed in his 2011 sentencing. After severing ties with lawyer David Oscar Markus in late August, Banton hired veteran attorney Chokwe Lumumba to represent him in his legal battles. Lumumba, who previously worked on the cases of activist Assata Shakur as well as Tupac Shakur, hosted a press conference in Washington D.C. to engage with Buju’s fans and supporters and bring them up to date about where the case stands. Photos and More After the Jump…
Yesterday, Boomshots got the opportunity to listen in as members of the NAACP, the National Black United Front, and fellow reggae artists Gramps Morgan and Stephen Marley spoke on the panel.
In just two months of representing Banton, Lumumba has already made progress by getting a judge to postpone last week’s gun possession hearing after learning that juror Terri Wright admitted to violating federal court regulations by researching the artist and the trial online.
Lumumba has filed two motions—one to reconsider and reduce Banton’s sentence and another for a new trial based on jury misconduct. “We’ve got to work on people’s consciousness right now before they get to the courtroom. We’ve got to change people’s way of thinking before they get to the courtroom. We can’t sit back and assume they’re not going to think a certain way once they get into the courtroom,” said Lumumba. “Some lawyers think that if you try to ‘sanitize’ or hide everything controversial about your client from the public, this will make you safe and secure and you’ll wind up being found not guilty. That’s a myth. The reason that it’s a myth is because people don’t leave their minds outside the door when they come into the courtroom. We’ve got to work on the conscience of the public right now so that we will understand and celebrate what [Buju] does rather than having people condemning what he does. That’s the true route to victory.”
Directing the conference’s focus on what can be done to help Buju financially, Lumumba was joined by Nkechi Taifa, Senior Political Analyst of Open Society Foundations who stated that the legal team is looking forward to writing letters, reaching out to spiritual leaders in the Maroon community and hosting benefit concerts.
“There’s a group, a very embryonic group called Celebrities for Justice who were supposed to have a representative here,” said Taifa. “They are based out of New York and are looking at cases and initiatives that are specifically focused on the war on drugs so hopefully there will be a whole lot of other artists coming out on this particular case and others as well.”
Though Stephen Marley played more of an observer role on the panel, singer Gramps Morgan spoke on the brotherhood that all three men share and acknowledged that Marley has been a key player in helping Buju and his family: “I’m Gramps and I’m standing here for him. Next to me is Stephen Marley—the king of reggae’s son. He’s put up the roof over his head in support of Myrie aka Buju Banton.”
Near the end of the conference Chokwe Lumumba reiterated to the crowd that Buju is a political prisoner. “Buju Banton told me he’s a political prisoner, so he’s a political prisoner. I think he is a political prisoner. There is a generational gap between the struggle to free political prisoners and the struggles of young people. [Buju is helping] to keep the act of freeing political prisoners a relevant one to all generations that exist right now.”
In support of Lumumba’s statement, Salim Adofo, Vice Chair of National Black United Front said “Buju’s freedom is going to be contingent on how much we do in the streets.” Turning to Buju’s legal team, he addressed the committee and tells them “Y’all can do the work in the suites, we’re gonna do the work in the streets.”