#BLM – Blackout Tuesday and Performative Activism: Are Celebrities Doing Enough?

The #BlackLivesMatter movement could possibly be the most important campaign of our lifetime but are artists using their platform for good?

Black Lives Matter protests (Gabe Pierce, UnSplash.com)

Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of violence, racism, and hyperlinks which present images of police brutality.

 

We can’t rely on the American Government alone to bring justice to the countless victims of police brutality. And we can’t rely on the British Government to recognise its own atrocities. We can’t rely on the police to protect its citizens or speak out against their colleagues. But, if like me, you don’t have a huge social media following, the information, donation links and petitions you share are being viewed by a couple of hundred like-minded individuals. People tend to follow you because they agree with you, not because they admire you. This is why celebrities have so much power.

 

If you’re not following the right people on social media, it’s almost impossible to see the reality of these protests: the rubber bullets shot at unarmed citizens, the tear gas thrown at those kneeling, police driving into crowds and knocking down citizens, amongst other atrocities.

Celebrities have the power and status to spread these images like wildfire (responsibly, of course, as many have a large following of minors). But instead, a campaign that originated from the music industry as a way to uplift black artists, educate selves on systemic racism and make space for the emergence of black voices, turned into an Instagram trend. This performative activism clogged up the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and making it difficult to find petitions, donation links and information for those actively supporting the movement.

 

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#BlackOutTuesday

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A solid example would be indie-alternative band The 1975, whose songs such as ‘People’ and ‘Love it if We Made it’ are viewed as political anthems. But, remarkably, after facing criticism for posting music videos in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, frontman Matty Healy has deactivated his Twitter account. Whilst the twitter page for The 1975 is filled with petitions, retweets and bail funds and the other members are speaking out, it does raise speculation of performative activism. Following a host of past controversies, including the use of a homophobic slur in his new album, it’s clear that it’s an odd time for such an impressionable figure like Healy to disappear from the face of the earth.

 

Artists such as Lil Nas X have questioned the effectiveness of #BlackoutTuesday and its appearance as performative activism rather than advocating for real change.

 

 

Some celebrities, such as Halsey and Yungblood, have been attending protests, and have been seen tending to injured protesters. Gorillaz has released merchandise to raise money for the London-based charity The Black Curriculum, which specialises in teaching young people about black British history to provide ‘a sense of belonging and identity’. Countless other celebrities have opened their purses too, but most notably, Stormzy has pledged to donate £10m to black British causes over the next 10 years. This is especially awe-inspiring considering his net-worth, is currently £20m. 

 

 

 

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Amongst everything, it’s easy to fall into the trap of celebrating white celebrities for doing the bare minimum. Commenting clapping emojis on an Instagram post of a black screen isn’t going to dismantle systemic racism. But, once a celebrity opens their mouth in support, it can motivate others to do the same. We should expect celebrities to donate, educate, and recognise their own privilege; a black square Instagram post or an MLK quote flung on a social media story just isn’t enough anymore. It’s the petitions, donation links and informative posts that really matter – It presents true solidarity. Solidarity brings hope, and hope brings change.

 

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Another way we can support the movement is to support black businesses, and in this case, black independent artists. Here are some black musicians/creators that deserve your love:

 

Tiger Goods

Her most popular track, Mean Girls, uses pop culture references and glittery RnB beats to express the queer experience of being attracted to that kind of mean girl. It’s a strange but relatable phenomenon that’s hardly ever sang about, but the rapper from Cincinnati packages the feeling perfectly in this catchy tune.

 

MeLo McClain

Inspired by his Jamaican roots and rapping since he was 12, Melo McClain is an underrated talent. His song Flight 23 has a flow that is reminiscent of a Denzel Curry track, and some addictive production.

 

Memberzxlny

Released only a couple of weeks ago, his first full-length project, mx, shows incredible potential and promise. Memberzxlny’s vocals are soft and slurred, creating the perfect balance between sleepy and interesting, relaxing and engaging.

 

Being actively anti-racist on social media is a good place to start, but it is not a place to end a journey of activism. Real change occurs outside of the computer screen with protests, donations, writing to your local MP, actively supporting black businesses, actively educating yourself, calling out racism even if it’s uncomfortable, amongst many other things.

 

If you wish to support the Black Lives Matter movement but are unsure where to start, this google document includes petitions, donation links, and resources.

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