Scrolling through your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook feeds, it would be nearly impossible for you to not notice that the array of colourful posts that usually pop up as you scroll down have been replaced by black squares, hashtagged #BlackoutTuesday. The social media campaign was started by the music industry in a show of solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement and also with people around the globe protesting an end to police brutality after the brutal death of 46-year-old African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May by white police officer Derek Chauvin. Video footage showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”
People took to the streets to peacefully protest, although some protests turned violent or ended with looting and vandalism.
Major institutions, celebrities, musicians, museums, galleries, actors, ordinary people and organisations around the globe posted black squares on their social media handles to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Several music labels including Warner Music Group, Sony/ATV, Universal Music, Motown, Capitol Records, British label Dirty Hit, Eminem’s Shady Records among others halted business operations on Tuesday in a move organised by Live Nation.
Live Nation posted, “On Tuesday June 2nd all of Live Nation’s offices around the globe will observe Blackout Tuesday to stand with the black community and our colleagues, artists, crews, fans and leaders fighting against injustice and racism. We are pulling the plug on business as usual. We will take the day to work together with our employees and colleagues on actionable next steps that will continue to engage and spark consistent action in fighting racism. #BlackLivesMatter.”
The post was captioned #TheShowMustBePaused, a hashtag started by music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, their intention was to get those from within and outside the industry to “intentionally disrupt the work week” and “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”
Musicians Ariana Grande and Rihanna are also doing their bit to promote the movement. Ariana Grande posted a black square with links to Black Lives Matter accounts for her 189 million followers on Instagram, captioned,”Sending strength and if you are protesting today please be safe.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with his 185 million followers posted a black square with the hashtags #normalizeequality and #blackouttuesday.
Rihanna took to her Twitter to post, “We ain’t buying s**t!!! and we ain’t selling s**t neither!! gang gang! #BLACKOUTTUESDAY AF!!!”, and the singer also posted a black square on her feed. Rihanna’s three companies, Fenty, Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty have replaced their usual homepage with a message in solidarity with the movement that reads, “We are not staying silent and we are not standing by. The fight against racial inequality, injustice, and straight-up racism doesn’t stop with financial donations and words of support. In solidarity with the Black community, our employees, our friends, our families, and our colleagues across industries we are proud to take part in #BlackoutTuesday.”
The message continues: “This is not a day off. This is a day to reflect and find ways to make real change. This is a day to #PullUp.” Rihanna started the company with Louis Vuitton’s parent company, LVMH, and is the first black woman to run a major luxury fashion house.
The label shared on Instagram Tuesday reads: “Fenty as a brand was created to elevate beauty, power and freedom! At this very moment, racists are attempting to rip those values away from black people and we will NOT stand by and let that happen. We are too powerful, creative, and resilient.”
Tom Brady and Giselle Bundchen also posted black squares on their feeds to show solidarity. Giselle captioned her post, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. -Martin Luther King, Jr.” Followed by the Portuguese translation of the same quote.
However, Black Lives Matter activists reminded people to not use Black Lives Matter hashtags and expressed concern that mistagging Blackout Tuesday posts with hashtags for Black Lives Matter or BLM was stopping the flow of important information related to the movement, as these hashtags are used to organise future protests and share information. Activists say that doing this causes important posts with critical information about protests and efforts to get lost as platforms’ algorithms sort out their feeds.
Artist Toyin Ojih Odutola captioned her post, “Please don’t use the black lives matter hashtag, it’s to help those on the ground, and instead refer to local bail fun or international organisations.”
Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza urged people to use other hashtags like Blackout Tuesday or The Show Must Be Pause, tweeting, “Today we need to be MORE connected than ever.”
— Alicia Garza (@aliciagarza) June 2, 2020
Among the many artists that participated were Olafur Eliasson, and Tracey Emin, who wrote, “The world is full of so much fear, and those who are in charge are making it worse and worse and worse and worse.”
While some supported the movement, others thought it oversimplified the cause and was reductive. UK rapper Awate, said the move was undemocratic and enforced on artists. He tweeted, “Instead of this performance, we should find a way to unionise and innovate methods of supporting the struggles of our people under attack. Capitalism got us here. Let’s try a collective approach.”
Several museums and galleries also participated. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Queens Museum in Brooklyn, postponed their online activities, while, the Tate posted a Chris Ofili painting in tribute to Stephen Lawrence captioned, “Nobody should have to live in fear because of the colour of their skin.”
TikTok said it was “standing in solidarity with the Black community and the music industry” and would turn off its playlists to mark “the extraordinary recurrence of injustice the Black community is experiencing in the long fight against inequality, racism and violence”. The company also said that it plans to set up a “creator diversity council” which will be “recognizing and uplifting the voices driving culture, creativity, and important conversations on the platform.” Other than this, the company has also pledged to donate $3 million to charities that are helping the black community during the coronavirus pandemic and is committing another $1 million toward fighting racial injustice and inequality in the United States of America
In a separate post on TikTok, the company’s incoming CEO, Kevin Mayer, said, “As I begin my work at TikTok, it has never been a more important time to support Black employees, users, creators, artists, and our broader community. Words can only go so far. I invite our community to hold us accountable for the actions we take over the coming weeks, months, and years.”
High-end fashion brands such as Versace, Saint Laurent and Gucci have also posted messages pledging solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement after a number of luxury boutiques suffered looting in recent days in top locations such as California’s Rodeo Drive and New York’s SoHo.
Gucci reposted a poem by writer Cleo Wade on Twitter and Instagram about how to end racism and bigotry, while Prada SpA uploaded a statement that it was outraged and saddened by the injustices facing the black community. French cosmetics brand L’Oreal SA posted “Speaking out is worth it” on its social media accounts. While H&M’s parent company, Swedish apparel chain Hennes & Mauritz AB kept the message simple with “Let’s change.”