Blackout Tuesday: Music industry takes 'pause' in solidarity with Black communities

It’s Tuesday, June 2, which means if you’re a music fan, you may have already noticed #BlackoutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused trending on both Twitter and Instagram.

So what do these hashtags mean, some might ask?

Well, for one day only, the music industry will essentially be “paused” — at least for those who are participating — meaning artists, record labels and music publications across the globe are “intentionally disrupting” their work week in order to focus instead on the issue of “long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard.”

The initiative was launched last week by Black music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang in response to the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black citizens in the U.S. at the “hands of police.”

With this movement, however, Thomas and Agyemang aren’t focusing on highlighting just police brutality and systemic racism, but how the music industry, “a multi-billion dollar industry,” has “profited predominantly from Black art” too.

“Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations and their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable,” the duo wrote in a declaration, suggesting record labels have continuously taken advantage of Black communities.

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The statement continues: “To that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities that made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.

“We will not continue to conduct business as usual without regard for Black lives,” they added.

On top of thousands of artists and music executives spread across the globe, the industry’s three powerhouse labels: Universal Music Group (UMG), Sony Music and Warner Music, have all joined the silent protest in an attempt to “stand in solidarity” for Black communities.

They’re showing their support by doing acts as simple as sharing the hashtags, posting all-Black images or profile pictures, and by actively trying to create “productive conversations” surrounding systemic racism — as initially called for by Thomas and Agyemang.

“This is not a day off. Instead, this is a day to reflect and figure out ways to move forward in solidarity,” Sony subsidiary Columbia Records wrote in a tweet showing their support for #BlackoutTuesday.

The company has a plethora of A-list musicians signed to its label, including: Beyoncé, John Legend, Harry Styles and Adele — who have each, individually, addressed the issue of systemic racism following the death of Floyd on May 25.

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“We ain’t buying s–t,” wrote Rihanna in a tweet on Tuesday. “We ain’t selling s–t neither! Gang gang!

The post was accompanied by a black image and “#BlackoutTuesday.”

Here’s what some other supporting musicians had to say:

View this post on Instagram

It’s hard to know what to say because I’ve been dealing with racism my entire life. That said, it’s rearing its ugly head right now & by God it’s time to deal with it once & for all. My team & I stand for justice. Conversations will be had & action will be taken. #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED For all of my friends in the blind and differently-abled communities, here’s the text that is included in this image: “MUSIC INDUSTRY BLACK OUT TUESDAY Due to recent events please join us as we take an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change. As gatekeepers of the culture, it’s our responsibility to not only come together to celebrate the wins, but also hold each other up during a loss. Join us on Tuesday JUNE 2 as a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community. #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED”

A post shared by Quincy Jones (@quincydjones) on

Even Green Day joined in on the cause, using “#AmplifyMelanatedVoices.”

The pop punk trio wrote: “In solidarity and observance of the #amplifymelanatedvoices movement, we will be refraining from posting content on this platform to create space to amplify the voices and experiences of Black people who need to be heard. Listen. Learn.”

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Though many are on board with the Blackout Tuesday movement, some others believe that simply “observing” Blackout Tuesday and “disconnecting” from the workplace is “not enough” to show support for Black communities or effectively denounce systemic racism.

Artists such as Lil Nas X, Lizzo and Kehlani also noticed that many supporters of #BlackoutTuesday were also using #BlackLivesMatter in their social media posts, meaning that an over-abundance of “pitch black images” were being shared on the platforms as opposed to “helpful information” or “resources.”

“What if we posted donation and petition links on Instagram all at the same time instead of pitch black images,” wrote Old Town Road hit-maker in a tweet on Tuesday.

Lizzo followed suit, pleading that her followers and fans separate the two hashtags.

“Hey everybody, when you post your black square, please don’t use #BlackLivesMatter because it is flooding the hashtag search, which is black pictures instead of information.”

Kehlani, 25, took to Instagram stories as well, writing: “When you check #BlackLivesMatter, it’s no longer videos, helpful information, resources or documentation on the injustice, it’s rows of black screens.”

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Additionally, the Gangsta singer jumped on Twitter expressing her concern that people have been missing “what’s going on.”

“(I) don’t think it’s a conspiracy,” she said of Blackout Tuesday, “but when people click that hashtag, they need to see what’s going on. They need to see it harshly, vividly, accurately, in their faces,” she concluded.

Towards the end of their initial statement, Thomas and Agyemang said that Blackout Tuesday would not just be a single-day, one-time movement and that they will continue to “provoke accountability and change” to the “gatekeepers of the culture.”

Both women work for the Warner-owned record label Atlantic as senior directors of marketing, according to Billboard.

“This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced,” they concluded. “We are tired and can’t change thing alone.”

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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