It would be seemingly impossible to go on social media on June 2, 2020, and not come across Blackout Tuesday. Following the racialised murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week, the fight against anti-black racial injustice has rightfully risen to the forefront of international psyche, potentially in a greater capacity than we have seen in recent years. Whilst the posting of black squares on social media has sparked debates as to whether it allows complicit bystanders to be performative in their activism, Blackout Tuesday was actually created by two black women in the music industry, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, with the aim to bring awareness to the industry’s racial inequalities.
Their intention was to disrupt the working week of the music industry by hitting pause (#theshowmustbepaused), whether that be by delaying new music releases, or changing radio play, to ensure the industry recognises itself as a beneficiary of black efforts and struggles. Huge labels across the industry including Colombia Records, Universal Music Group divisions like Republic Records and Capitol Records, and Sony divisions such as RCA Records have been observing the campaign. Smaller, indie labels have also been taking part, showing that at the very least, the campaign has been as far reaching as the racial inequalities in the industry are.
Blackout Tuesday got artists from across genres such as Lizzo, Big Thief and Radiohead talking and participating, and streaming sites Spotify and Apple Music dedicated their home pages entirely to black music, with Apple Music only suggesting black artists to users in their ‘For You’ section. R&B artist Ray BLK tweeted that she hoped those in the industry would not take the day to passively reflect but take it to act toward change. Music broadcasters in the US were to be silenced for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to represent the time it took for the officer to kill Floyd. Annie Mac ensured UK radio participated, dedicating her show on 2 June to black artists who have enriched the music industry.
Whilst maybe the campaign has caused what some might call a social media ‘fad’, hopefully it will have raised some awareness to the impacts of the talents and miseries of black musicians. In the words of Radio 1’s Clara Amfo, and in the essence of Amanda Seale, “you cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues”.
Words by Sarah Jewers.
2nd June 2020.