Black square posts are drowning out the Black Lives Matter hashtag

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The music industry has gone on pause today (June 2) as part of an initiative called Blackout Tuesday.

Created by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two Black women in the music industry, it’s a response to police brutality, state-sanctioned violence, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black people at the hands of police, and a stand in solidarity against anti-Black racism and Black exploitation which proliferates in music “from the boardroom to the boulevard.”

As part of that campaign, people have been posting black squares to their Instagram grids. But many community organizers have been cautioning people to stop using the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and stick to the hashtags specific to that campaign: #BlackoutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused.

Along with the protests across the United States and Canada, social media has become a vital source of community organization and information-spreading. People are sharing links to bail funds, sharing anti-racism resources and spreading video of police violence during the protests (video which is sometimes censored in mainstream media). But that organization, resource-sharing and protest is getting crowded out by blank black squares on the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.

Though initially started as a music initiative, Blackout Tuesday is spreading across social media.

The City of Toronto, for instance – where thousands protested this past weekend at a #JusticeForRegis rally against anti-Black racism and in memory of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who plummeted 24 storeys to her death from her High Park apartment while police were in her home on Wednesday – is blacking out its official social media accounts. 

Warnings have spread not to make Blackout Tuesday into a performative and empty gesture, a day off for executives in music, a multi-billion dollar industry that has been built on a history of exploitation of Black labour and Black culture.

The initiative, which includes all the major record companies and artists as big as Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, is meant to be more than a one-day break from work – it should include things like anti-racism training, donations and a greater representation of Black people in positions of power at every level of the industry and on funding boards.

On Instagram, Thomas and Agyemang say #TheShowMustBePaused is more than just a 24-hour initiative and that “a plan of action will be announced.”

Many new music releases that have been planned for this week have been postponed, while some artists will release this week as scheduled and donate all the money to Black organizations and causes. Bandcamp’s monthly revenue share lift is this Friday (June 5), when all proceeds from sales go to artists, and some have pledged to donate all of that money. Bandcamp has also pledged 100 per cent of sales on Juneteenth (June 19) annually to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and is allocating another $30,000 per year to partner with organizations that fight for racial justice, equality and change. 

As Blackout Tuesday rolls on, it will be interesting to see if more record labels, festivals, artists and organizations share the specific things they’re doing for racial equity on this day of pause. But if the post is a black square, best to use #BlackoutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused and not drown out #BlackLivesMatter.

@trapunski

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Richard has covered Toronto’s music scene for over a decade. He was once called a “mush-brained millennial blogger” by a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and “actually a pretty good guy” by a Juno-nominated director.

Read more by Richard Trapunski

June 2, 2020

12:23 PM