M.I.A Removed From Afropunk London Lineup Following #BlackLivesMatter Controversy
UPDATE: A new headline act and second wave of artists will be announced on Tuesday 19 July, the international festival announced.
Hip hop artist M.I.A will no longer headline Afropunk London, the international festival announced on Friday.
The announcement comes following outrage over her comments on the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year.
In an interview with the Evening Standard in April, the rapper complained that Black Lives Matter was the only problem discussed in the US, and called on celebrities, such as Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, to highlight the plight of other marginalised groups, such as Syrians.
But many viewed the comments as "anti-black" and accused her of derailing important conversations about global black struggles.
Her inclusion in the lineup of Afropunk London, which already holds similar events in Paris and New York, sparked a backlash online as a result.
Last month, after days of growing frustration, both with the lack of response from festival organisers and larger disappointment with the lineup, Afropunk fans confronted M.I.A on Twitter.
And following a now-deleted string of tweets hitting back at her critics, the music artist announced she would no longer be performing at Afropunk.
In a statement on 23 June, however, Afropunk revealed M.I.A would still be headlining. They also said that there was a "huge amount" of UK and global talent yet to be announced.
A message from Afropunk:
Afropunk stands in solidarity with the struggles of black people in America and worldwide, and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter is indeed a declaration of a global struggle. Afropunk stands in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers, including black Muslims. Afropunk stands in solidarity with the 65 million millions of displaced human beings that are today engulfed in one of the greatest refugee crisis in modern history. The urgency of these struggles could not be more real, and they are intricately connected. Afropunk is more than an event, it is a community, and we are committed to building a space where we can connect around music and the arts, and also in dialogue, to challenge and educate one another, artists, activists, lovers and fighters.
To us, the fact that M.I.A.'s comments sparked dialogue about a global view of the black struggle is not a failing. We also know that without the community that supports our platform and our events, there would be no Afropunk, so we would never elevate an artist or performer who we considered at odds with our ethos or not supportive of those we stand beside. We've read and welcomed the critique of M.I.A.’s participation. Even prior to our announcement, we had been creating a space to continue the dialogue she initiated, to better explain and understand how the black American experience and the American construct of race, intersects with rampant anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the crushing refugee crisis she was bringing to light. The debate is healthy and as people who have long been silenced, we refuse to participate in silencing of other voices.
It is also important to use this opportunity to understand the role of structural racism and other systems of oppression underlying these issues. They are the common chain. For example, the simultaneous hyper-visibility of black Americans and the ignored anti-blackness and systemic racism around the world, are functions of a larger system that would keep us divided, instead of understanding the deeper connections. This controversy has opened the door for these critical conversations that need to make us all better informed.
M.I.A will still perform at Afropunk London, and there is a huge amount of U.K. / global talent still to be announced. We hope that this event also brings to light the experiences of black Brits, immigrants and refugees in the U.K., who are continuously erased.
Without dissent and differing opinions, we risk abandoning unique perspectives. Controversy opens conversations and leads to education, political awareness, self-empowerment and respect. These are all key to the Afropunk ethos.
To our community: trust that when your day standing in the circle of the criticized comes, we will have your back. Let’s love and struggle along with one another — and turn up on the system.
But yet again, people were not very pleased with the festival's decision, or their statement.
It also looked as though some people would be taking their money elsewhere as they called for a boycott.
But just over two weeks later the festival announced that M.I.A will no longer be headlining. They also said that a new headliner and second wave of artists will be announced on Tuesday 19 July.
Here is their statement in full:
AFROPUNK has always stood side by side with the thousands of people globally who are involved with our events each year, from the fans attending an AFROPUNK showcase for the first time, to the headline artists playing for capacity crowds on our main festival stages.
A key part of the AFROPUNK ethos has always been educating one another, breaking down boundaries and sparking conversation about race, gender, religion, sex, culture and everything that makes life worth living. This exchange has meant receiving wisdom, as well as imparting it in the most respectful way possible, with the participation of our entire community of fans, creators and artists. This community is something we are incredibly proud of, and this community will always be a priority for us.
We are excited and honored to do our first AFROPUNK Festival in London and want to do it right. After discussing the situation with the artist and the community, a decision was agreed upon by all involved that M.I.A will no longer headline AFROPUNK London.
AFROPUNK will be releasing a new headliner and the second wave of artists on July 19th.