Story at a glance
- The recent death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis has catalyzed Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
- Millions have chosen to post on social media today in observance of Blackout Tuesday, a digital initiative aimed at amplifying black voices.
- The initiative spawned from two black women in the music industry whose goals remain to hold the multibillion dollar industry accountable for profiting off black artists.
- BLM organizers and activists have been quick to point out that Blackout Tuesday is not meant to be a day of silence, but of amplification.
By now you’ve probably seen the posts flooding your Instagram feed — black squares that represent an individual user deciding to participate in what is being called #BlackoutTuesday, a part of the Black Lives Matter movement that has quickly gained momentum across social media. Many of the now nearly 19 million of those posting black squares and using the hashtag have shared their intentions using captions, saying that this is a time to refrain from sharing photos of their daily lives and instead allowing the voices of black people to be amplified.
Despite its viral momentum, the digital protest, which was originally organized by two black women in the music industry, was actually not intended to turn into a “24-hour initiative.” “We are and will be in this fight for the long haul,” say creators Jamila Thomas, senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemang, a former Atlantic executive who is now senior artist campaign manager at Platoon.
Thomas and Agyemang were first using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, calling for members of the music industry to “take a beat for an honest reflective, and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community.”
The pair wrote on their website that the multibillion dollar music industry is one that has “profited predominately from Black Art,” and that their mission is to hold it, along with its corporate sponsors and partners, accountable. They called for a pause specifically from the music industry to occur on June 2, “to disconnect from our work and reconnect with our community.”
As the movement continued to grow, the notion of a day of silence was eventually passed on to individuals and brands who have also vowed to not post any social content on June 2 in observance of the protests still happening around the country.
Despite the best intentions of individuals wanting to participate, the initiative has morphed into something different than the pair had initially planned for, and is certainly not without its critics.
"I just really think this is the time to push as hard as ever," wrote Rapper Lil Nas X on Twitter. "I don't think the movement has ever been this powerful. we don't need to slow it down by posting nothing. we need to spread info and be as loud as ever."
The problem? As more Instagram users have continued to post those black squares on the platform using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and without taking time to read about its purpose, they have unintentionally contributed to silencing the Black Lives Matter movement — not amplifying it. Organizers and allies of the movement have now been imploring that anyone looking to join in should only use the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday, stressing that the Black Lives Matter hashtag is used by many to share valuable resources that help the community.
It has come to my attention that many allies are using #BlackLivesMatter hashtag w black image on insta. We know that’s it no intent to harm but to be frank, this essentially does harm the message. We use hashtag to keep ppl updated. PLS stop using the hashtag for black images!! pic.twitter.com/eG2fPaybNW— Kenidra4Humanity ~ BLACK LIVES MATTER ~ (@KenidraRWoods_) June 2, 2020
What activists are saying is that this is not a time for silence, and instead a time to amplify black voices and give mention to the causes related to the Black Lives Movement. An easy way to do this is by doing your due diligence in researching the digital Black Live Matter movement, which was first galvanized in 2013 as a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Post accurate information from reputable sources that could help to inform those who follow you about the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement, and about those who are putting in the work with the hopes to one day see those goals realized. Post about organizations and charities that aid in furthering the cause, and numbers to call that help your friends’ and family’s voices be heard by those who can make change happen.
not tryna be announcing but what if we posted donation and petitions links on instagram all at the same time instead of pitch black images.— nope (@LilNasX) June 2, 2020
The original goals of Thomas’ and Agyemang’s #TheShowMustBePaused have not been lost either — in fact, far from it. According to The Verge, major music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and YouTube Music have pledged their support for Blackout Tuesday by contributing special playlists, moments of silence and their own social media blackouts.
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