M.I.A. Questions ‘Black Lives Matter,’ Gets Dropped by Afropunk Festival

M.I.A.

M.I.A. just lost a lucrative headliner slot. But did Afropunk go too far?

Sri Lankan rapper and singer M.I.A. has now been dropped by the Afropunk Festival after raising questions about the Black Lives Matter movement.  M.I.A., long an outspoken figure in hip-hop, was slated to headline the London-based event and is a major ticket draw.

Or, was a major ticket draw: “We are excited and honored to do our first Afropunk Festival in London and want to do it right,” Afropunk coordinators stated this weekend.  “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.”

The decision to drop M.I.A. comes after weeks of back-and-forth deliberation by Afropunk coordinators.  The initial controversy surfaced months ago, when the singer questioned whether Black Lives Matter was inherently exclusionary. It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter,” M.I.A. said in April. “It’s not a new thing to me — it’s what Lauryn Hill was saying in the 1990s, or Public Enemy in the 1980s.”

“Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter?  Or Syrian Lives Matter?  Or this kid in Pakistan matters?  That’s a more interesting question.”

The stirred a serious backlash, with Black Lives Matter proponents alleging racism while pointing to an attempt to minimize issues faced by black people.  But M.I.A., herself no stranger to controversy and conflict, simply reiterated her initial question.  “I’m not Muslim,” M.I.A. clarified.

“My question was, on American platforms what do they allow you to stand up for in 2016?”

That stirred calls to boycott M.I.A. alongside demands for Afropunk to drop the rapper.  M.I.A. initially offered to voluntarily withdraw, while continuing to question the premise of the Black Lives Matter campaign.  “Sorry I’m not doing Afropunk,” M.I.A. initially conceded.  “I’ve been told to stay in my lane. Ha, there is no lane for 65 million refugees whose lanes are blown up!”

That’s when things got confusing: at some point, the rapper apparently opted to remain in the Festival, shifting the pressure onto Afropunk to make a decision.  Perhaps torn between warring factions and sensing serious ramifications in ticket sales, Afropunk announced their decision to chop their headliner — and alter their entire bill in the process.

All of which sadly leaves Afropunk with a festival inherently divided and polarized by race, instead of unified by it.  But in its statement, Afropunk organizers pointed to a decision based on ‘educating one another, breaking down barriers, and sparking conversation,” while defending its efforts to protect its community:

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.”

At this point, M.I.A. fans are likely to demand refunds after the abrupt yank.  But M.I.A. herself may have justification for seeking recourse, particularly if a contractual breach cannot be legally demonstrated.

Meanwhile, other musical artists are also finding themselves caught in the very messy crosshairs of an increasingly charged debate.  Just last week, a member of the singing group The Tenors altered the lyrics to the Canadian national anthem to include ‘All Lives Matter,’ a decision that stirred a deafening backlash.  The Tenors singer, Remigio Pereira, refused to apologize, while the group experienced numerous cancellations based on accusations of racism.  Pereira has been kicked out of the group.

 

Image by Moses Namkung from Outside Lands in 2009, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

 

 

 

6 Responses

  1. Anon

    Or learn to talk about your viewpoints rationally and contribute to open dialog and the progression of the human race – you doomsday prepping homicidal meathead.

    Reply
  2. The Truth Hurts

    Paul as a Black man who works in this business and who is a fan of this publication I’m disappointed to see just how many seething racists there are who visit your site.

    They claim that white supremacy is a non factor in America but many of these people who openly spew racist comments toward my people are more than likely professionals who work in this business and that we have to rub shoulders with everyday.

    They try to make us sound crazy when we say that there is a glass ceiling in this business for Black people when it comes to opportunity but the truth is in the comments of most of the posts you make dealing with race.

    Thes are the same people who have to sign our deals, approve our contracts, and issue our budgets, and God knows what else.

    I hope that you can instill measures to capture the ip addresses of these racists and ban them from the site. It’s not fair or right that I should have to begin my day listening to White people attacking my community especially when our music created the money that many of these white supremacists use to put food on their table everyday.

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      Outright racist comments are removed. But I think those comments are from the fringe; 99.9% of all readers I interact with are not like that.

      Reply
      • OOSHTBHFAM

        Not to your face, Paul, but the current rise of Lord Emperor Trump ought to tell you the true feelings of the majority of Americans.

        Paul, it’s not too late to arm up and get ready for the race war.

        Reply
  3. Rick Shaw

    This is clearly a case of racism…for tossing her from the festival.

    Reply

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