From Instagram to action: How to maintain the momentum of #BlackoutTuesday

A quote from the author and activist James Baldwin (Crabapple)

As protests demanding racial justice have multiplied since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, the spirit of reckoning has also spread, including within the music industry. One initiative that sought to redress the historical inequities of the music business was the decision to declare Tuesday 2nd of June as a one-day moratorium on business as usual. Alternately known as #TheShowMustBePaused or #BlackoutTuesday, the idea was advanced as a means of identifying with protesters and considering how the music industry could become more accountable to black communities.

As the initiative gained traction over the weekend, companies and organizations, including major record labels such as Columbia, Interscope and Republic Records, announced their participation. Just as quickly, some wondered what participation would mean, and many questioned whether the effort, embraced so quickly by huge corporations, would end up being an empty gesture rather than a sincere effort to counteract a history of exploitation. “I don’t want a pause, I want action,” the rapper Ghostpoet wrote on Twitter.

Come the day, millions of individuals across the world took to social media to support the initiative. Rather than going silent, however, a trend of posting images of black, empty squares began to emerge. It reflected the desire of many people to engage with the protests, to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to show their followers that they too recognise the need to challenge the systematic racism that continues to exist across America. However, the mass sharing of empty screens was not universally appreciated, with many suggesting it obscured helpful resources and hindered the efforts of protesters to educate others.

Whilst the intention was to further the movement against racial injustice and oppression, the collective silence of millions appeared to offer little in return. To challenge this counter-productiveness, now is a valuable opportunity to engage with those who participated in the initiative and to share knowledge, insight and advice on how they can become better informed. In turn, this can encourage more sustainable showings of support and instigate a new wave of individuals who actively fight against racism. If it helps, here are some things that have improved my understanding of both the oppression felt by black Americans and how, regardless of background, you can make a positive difference …

James Baldwin — If Beale Street Could Talk
Martin Luther King Jr. — Letter From Birmingham Jail
Paulo Freire — Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Colson Whitehead — The Nickel Boys
Hillary Jordan — Mudbound

LA ‘92
Mississippi Burning
Boyz N the Hood
Hidden Figures

Fourteen Days in May
What Happened, Miss Simone?
O.J.: Made in America

Jay-Z — The Story of O.J. [Music video]
James Baldwin debates William F. Buckley [Debate at Cambridge University]
‘Why cities are still so segregated’ [Explanation of urban planning]
“I am not your negro” [James Baldwin interview]
“To be free” [Nina Simone interview]

Research assistant at Queen's University Belfast

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