Lil Nas X performs onstage during the 2019 BET awards at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California on June 23, 2019. (AFP/Jean-Baptiste Lacroix)
A work stoppage campaign started by the music industry in solidarity with anti-racism protests has bloomed into a social media phenomenon featuring posts of black squares accompanied by somber messages and campaign hashtags.
Music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang hatched the idea to pause business as usual on Tuesday, June 2, "in observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard."
Coming amid mass demonstrations over the police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, the campaign gained traction among major music labels and production companies as well as celebrities.
Rihanna, Drake and Kylie Jenner have posted the stark black images on their Instagram feeds.
The Rolling Stones, Quincy Jones and Billie Eilish also said they would observe the day.
But as the black squares proliferated on social media, many activists warned that the images were overwhelming BlackLivesMatter posts that provide organizing information, resources and documentation of the protests over racist police brutality.
"When you check the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, it's no longer videos, helpful information, resources, documentation of the injustice, it's rows of black screens," said singer Kehlani on Instagram.
Activists instead recommended tagging the posts #BlackOutTuesday.
Read also: Spotify to participate in Black Out Tuesday
The movement began as a recognition of the music business' history of profiting off of black artists, traditions and communities without paying them credit.
But some critics said that message risked being diluted by brands and individuals seeing an opportunity to promote themselves.
"i know y’all mean well but... bro saying stop posting for a day is the worst idea ever," tweeted rapper Lil Nas X.
i know y’all mean well but... bro saying stop posting for a day is the worst idea ever— nope (@LilNasX) June 2, 2020
"i just really think this is the time to push as hard as ever. 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."
A number of widely shared posts encouraged social media users not to turn the moment into one of virtuous self-promotion -- but instead use platforms to promote and uplift black community members instead.
Bandcamp, a platform for musicians to share and earn money off their art, vowed to donate its share of sales made on Juneteenth -- a June 19 holiday commemorating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery -- to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a racial justice organization.
The company also said it would spend $30,000 a year on partnering with civil rights organizations.
"The current moment is part of a long-standing, widespread, and entrenched system of structural oppression of people of color, and real progress requires a sustained and sincere commitment to political, social, and economic racial justice and change," Bandcamp said.
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