3 June 2020-
On Tuesday June 2d, many prominent artists in the music industry initiated a movement that took over not only the entire industry but society at large: Blackout Tuesday. A response to the senseless killing of African-American George Floyd at the hands of the police the week before, it became a rallying cry not only for African-Americans or even Americans, but for many pacifist, human rights and progressive protesters around the world.
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It’s hard to know what to say because I’ve been dealing with racism my entire life. That said, it’s rearing its ugly head right now & by God it’s time to deal with it once & for all. My team & I stand for justice. Conversations will be had & action will be taken. #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED For all of my friends in the blind and differently-abled communities, here’s the text that is included in this image: “MUSIC INDUSTRY BLACK OUT TUESDAY Due to recent events please join us as we take an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change. As gatekeepers of the culture, it’s our responsibility to not only come together to celebrate the wins, but also hold each other up during a loss. Join us on Tuesday JUNE 2 as a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community. #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED”
First promoted by music industry executives, media personalities and artists, the concept of “Blackout Tuesday” was semi-organically formalized towards the end of the week prior to June 2d, as social unrest grew in the streets of American cities following George Floyd’s tragic passing. First using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, the idea behind the (largely virtual) movement was that people in the music industry were to observer a day of silence, i.e. one during which they would not perform, physically or otherwise, or effectively produce and release any new piece of content. A peaceful protest if there ever was one, it was centered around the notion that prominent artists’ silence would shed light on a troubling reality in contemporary American society. And it worked perhaps beyond the wildest plans of its original supporters: in a matter of hours, millions of people throughout the United States and the world followed suit, posting black squares on social media along with the corresponding hashtags: #BlackoutTuesday, #TheShowMustBePaused, #BlackLivesMatter, #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd… The message was as clear as it was loud.
Not surprisingly, most if not all original Blackout Tuesday supporters emanated from the African-American community. To quell racial tensions, their idea was to leverage the eminently potent social tool that is music. That choice was particularly pertinent in the context or racial inequality, as African-American artists have never been as much at the forefront of mainstream music as they are today. Even more to the point, music trends stemming from the African-American community have never taken over the (virtual) airwaves in such a fashion as they do in 2020. If one is to analyze recent Billboard Top 200 or Hot 100 charts, they will find that the dominating musical genre of our times is none other than Hip-Hop, originally a fringe movement started by African-American artists in the late 70’s and early 80’s which has grown steadily in fame and recognition since, to the point of eventually taking over Rock music, Electronic music and every genre in-between as the #1 musical trend out there.
Granted, Hip-Hop was not alone in achieving this transformation: it was, and still is, aided by the R&B movement, also a historically fringe African-American genre started by artists who switched from Gospel into secular music in the middle of the 20th century (think Sam Cooke, Ray Charles…). Today, Hip-Hop and R n’ B appear inseparable as many musicians, including superstars like Drake or Kanye West, happily mesh the two together in their work. This comes in support of our original assertion: today’s mainstream music can directly be linked to African-American performers and artists, in a more straightforward way than Rock music ever was. That genre, effectively created by the likes of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and the recently deceased Little Richard in the 1950’s (and based on the Blues), really took off when it crossed over with Elvis Presley and his (many) admirers…
It is therefore fitting that a social movement focused on ending racial inequality, especially in the United States, is started by musicians and executives from the music industry at a time when it is effectively dominated by African-American artistry. Although that community only represents a fraction of the country’s population, its creative output is indeed immense and its cultural impact wildly transcends industries and borders alike. Here is to wishing that the message is heard and that all these incredible artists continue to grace us with their talent…