On June 20, M.I.A. claimed on Twitter that she’d pulled out of headlining the first Afropunk event in London, scheduled to take place this September 24. Previously, she’d faced online criticism from some who held the view that she was an unsuitable choice to perform, notably due to her insensitive comments, in an April 2016 interview, on Black Lives Matter.
Today, June 23, Afropunk issued a statement confirming that M.I.A. would, in fact, still be headlining the festival. Over several paragraphs, the text addresses the debate surrounding her billing, as well as reflecting more broadly on issues of racism, Islamaphobia, and the global refugee crisis.
Read the full statement pasted below, or on Afropunk’s Twitter here. A rep for M.I.A. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A message from Afropunk:
Afropunk stands in solidarity with the struggles of black people in America and worldwide, and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter is indeed a declaration of a global struggle. Afropunk stands in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers, including black Muslims. Afropunk stands in solidarity with the 65 million millions of displaced human beings that are today engulfed in one of the greatest refugee crisis in modern history. The urgency of these struggles could not be more real, and they are intricately connected. Afropunk is more than an event, it is a community, and we are committed to building a space where we can connect around music and the arts, and also in dialogue, to challenge and educate one another, artists, activists, lovers and fighters.
To us, the fact that M.I.A.'s comments sparked dialogue about a global view of the black struggle is not a failing. We also know that without the community that supports our platform and our events, there would be no Afropunk, so we would never elevate an artist or performer who we considered at odds with our ethos or not supportive of those we stand beside. We've read and welcomed the critique of M.I.A.’s participation. Even prior to our announcement, we had been creating a space to continue the dialogue she initiated, to better explain and understand how the black American experience and the American construct of race, intersects with rampant anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the crushing refugee crisis she was bringing to light. The debate is healthy and as people who have long been silenced, we refuse to participate in silencing of other voices.
It is also important to use this opportunity to understand the role of structural racism and other systems of oppression underlying these issues. They are the common chain. For example, the simultaneous hyper-visibility of black Americans and the ignored anti-blackness and systemic racism around the world, are functions of a larger system that would keep us divided, instead of understanding the deeper connections. This controversy has opened the door for these critical conversations that need to make us all better informed.
M.I.A will still perform at Afropunk London, and there is a huge amount of U.K. / global talent still to be announced. We hope that this event also brings to light the experiences of black Brits, immigrants and refugees in the U.K., who are continuously erased.
Without dissent and differing opinions, we risk abandoning unique perspectives. Controversy opens conversations and leads to education, political awareness, self-empowerment and respect. These are all key to the Afropunk ethos.
To our community: trust that when your day standing in the circle of the criticized comes, we will have your back. Let’s love and struggle along with one another — and turn up on the system.