Blackout Tuesday Pauses Music for Justice

It’s been a tumultuous couple of months to say the least. First, the pandemic, which continues to wreak havoc all over the world, especially in poorer and marginalized communities. Then, yet another instance of law enforcement murdering a black man in cold blood, this time in Minneapolis. 

Since the horrific and completely unnecessary passing of George Floyd, protests have erupted from Seattle to Boston. People are pissed and they have every right to be. It’s time for America’s awful legacy of institutionalized racism to be completely gutted. The demonstrations, largely peaceful (it’s vital to note), are grabbing the spotlight and asking huge and important questions of our police, our justice system, and our very culture.

Like the pandemic, racism is all-consuming. Influential figures from authors and scholars to athletes and actors have condemned the heinous murder and supported the current installment of the uprising. The music industry is no different, unable to ignore the gravity of the situation and making big sonic waves — or deliberately not in this case — in reaction to systemic hate and the volatile police state we presently call America.

Tuesday, June 2 is now being dubbed Blackout Tuesday. Artists across the world are collectively pausing the music, so to speak, as an homage to Floyd and the larger societal problems that continue to haunt people of color especially. Industry executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang are credited with jump-starting the event, launching the #theshowmustbepaused campaign.

As the name suggests, day-to-day operations will be put on hold to honor the late Mr. Floyd. The entire spectrum is seemingly on board, from executives, producers, and management to artists, labels, and record stores. Big name artists from Billie Eilish to the Rolling Stones are taking part, postponing virtual shows and related activities. Quincy Jones is part of the esteemed group, tweeting heartfelt and emotional sentiments. Ariana Grande has been spotted at protests in LA while Beyonce has racked up millions of views of her Instagram video asking viewers to sign a petition on behalf of justice for Floyd.

While typical business operations will be on hold, the industry is quick to point out that it’s not a day off. Instead, the aim is to support the movement, allying with the black community and the ongoing quest for social equality. It’s a head-turning move from a music world that’s already done a lot of pivoting since the pandemic canceled tours and festivals and made performances virtual.

As the brief but moving letter details, Thomas and Agyemang hope to intentionally disrupt the workday and call attention to the long line of atrocities committed against the black community. And it’s spreading: Prominent label Interscope won’t be releasing any new music this week. Warner, Universal, Atlantic, Motown, Capitol, Island, Def Jam, and many more are doing much the same in what’s an industry-wide mic drop. You want the show to go on? Well, follow the lead of your favorite singers and bands and engage in activism, donate to worthy organizations, and call out racism when you see it. 

The realm of music, steeped in creativity and larger-than-life platforms, is the perfect place for such a thing. Many artists have already offered various sonic sketches in response to the news, like the Twin Cities’ own Dua Saleh, a talented songsmith and activist. The artist’s sobering new track features artwork with the names of those lost and proceeds from the song going to Black Visions Collective.

Look for more and more artists to ride this crucial wave as it unfolds beyond the 24 hours of Blackout Tuesday. In fact, look for it to spread across industries, into sports, food, tech, film, and beyond.

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