Black Lives Matter Faces Backlash After Posting Twerk Video Celebrating MLK


The Black Lives Matter Global Network is facing backlash after promoting a “Twerk on Washington” performance art video online intended to honor one of the most renowned figures of what is historically considered the modern civil rights movement.

The Los Angeles Times reports the video begins with “a closeup of Shaina Simmons’ backside, draped in American flag booty shorts…in a performance set to an energetic New Orleans beat and sampling excerpts of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”The Times continues: “Simmons twerks up and down the National Mall – gyrating by the reflecting pool, dropping into a split at the Louisiana pillar of the World War II Memorial, bouncing up the steps to the statue of Abraham Lincoln – as visitors ignore or stop to stare.”

The video was released earlier this month as part of Black Lives Matter’s “MLK Artist Series.” According to BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, the program strives to “collectively remember Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King not just as an iconic Civil Rights leader, but as a human being full of love, joy, play, and healing.”In a joint curatorial statement issued by Cullors and Noni Limar, the duo explained the new series focuses “on Black Life and how MLK’s life has inspired us all to live.”

“This year is especially important to amplify his work more than ever after the violent events that took place at the US Capitol, our symbol of democracy, on January 6th,” the statement reads. “This attack against the 117th US Congress – carried out by a mob of white supremacists – was an attempt to overturn Trump’s defeat in the election, a direct assault on our right to vote and democracy. We need to uplift our community right now and these artists have been curated as love is the focal point of their work, and with love brings healing and the ability to rejoice and continue the necessary work to move forward as people.”

However, after BLM shared the tribute on its official Instagram account, The Times reports that “a flood of backlash immediately followed,” a reaction that reportedly “shocked” both Cullors and Limar.

As The L.A. Times recently reported:

The Instagram post received 1.2 million views and more than 5,000 comments, most of them negative, calling the video tasteless, disrespectful, uncomfortable and embarrassing. Many demanded Black Lives Matter take the video down. On Simmons’ personal Instagram, where the artist spent about three hours responding to feedback, there was even more resistance to the idea of twerking to celebrate King’s legacy. …

Simmons first recorded and released “Twerk on Washington” in 2019 near Independence Day. She chose to twerk at the National Mall because of the area’s history — a space for protests but also a site of oppression of Black Americans. (Enslaved Black people helped to build the White House and the Capitol.)

A continuation of her series of performances centered on twerking beginning in 2017, “Twerk on Washington” explores what it means to reclaim traditional dances on American soil. Even though people were overwhelmingly supportive of the first release, the recent backlash serves as a reminder to continue making art around the rights of Black women, Simmons said.

The Times went on to cite a “dance scholar and educator,” reporting that twerking “traces back to at least the early 1990s, in Black communities in New Orleans.” The article said, “the roots of the movement show a strong resemblance to West African traditional dances,” but “came to mainstream media’s consciousness around 2013 when white pop star Miley Cyrus twerked at the MTV Video Music Awards.”

“Since then, the dance has become increasingly popular and appropriated,” the Times added.

Simmons described the controversial “Twerk on Washington” video as “advocating for the decolonization of oversexualizing Black women’s bodies to reclaim…ancient sacred dances of liberation and wellness.”

“The shame of traditional African practices is not ours,” she continued. “Trauma is kept in the body, shake it off.”

Cullors said she “did not at all see this piece as a sexualized piece,” adding, “It felt like high performance, high art conversation with the March on Washington, and it felt like a perfect fit for this series.”

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.