Update (7/19) : The iconic Grace Jones will be headlining AfroPunk London. Goldlink, Joe Kay, Hannah Faith, Lady Leshurr, and many more are also set to perform among others.
The AfroPunk Festival has been spreading around the world over the last couple years and will be touching down in London for the first time ever very soon. British-Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. was originally scheduled to headline, but after comments she made about the Black Lives Matter movement back in April (which AfroPunk initially defended), the festival has decided to drop her from the lineup.
“It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter,” M.I.A. said in an interview with Evening Standard magazine. “It’s not a new thing to me — it’s what Lauryn Hill was saying in the 1990s, or Public Enemy in the 1980s. Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That’s a more interesting question.”
AfroPunk’s defense of M.I.A. was disappointing and caused a huge backlash that the organization is seemingly starting to feel, so they released a statement earlier today to confirm the news:
AFROPUNK has always stood side by side with the thousands of people globally who are involved with our events each year, from the fans attending an AFROPUNK showcase for the first time, to the headline artists playing for capacity crowds on our main festival stages.
A key part of the AFROPUNK ethos has always been educating one another, breaking down boundaries and sparking conversation about race, gender, religion, sex, culture and everything that makes life worth living. This exchange has meant receiving wisdom, as well as imparting it in the most respectful way possible, with the participation of our entire community of fans, creators and artists. This community is something we are incredibly proud of, and this community will always be a priority for us. We are excited and honored to do our first AFROPUNK Festival in London and want to do it right. After discussing the situation with the artist and the community, a decision was agreed upon by all involved that M.I.A will no longer headline AFROPUNK London.
AFROPUNK will be releasing a new headliner and the second wave of artists on July 19th.
Being a longtime M.I.A. fan who was disappointed by her words, this is a really good decision, but it doesn’t hide the fact that fans are still annoyed at having to pay for what used to be a free event. James Spooner, one of the founders of the AfroPunk movement, eventually left the organization after he felt the punk atmosphere was gone. As long as the money’s actually going to good places and people of color aren’t being shut out of a festival that was tailor made for them, everything should be fine, but we’ll see what the future holds.