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#BlackOutTuesday Brings Music Industry To A Pause, But Some Artists Warn Against Obscuring Black Lives Matter Posts

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TOPLINE Black tiles flooded social media on Tuesday alongside the hashtags #blackouttuesday and #theshowmustbepaused as the music industry paused to remember the killings of black people at the hands of police, but some artists are warning that #blacklivesmatter posts are being silenced in the process.

Kehlani posted about the risk of useful information being drowned out by black tiles
 
(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Warner Music)

KEY FACTS

The initiative was set up by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two black music industry executives at Atlantic Records and Platoon respectively, in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and “countless other Black citizens at the hands of police.”

The founders wrote in an online statement: “Tuesday June 2nd is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week…It is a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”

They added that the initiative is not for 24 hours only. “We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced.”

Major labels Warner Music Group, Sony Music, and Universal Music Group pledged support for the initiative, while Interscope records says it won’t release new music this week.

Companies observing the ‘pause’ have done so in different ways: networks BET and MTV went dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in response to Floyd’s death, while Spotify has replaced the artwork on some playlists with a black tile.

Businesses outside the music industry are also pledging their support for the initiative, including Rihanna-founded Fenty Beauty, which in a statement said it would not conduct any business on Tuesday.

The accompanying hashtags #blackouttuesday and #theshowmustbepaused have already been used more than 6 million times on Instagram. Blackout Tuesday was the top trending topic on Twitter with more than 500,000 hashtags used by people both in and outside of the music industry signalling their support.

CRUCIAL COMMENT

Thomas and Agyemang wrote in a statement: “The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations and their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable. 

“To that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.”

CHIEF CRITICS

Some on Twitter pointed out that people’s use of the #blacklivesmatter hashtag alongside a post of a black square could silence the movement, instead of amplifying black voices.

Several users are urging participants to use the designated hashtags #TheShowMustBePaused and #BlackoutTuesday to prevent the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, and vital information about ways to support the cause, being drowned out by black squares.

Singer Kehlani posted about the black tiles and the risk that they could drown out useful information. Others criticised participation in the initiative as performative and “virtue signalling.” Musician Bon Iver tweeted: “I love you all, but this music industry shutdown thing feels tone deaf to me,” before deleting the tweet.

Separately, the words “My Instagram” was trending on Twitter on Tuesday morning as users questioned the usefulness of the black tiles on their Instagram feeds. 

KEY BACKGROUND

The death of 46-year-old Floyd has reignited Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. and the world, and companies are increasingly bowing to public pressure to stand by the black community and publicly denounce racism and police brutality, as well as donate to anti-racism efforts.

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Facebook Employees Stage Virtual Revolt Against Zuckerberg’s Inaction On Trump’s ‘Shooting’ Post

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TOPLINE Dozens of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout on Monday, in an escalation of protests against CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s failure to act on President Trump’s “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” post.

KEY FACTS

  • Staff members flocked to rival platform Twitter for a second day, to denounce Zuckerberg’s “do-nothing” approach to Trump’s post that threatened violence toward George Floyd protesters.
  • One employee, Owen Anderson, announced in a tweet that he had quit the company.
  • “To be clear, this was in the works for a while. But after last week, I am happy to no longer support policies and values I vehemently disagree with,” he wrote.
  • Employees have also been circulating messages internally, with one staffer writing on a staff message board: “The hateful rhetoric advocating violence against black demonstrators by the U.S. President does not warrant defense under the guise of freedom of expression,” the New York Times reported. Others urged Zuckerberg to take down Trump’s post.
  • Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said employees will not have the protest days taken out of their vacation allowance, Reuters reported.
  • The walkout, staged virtually as all Facebook employees are working remotely in the pandemic,was triggered by Facebook’s refusal to take action over Trump’s inflammatory posts, while Twitter took the unprecedented step of flagging his comment for “glorifying violence.”
  • Zuckerberg has reportedly pushed the company’s weekly employee Q & A session from Friday to Tuesday.

CRUCIAL COMMENT

In a joint statement, a number of the virtual demonstrators tweeted: “Facebook’s recent decision to not act on posts that incite violence ignores other options to keep our community safe. We implore the Facebook leadership to #TakeAction.”

TANGENT

Online therapy company Talkspace has cut ties with Facebook over the issue. CEO Oren Frank tweeted on Monday: “We at Talkspace discontinued our partnership discussions with Facebook today. We will not support a platform that incites violence, racism, and lies. #BlackLivesMatter.”

NEWS PEG

President Trump has driven a wedge between Facebook staff and the social network’s founder. Facebook’s no-leak culture, and the largely united front between management and staff had largely weathered previous storms in its march to “connect the world.” That accord was shattered in a flood of tweets condemning Zuckerberg’s decision to keep Trump’s post on the site. Before the walkout, several senior employees blasted Zuckerberg’s defence of keeping the post on the site. Design manager Jason Stirman tweeted on Monday: “I‘m a FB employee that completely disagrees with Mark’s decision to do nothing about Trump’s recent posts, which clearly incite violence. I’m not alone inside of FB. There isn’t a neutral position on racism.”

In a post on Monday, Zuckerberg said Trump’s post and use of the historically racially charged phrase did not breach Facebook policies. “Our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies,” he said.

KEY BACKGROUND

The death of George Floyd after white policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes last Monday sparked outrage across the U.S. and subsequent protests in more than 75 cities. Companies, facing public pressure to speak out, have released statements pledging support to the black community, including Amazon, Netflix, Twitter and Peloton. On Monday, Zuckerberg announced Facebook is donating $10 million to groups campaigning for racial justice.

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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‘With Covid-19, See How Resilient Nature Is’

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Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa; image supplied

Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa, the youngest minister in the Angolan cabinet, is an intrepid adventurer, biologist and conservationist committed to saving the world’s last wild places.

Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa is not your ordinary minister. At 30 years old, the Luanda local is currently the youngest minister to serve in the Angolan cabinet and an intrepid adventurer with an inspiring hands-on background.

In 2015, Costa was one of the braves who undertook a four-month journey for the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project. The captivating trip documentary, Into the Okavango, follows the courageous crew of scientists (including Costa) who travel the riverine route. The journey began in the highlands of Angola and had the team meandering 2,400km by mokoro (a traditional canoe), camping wild along the Okavango River until they reached the town of Maun in Botswana. The trip illustrated how the Okavango Delta relies on Angolan rains, but also highlighted the costs of Angola’s lengthy war to its landscapes.

In April this year, Costa assumed the government position as Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment. “It is not exactly unusual for a woman to join the Angolan government,” says Costa, “but it’s not exactly common either.” Currently, there are seven women ministers in the Angolan cabinet, creating a gender split of roughly 35% female.

“We bring a lot of benefit for the simple fact that we can bring inclusion to the politics forged in society,” says Costa. “I think that every single one of us brings a different perspective to the whole context of politics. Currently, I am the youngest minister to serve in the Angolan cabinet. It makes me feel like there is hope for youth and hope for the future. I do think we bring an innovative way of thinking and innovative vision into the current system that is very beneficial to change and to the improvement of the system here in Angola.”

The National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project expedition revealed new species (to date, ongoing field trips have resulted in the discovery of 26 species new to science, more than 75 species potentially new to science, and more than 130 species previously unknown in Angola). It also embedded in Costa a life-long commitment to saving the world’s last wild places. It short, it changed her life.

“It changed the whole perception that I had of everything, personally, professionally, academically,” Costa admits. “The trip helped me see the world and my participation in the world, in a very different way. In a very concrete way and I don’t think I would be sitting here answering these questions if I hadn’t participated. I have never, ever in my entire life “envisioned myself as a minister. I don’t think I’ve ever envisioned myself being part of politics, but there is a writer who once said, ‘You don’t choose politics. Politics chooses you’, and that’s exactly what happened. I see it as an opportunity to bring change from the outside. I am someone that has always applied the policy that’s created by decision-makers. I think it’s an opportunity to bring that applicability into the system and make it much more action-focused – and more than a piece of paper.”

In 2017, Costa was named an emerging explorer at National Geographic, and in 2019, she became the Young Champion of the Earth for Africa in the United Nations Environment Program. Before taking a seat in the government, Costa worked as an ethno-conservationist to pioneer projects that developed working conservation models for communities living alongside crucial wildlife hubs.

“Being a biologist is also a great advantage for this position. I believe that policies should be made to be applied and not archived,” Costa says. Another benefit for her position is that she knows all about being on the ground. “I started my journey in conservation, looking specifically at biodiversity and working directly with the specimens. I started with turtles, and all we did was patrol the beaches and look after the nests – and that was it. There was no engagement. For a long time, I always thought there was a separation between humans and wildlife – and that the separation was needed for us to protect wildlife. Working for the past five years in the East of Angola, I realized that it is the complete opposite. The gap that we’ve created with nature is what causes us to destroy nature in the first place.”

Costa has a masters degree in Biology and a PhD in International Wildlife Conservation Practices from Oxford University. In the wake of Covid-19, we are just beginning to see the harsh effects of tourism loss to wilderness protection.

“Rural communities are the true protectors of the environment around them,” Costa says. “Ethno-conservation is the art, and it is our privilege of being able to work with communities for the sake of nature. Not just for the conservation of biodiversity, but also the improvement of their own lives.”

The drastic decline in visitor numbers in the wilds of Kenya, Zimbabwe and across the African continent highlights the importance of such a conservation model more than ever as decades of conservation successes hunker in jeopardy due to tourism collapse. 

“Our main target for tourism in Angola is internal tourism. We have 29 million people that don’t know most of the country,” says Costa. “We have a lot of potential though; whether it’s landscape, culture, adventure or eco-tourism, it’s possible in Angola. We are very much focused on creating the services and infrastructure for internal tourism before we look outside of our borders.

“In terms of tourism, Angola’s biggest asset is definitely diversity,” Costa enthuses. “Not just naturally and not just culturally. The conditions that you find from one place to the other are so unique that you can go, within Angola, to 10 different places that feel like completely different countries. We literally go from a tropical forest, all the way to a desert in one row. Angola has partnered with different collaborators to assure the protection of these spaces. Whatever happens in Iona National Park is completely different from what happens in the Luengue-Luiana National Park (which feeds the Okavango Basin), and that’s completely different from what happens in the Quiçama National Park.”

She also believes that protecting such wild spaces enables wildlife to flourish.

“Nature has this incredible thing that is, to me, one of the most fantastic traits. It is resilient. Even now, with this Covid-19 situation, we have seen how resilient nature is. Wilderness itself can resuscitate, and wilderness can find a future – if we just know how to protect it.”

When asked about inspiration and the future, Costa cites other intrepid conservationists, Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle as strong influences.

“If I have to send a message to young women around the world, what would it be? Do it. That’s something that I always say. Do it. Whatever it is that we set our minds to do. We can most definitely, definitely do it. We can achieve impossible things. I’m a minister today. That says a lot!”

 – By Melanie van Zyl

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