Op-Ed

M.I.A. and Missteps Towards International Solidarity

M.I.A.'s recent remarks that almost cost her Afropunk London should spark a larger dialogue like the extensive history of colonial violence.

This article originally appeared in Crystal Kayiza's blog on Medium under the same title, ‘M.I.A. and Missteps Towards International Solidarity.'


While the international community observed World Refugee Day earlier this week, M.I.A. returned to Twitter to address her comments on the Black Lives Matter movement.

In April, the singer told Evening Standard magazine:

It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter. 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.

Black Lives Matter created one of the most visible civil rights movements of my generation and since its inception there has been a warranted resistance towards appropriation of any kind.

When I first read M.I.A.’s comments I was not surprised by her sentiments. I’ve been a longtime fan of the intentional political messages in her music. M.I.A. is among a community of musicians that brought internationally relevant and subversive music to mainstream American Millennials. This is why the backlash to her comments gave me pause.

Since her initial statement she’s received overwhelming critique from all sides of social media and even announced on Monday that she would not be performing at the inaugural Afropunk Festival in London.

Her comments leave a large space for education on the way that American systems of power uniquely oppressed Black folks in the United States. They also open up a dialogue about international solidarity.

The legacy of chattel slavery and Jim Crow is still felt today. Beyond this history is a larger landscape that includes America’s legacy of imperialism and genocide at home and abroad. M.I.A.’s comments created tension because they highlight an important narrative—Black folks have largely carried the burden of contending against oppressive systems of power and consequently our movements, voices and bodies are constantly co-opted.

The reaction against her politics holds true within the context of the United States of America. But the Diaspora is wide and the communities of oppressed people impacted by Western colonization and genocide is even wider. I believe M.I.A. points to a need to have a more centered dialogue about the extensive history of colonial violence.

It is in the interest of the colonizer to rupture relationships between the colonized. The power of third world solidarity should never be underestimated. There is power in relationships between protesters in Palestine and Ferguson. There is power in Pan-African understandings of racial and ethnic systems of oppression. And there is power in understanding how our militarized government has impacted millions abroad.

What I don’t believe M.I.A. is suggesting is for Black folks to invest in the oppression Olympics — dividing who’s history and pain deserves a platform. But I do think she was making a valid critique and challenging some of the most visible members of our community to complicate their action.

There are lanes but there are also important intersections. There are people in power with a vested interest in not complicating issues of race with imperialism and nationalism. Although her belief in third world liberation is not new, it serves as a catalyst to a larger conversation.

Afropunk released a statement today reaffirming inclusion as a priority stating:

M.I.A. will still perform at AFROPUNK London, and there is a huge amount of UK/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 UK, who are continuously erased.

Read the full statement below:

Image via Afropunk's Twitter.

Crystal Kayiza is a documentary filmmaker and writer based in Brooklyn with a focus on narratives within the African Diaspora. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Music
Image: Nabsolute Media

Reekado Banks Recalls The Carnage of The #EndSARS Protests In Single 'Ozumba Mbadiwe'

The Nigerian singer pays his respects to those lost during last year's #EndSARS protests.

Nigerian singer and songwriter Reekado Banks is back with a track that is as socially important as it is a banger. It seems fitting for the singer's first solo release of the year to be a tribute to his fellow countrypeople fighting for a country that they all wish to live in. The 27-year-old Afrobeats crooner has returned with endearing track 'Ozumba Mbadiwe', honoring the one-year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests that saw the Nigerian government authorize an onslaught of attacks on Nigerian citizens for their anti-government demonstrations.

The protests took the world by storm, additionally because the Nigerian government insists that none of the police brutality happened. In an attempt to gaslight the globe, Nigerian officials have come out to hoards to deny any and all accusations of unlawfully killing peaceful protesters. Banks mentions the absurd denials in the track, singing "October 20, 2020 something happened with the government, they think say we forget," in the second verse. Reekado's reflective lyrics blend smoothly and are supported by the upbeat, effortless Afrobeat rhythm.

In another reflective shoutout to his home, 'Ozumba Mbadiwe' is named after a popular expressway on Lagos Island that leads to the infamous Lekki Toll Gate where protesters were shot at, traumatized, and murdered. Although packed with conscious references, the P.Priime produced track is a perfect amalgamation of the talents that Reekado Banks has to offer; a wispy opening verse, a hook to kill, and an ethereal aura to mark this as a song as a hit. On "Ozumba Mbadiwe," all the elements align for Reekado's signature unsinkable sound to take flight.

Check out Reekado Bank's lyric video for his single 'Ozumba Mbadiwe'

Reekado Banks - Ozumba Mbadiwe (Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

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