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M.I.A. will perform at Afropunk despite controversy

The festival issue a statement defending the rapper, who has faced criticism for her comments around Black Lives Matter

M.I.A. will still perform at Afropunk in September, despite the controvesy surrounding her booking.

The “Borders” rapper has been under fire for accepting a headline slot at the London edition of the festival, which takes place at Alexandra Palace on September 24, due to her previous comments on the Black Lives Matter movement. Afropunk is a festival dedicated to promoting “education, political awareness and self-empowerment”.

Speaking to ES Magazine in April, M.I.A. criticised American political activism for ignoring violence towards Muslim people. “It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter,” she said. “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.”

She since clarified her comments, writing on Twitter, “I’m not Muslim. My question was, on American platforms what do they allow you to stand up for in 2016?”

On Tuesday she tweeted that she’d be cancelling her performance after festivalgoers threatened to boycott the event unless she was removed. “Sorry I’m not doin’ Afropunk,” she tweeted on Monday. “I’ve been told to stay in my lane. Ha, there is no lane for 65 million refugees who’s (sic) lanes are blown up! #nolanes”

However, the festival have now issued a statement justifying her booking.

“AFROPUNK stands in solidarity with the struggles of Black people in America and worldwide, and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter is indeed a declaration of a global struggle,” they write. “AFROPUNK stands in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers, including black Muslims. AFROPUNK stands in solidarity with the 65 million millions of displaced human beings that are today engulfed in one of the greatest refugee crisis (sic) in modern history. The urgency of these struggles could not be more real, and they are intricately connected.”

“To us, the fact that M.I.A.’s comments sparked dialogue about a global view of the Black struggle is not a failing,” they continue. “We also know that without the community that supports our platform and our events, there would be no AFROPUNK, so we would never elevate an artist or performer who we considered at odds with our ethos or not supportive of those we stand beside. We’ve read and welcomed the critique of M.I.A.’s participation... The debate is healthy and as people who have long been silenced, we refuse to participate in silencing of other voices.

“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... To our community: trust that when your day standing in the circle of the criticized comes, we will have your back. Let’s love and struggle along with one another – and turn up on the system.”

Read the full statement below.