Organizers of the London-based Afropunk Festival dropped singer M.I.A. as its headlining act due to the backlash the England-born rapper received after she criticized the Black Lives Matter movement in April.
“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,” the festival’s organizers said in a statement Friday.
M.I.A.’s ban from the musical festival stemmed from comments she made during an April interview with the Evening Standard.
“It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter,” M.I.A. said in April. “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.”
Despite defending her controversial comments, the 40-year-old rapper tweeted that she wouldn’t perform at this year’s festival.
“Sorry I’m not doing Afropunk,” she tweeted last month. “I’ve been told to stay in my lane.”
While not mentioning M.I.A. by name, the Afropunk organizers explained that their decision to drop M.I.A. was about accepting people of all races and religions.
“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,” organizers wrote in their statement.
The statement continued:
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.
Interestingly enough, M.I.A. has been supportive of Black Lives Matter in the past. She praised the anti-police movement in June in her song “Poc That Still a Ryda.”
Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @jeromeehudson.