This weekend I went to see Mykki Blanco perform. A queer, nonbinary riot grrrl rap artist, Mykki talks about issues that are so taboo in today's society through performance art and spoken word.
The show was part of M.IA’s curation of Meltdown festival, a ten day celebration of music and performance aimed at challenging perceptions and breaking boundaries. Mykki threw themself into the crowd, removing items of clothing and swaggering back and forth across the stage with a mic stand draped across their back like a baseball bat.
The crowd, which was made up predominantly of LGBT+ people, was electric. At one point, Mykki talked about a relationship between a person who was HIV-positive and their partner. The crowd were vocal with support, both to the cause and their acknowledgment of the trauma faced by those with HIV and the associated stigmas. It felt fantastic.
Mykki then went on to say 'protect black children', to which there was little more than a murmur over the music. I found this frustrating. There was almost an unease with the statement among the crowd. Surely the audience of a queer, political rapper would share this sentiment? Not feel uncomfortable or indifferent about it?
Shouldn’t we all believe in protecting black children? Don’t we all believe that black lives matter?
Violence against People of Colour (PoC) may not be as talked about in the UK, but is still something that all of us have a responsibility to stand up to and challenge. It’s so disappointing that, despite having a fanbase of LGBT+ people who themselves must experience and understand oppression, there was little to no engagement with Mykki’s statement on race.
This is not a new phenomenon however. Just a few months ago, Durham Pride booked a blackface Beyoncé tribute act (which they subsequently cancelled), and at first were completely unapologetic about their decision.
People constantly challenge the ‘point’ of the UK Black Pride. Some even call the existence of the event ‘racist’. Yet at the same time, LGBT PoC continue to experience discrimination within our community, be it on apps, in bars or at Pride events themselves across Britain.
Equality for all minorities, be that black, LGBT+, female, those with disabilities or otherwise, is very far off being won. For that reason, it’s vital that all of us show solidarity across the board as allies so that we can all start making a difference in the world.
Mykki’s performance brought me joy and drove me to tears, because one minute we were all connected, unified in hope and the next divided over something that in my opinion, shouldn’t be questioned.
All I hope is that next time the rap star comes to the UK, we will be a fuller formed community, that stands united by our diversity rather than segregated by it.
Words by James Michaels