M.I.A. is set to headline the upcoming Afropunk festival in London, but she’s contemplating canceling her appearance altogether following a negative backlash. Back in April this year, she made some controversial comments in which she asked, “Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters?” The question came after she tweeted, “It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter.”
She later clarified that he comments wasn’t meant as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement, saying, “I’m not Muslim. My question was, on American platforms what do they allow you to stand up for in 2016?” M.I.A. has previously been very vocal about the current refugee crisis, and her comments back in April have upset a number of her fans. Many remain unhappy with her explanation of her comments, and she’s since received a backlash after being announced as headliner at Afropunk’s London festival.
“(This Is) a slap in the face to black people everywhere,” wrote one user on the Black Ladies sub-Reddit. “After what she said she shouldn’t be getting any kind of business from any pro-black venues, and she she shouldn’t be a headlining act regardless. Was Afropunk sold to a white company recently or something?” Another user added, “It’s not just her comments, there’s also the fact that not only is she NOT black, she’s headlining the festival on a roster with very few black women.”
M.I.A. received word of the backlash, responding promptly on Twitter yesterday. “It’s not the first time my words have been twisted – when u see drones we don’t think what’s the colour of the person flying it? We c USA,” she tweeted. “When I stand for people from all over the world – it’s hard to say if anyone is more important than the other. Surly equality is key. Accusing me of racism is no better than being accused of terrorism – yet the number of people killed by Americans stamped wars continue. Why don’t we look at how many ex military personal after killing elsewhere go home to the US and work in the police force.”
She ended her series of tweets, saying, “If pulling the show saves the cause and lives then that’s what I’ll do.” She tweeted more about the situation, but she’s since deleted a number of tweets talking about the money that exchanged hands reports Dazed. She says the festival paid her “less than any” she had previously performed at. “Afropunk owner is mixed black and Israeli,” she explained. “To pull Afropunk festival to a statement ‘black people should play black festivals’ denies the only power music had in the to unite peeps. “Ultimately by not understanding my original statement and seeing it as anti anything actually protects the very system you’re fighting.”
Afropunk has yet to comment.