Black Lives Matter performance on TV talent show sparks debate

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·3-min read

A judge on a UK talent show has taken to Twitter to defend a controversial Black Lives Matter-inspired performance that sparked fierce debate among viewers online.

Ashley Banjo, who is filling in for an injured Simon Cowell on Britain’s Got Talent, joined his dance troupe Diversity on-stage for Saturday night’s routine which was filled with references to race-related events of the past few months.

At one point during the performance Ashley was knelt on by another dancer in a police costume. Photo: ITV.
At one point during the performance BGT judge Ashley was knelt on by another dancer in a police costume. Photo: ITV.

At one point during the rousing performance, a dancer dressed as a police officer knelt on Ashley’s neck in a direct nod to the death of George Floyd in police custody earlier this year.

The dancers all took a knee while the powerful new song “Black Lives Matter” by Canadain rapper Dax which features a now-infamous quote by Mr Floyd — “I can’t breathe” — in the lyrics.

The routine divided fan opinion, with some taking to social media to praise Ashley, 31, and Diversity — who won BGT back in 2009 — while others shared their outrage and criticism.

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Ashley addressed the controversy on Twitter. Photo: Twitter/ashleybanjo.
Ashley addressed the controversy on Twitter. Photo: Twitter/ashleybanjo.

BLM performance slammed

“No need for it on BGT, sorry but there's a time and a place, and I turned off,” tweeted one unhappy viewer.

“Not sure it is appropriate for a Saturday family show, can you not see that your [sic] putting out negativity by suggesting some need to change? I’m a huge Diversity fan and admire you for your creativity and talent just not sure you got it right this time though,” added another.

One simply wrote, “Wrong in all ways”.

Over a thousand complaints were reportedly received by Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, about the performance according to BBC.

“We are assessing the complaints against our broadcasting rules, but are yet to decide whether or not to investigate,” an Ofcom spokesperson told the publication.

Photo: Twitter.
Photo: Twitter.
Photo: Twitter.
Photo: Twitter.

Elsewhere online the sentiment was far more positive, with fans sharing messages of support for the ‘amazing’ performance.

“How can anyone hate on that performance you said exactly what needed to be said through an amazing performance,” one wrote on Instagram.

“Oh my that just left me with goosebumps and welling up, so emotional,” shared another.

“To all the haters and negative people, of course all lives matter. However, when one section of the community are disproportionately affected by intolerance and hatred the message needs to be heard that thier lives are of equal worth,” another tweeted.

Photo: Twitter.
Photo: Twitter.

Judge defends Diversity routine

Judge Ashley later shared the full performance video to Instagram, writing in the caption that he welcomed all types of feedback and was ‘sending nothing but love’ to everyone.

“One day we will look back and realise 2020 was the year everything changed,” he wrote.

“In the present moment though there is still so much to say... But I will just let this performance say it for me. For the thousands of supportive messages of Love and inclusion - Thank you.

“And for the thousands of messages of hate and ignorance I’ve received - Thank you... You highlight exactly what needs to change and why this was so important to me and the rest of @diversity_official.

“Sending nothing but love and positive vibes to everyone. Stronger together.”

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