‘All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.’ James Baldwin.
Ashley Banjo, Artistic Director of Diversity has been accused of telling a story with bias, of inciting violence against the police, using mainstream TV for his own agenda, of glamourising without empathy the death of a man. A black man, George Floyd.
Diversity are arguably the UKs most successful commercial street dance entity and became household names since winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. They returned to the show at the start of September to present their Black Lives Matter piece. The performance was an emotional and provocative commentary on current affairs, opening with COVID and transitioning to, in Ashley’s voice, “something more sinister. Another disease deep rooted in our system. Fear, hate, ignorance, but racism was the symptom.” Ashley has been bludgeoned across social media by racist complaints, scrutiny over the intentions of his choreography, and protests to ITV about what should be allowed prime time slots. Exactly the reason why work like the Diversity Black Lives Matter piece is a necessary addition to peak time viewings.
SIN Cru are joining the reams of praise and support that has also inundated Diversity amongst the negativity, and in the words of Pablo Picasso, would like to ask, ‘what do you think an artist is? He is a political being, constantly aware of the heart breaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. Painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.’