Celebrities take a stand

Shawn+Mende%27s+Instagram+post

Photo @shawnmendes

Shawn Mende’s Instagram post

Jessica Isser, R1 Editor-In-Chief

The murder of George Floyd has sparked a new era of social change as people from around the country are protesting police brutality and systemic racism. Whether it be donating to causes that support Black Lives Matter, educating themselves, sharing videos and posts about the protests or attending a protest in person, there are multiple avenues people are taking to pledge their support to Black Lives Matter. Among those who are showing support for BLM are celebrities and famous organizations who are using their social media platforms and popularity to support the movement and help enact change. 

Due to the coronavirus, the annual Tony Awards was canceled, but in replacement of the awards show, a Tony celebration was planned for June 7, which would raise money for the American Theater Wing and the Broadway League. However, the show has been postponed in solidarity with George Floyd’s murder and the national protests for Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues, artists, friends, communities and audiences of all races in the fight for equality and unity,” said Broadway.com Editor-in-Chief Paul Wontorek.

“Not only was [postponing the celebration] respectful of George Floyd’s death, but it was respectful of the entire Black Lives Matter movement,” said junior Sophie Tanabaum. “The Tony Awards is a huge organization and this TV event would have garnered a lot of attention that is now rightfully being redirected to focus on elevating this movement and black voices.”

The Tony Awards isn’t the only event which is being postponed in light of national protests. June is Pride Month, a time used to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, often with Pride Parades and other events. However, numerous states have canceled their celebrations in the wake of protests and in support of Black Lives Matter. Ark Valley Pride, located in Arkansas, has canceled its celebration, along with Boston Pride and Los Angeles Pride. Instead of holding celebratory parades, the organizations have urged people to use this time instead to protest against systemic racism and police brutality. In an article about canceling the celebrations, Ark Valley Voice, a news publication located in Arkansas Valley, said, “This is not the time to celebrate, but to stand in solidarity with the millions of peaceful protesters around the world.” 

Similarly, in an article on Boston.com, the Boston Pride Board said, “Boston Pride is working to collaborate and support organizations that serve communities of color and address racism, to ensure that our organization, programs, and future events prioritize anti-racist efforts.”

In addition to organizations standing in solidarity with the national protests, celebrities have taken advantage of their fan base to support the movement. Many celebrities posted a black screen on their Instagram page for the trending #blackouttuesday, have shared videos of support for the movement, or attended protests themselves. But, there are some celebrities who have gone above and beyond to help the movement in the past few weeks. 

Pop singer Shawn Mendes has handed over his Instagram account, which has 56 million followers, to young black activists in order to amplify their voices. In a post, Mendes explained, “I’ve decided to hand over my platform on Instagram and give my stories for the next few days to some indelible young Black changemaker on the frontlines in the fight against systemic racism. Please receive them with love and solidarity.” 

Selena Gomez also handed her Instagram account of 179 million followers to activists such as Alicia Garza, a co-creator of Black Lives Matter and founder of Black Futures Lab, an organization aiming to get black communities more involved in politics. In a video posted on Gomez’s Instagram, Garza said, “In order for us to change it, we got to join a movement. We all have to stand together and say, ‘We won’t take it anymore and here’s what we want you to do instead.’”

Rhianna shut down production of her company Fenty on June 2 in solidarity with George Floyd’s murder and #blackouttuesday. In an Instagram post on Fenty’s page she wrote, “This is not a day off. This is a day to reflect and find ways to make real change. This is a day to #PullUp.”  In addition, Fenty announced that it will be donating funds to Color of Change and Movement for Black Lives. 

While not all celebrities have supported the protests and movement in the same way, many WHS students agreed that many celebrities have used their amplified voices to help make change. “I feel like celebrities are doing enough to help support BLM,” said junior Samantha Hoffmann. “A lot of celebrities have posted on their social media platforms not only posts supporting BLM, but have also been posting links to donate to BLM foundations and charities along with attending protests.”

On the other hand, not all WHS students feel that celebrities are doing their part. Tanabaum said, “Right now we see a lot of companies and celebrities putting out statements about how black lives matter, but all of that is somewhat meaningless unless they actually do something about it.  I would love to see this industry make strides to change instead of just making statements about the matter.”