What is Blackout Tuesday? Why people posted black squares to Instagram in solidarity with Black Lives Matter - and how to take part

A memorial left for George Floyd who died in custody on 26 May in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo: KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)A memorial left for George Floyd who died in custody on 26 May in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo: KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
A memorial left for George Floyd who died in custody on 26 May in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo: KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images) | Getty Images
The death of George Floyd – and the subsequent protests rocking America – has caused uproar throughout the world, drawing attention back to the vast systemic racial injustices within society

On 25 May, Floyd – an African-American man – was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street as white American Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the right side of his neck.

Chauvin’s knee remained there for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, despite Floyd’s repeated pleas of “I can’t breathe” – 2 minutes and 53 seconds of that time occurred after Floyd became unresponsive. He died in custody.

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The fallout from this most awful of racially aggravated events has been far reaching, with dramatic clashes between protesters and police forces across many American cities over the past week.

Protesters confront police outside the 3rd Police Precinct in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)Protesters confront police outside the 3rd Police Precinct in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Protesters confront police outside the 3rd Police Precinct in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) | Getty Images
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As racial injustice rears its ugly head once again, demonstrations have been seen in countries across the world, despite much of the planet still under some form of lockdown from coronavirus.

Everyone is looking to show their support for the cause, to raise awareness of a topic that’s sadly become all too prescient in recent days.

That’s why this week, Tuesday 2 June was #BlackoutTuesday, a day when you will likely have noticed many of your favourite artists, websites and media outlets going dark across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Protesters gather in a call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after a white policeman kneeled on his neck for several minutes (Photo: KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)Protesters gather in a call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after a white policeman kneeled on his neck for several minutes (Photo: KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesters gather in a call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after a white policeman kneeled on his neck for several minutes (Photo: KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images) | Getty Images

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is #BlackoutTuesday?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the idea for #BlackoutTuesday comes from, but many are crediting music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang with getting the ball rolling with their #theshowmustbepaused initiative.

An official website explains that the social media movement is “meant to intentionally disrupt the work week… in observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard."

The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry built on privilege, and one that has “profited prominently from black art”.

“Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations and their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable,” says the website.

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Despite the name ‘Blackout Tuesday’ being attribute to it, Thomas and Agyemang say: “This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul."

What is happening?

Major musical artists like the Rolling Stones, Billie Eilish and Quincy Jones all observed the day

No hard and fast ‘rules’ were set on how to show support for the initiative, but at the very minimum, bands and artists modified their social media profiles, changing cover images and display pictures to the colour black.

They also refrained from posting across social media channels; a number of artists also cancelled listening parties or fan events.

Spotify added eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence to selected playlists and podcasts, reflecting the length of time an aggressive knee was applied to the side of George Floyd's neck.

Major record labels like Def Jam, Interscope, Sony Music, Columbia Records, and also took part, and music-based companies such as Live Nation and TikTok supported and stood with the black community.

Independent bands and labels from across the world also lended their support to this most worthy of causes.

Who else is taking part?

While #theshowmustbepaused and #BlackoutTuesday originated in the music industry, word of the movement inevitably spread, and representatives across many different industries from entertainment and beyond lended their support to the cause.

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Celebrities from the world of film and TV vowed to take part, and in America, a number of television networks went dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in honour of Floyd.

MTV did not “hold any meetings nor conduct any business… in solidarity with our African American colleagues and loved ones across the country,” according to Chris McCarthy, president of the ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group.

How can I get involved?

There are a number of ways you can get involved and show your support for Blackout Tuesday and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Blacking out your social media profile and posting a black square to your feeds is a first step, but theshowmustbepaused.com lists further suggestions as to how you can make a difference, and enact positive change:

- If you have been impacted by the recent events, take a break - there is a lot going on and sometimes we all just need a minute. Take that minute

- Help the family of George Floyd HERE

- Fight for Breonna Taylor HERE

- Help the family of Ahmaud Arbery HERE

- Want to help protesters? Donate to one or more community bail funds HERE

- Visit Movement For Black Lives for additional ways you can help the cause

- Want to connect with leaders building grass roots campaigns? Click HERE

- Are you an ally and want to learn more? Here are some anti-racism resources