Social media feeds went dark and quiet on Tuesday as tens of millions of people showed solidarity with the black community following the death of George Floyd in US police custody.
As part of an initiative called Blackout Tuesday, social media users shared black squares and paused posting on their profiles as they called for racial equality.
Statistics from Instagram alone showed posts with the hashtag #blackouttuesday had been used more than 22 million times by Tuesday evening – while related tags #blackoutday2020 and #theshowmustbepaused were also used hundreds of thousands of times.
The trend has its roots in the music industry, with stars such as Rihanna, Ariana Grande and Katy Perry among those taking part.
Film and sporting heroes including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Argentine footballer Lionel Messi and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton also shared the hashtag.
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This past week has been so dark. I have failed to keep hold of my emotions. I have felt so much anger, sadness and disbelief in what my eyes have seen. I am completely overcome with rage at the sight of such blatant disregard for the lives of our people. The injustice that we are seeing our brothers and sisters face all over the world time and time again is disgusting, and MUST stop. So many people seem surprised, but to us unfortunately, it is not surprising. Those of us who are black, brown or in between, see it everyday and should not have to feel as though we were born guilty, don’t belong, or fear for our lives based on the colour of our skin. Will Smith said it best, racism is not getting worse, it’s being filmed. Only now that the world is so well equipped with cameras has this issue been able to come to light in such a big way. It is only when there are riots and screams for justice that the powers that be cave in and do something, but by then it is far too late and not enough has been done. It took hundreds of thousands of peoples complaints and buildings to burn before officials reacted and decided to arrest Derek Chauvin for murder, and that is sad. Unfortunately, America is not the only place where racism lives and we continue to fail as humans when we cannot stand up for what is right. Please do not sit in silence, no matter the colour of your skin. Black Lives Matter. #blackouttuesday ✊🏽
The idea began with black music executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, who registered the website theshowmustbepaused.com on Saturday.
On the site, the women said they created the idea in response to the deaths of Mr Floyd and “countless other black citizens at the hands of police”.
They said Tuesday’s blackout was “meant to intentionally disrupt the work week” and inspire “reflective and productive” conversation to support the black community.
It was also intended to hold the music industry accountable for profiting “predominantly from black art” and to encourage major corporations to protect black communities that “have made them disproportionately wealthy”.
“This is not just a 24-hour initiative,” they added. “We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. We are tired and can’t change things alone.”
The hashtag drew criticism from some, with suggestions it risked allowing messages from the Black Lives Matter movement to be lost and that now is not the time to stop posting on social media.
“I just really think this is the time to push as hard as ever,” tweeted American rapper Lil Nas X.
“I don’t think the movement has ever been this powerful. We don’t need to slow it down by posting nothing. we need to spread info and be as loud as ever.”
The musician joined many in encouraging those posting black boxes to avoid also using #BlackLivesMatter, to ensure information from the movement is not lost, and to share links to petitions and places to donate.