“This is what change looks like, and I am so proud to be standing here,” says Bafta winner Ashley Banjo.
Last year, Diversity took to the stage at Britain’s Got Talent to perform an electrifying routine inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, which referenced the moment George Floyd died while being arrested by a police officer in the US.
The words “I can’t breathe” formed part of the backing track, referencing words spoken by Floyd.
You can watch the performance for yourself below:
The dance, which saw troupe leader Ashley Banjo lie down on the stage as a performer dressed as a police officer knelt on his back, saw almost 30,000 complaints filed to Ofcom, with viewers criticising the routine for being “too political.”
As if that weren’t shocking enough, however, Banjo also revealed that he and other members of Diversity were subjected to relentless racist abuse, and even death threats, following the BGT performance.
Now, though, in a beautiful turn of events, the routine has been named Virgin Media’s Must-See Moment (as voted for by the public) at the 2021 Baftas.
And Banjo’s powerful acceptance speech, which he made alongside his brother, Jordan, has gone down an absolute storm on Twitter.
Thanking all those who “stood by us” during the furore, Banjo said: “It was a dark time but that support made a difference and in a way I have to say thank you to the people who complained, the people who put all that abuse out there online.
“You showed the truth. You showed exactly why this performance and this moment was necessary.
“But for all those people, take a look… this is what change looks like, and I am so proud to be standing here.”
Banjo concluded powerfully: “For me, this is about not representing the minority. It felt like we weren’t at the time, but standing here now, this represents the majority, so thank you all so much.
“Let’s keep having those difficult conversations, let’s keep standing up for what’s right regardless of the colour of our skin and we will achieve that equality.”
You can watch the speech in full below:
It’s worth noting that Ofcom rejected the complaints it received about Diversity’s Black Lives Matter routine, issuing a statement that said: “We carefully considered a large number of complaints about this artistic routine, an area where freedom of expression is particularly important.
“Diversity’s performance referred to challenging and potentially controversial subjects, and in our view, its central message was a call for social cohesion and unity. Any depictions of violence by the performers were highly stylised and symbolic of recent global events, and there was no explicit reference to any particular political organisation – but rather a message that the lives of black people matter.”
The 2021 TV Baftas is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.
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