Ashley Banjo, aged 31, is a Britain’s Got Talent contestant.
He and his dance group, Diversity, are popular participants in this year’s competition, having made it to the semi-finals. The semi-final performance aired last week. It was pre-recorded three weeks ago.
During the semi-final performance, Banjo and his group chose to make a political statement, paying tribute to the recent worldwide BLM protests.
The dance routine summarized all the major events of 2020, including the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, George Floyd’s murder, and the subsequent BLM protests. The routine retold George Floyd’s death.
In May, Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin, who asphyxiated him by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes straight.
Now, a week later, he has opened up about the response his group received for the performance. He cited that many ‘racial abuse and threats’ were hurled in their directions. The group was heavily criticized for highlighting such a serious topic on a family-centered show.
Up to 15,500 complaints were filed against the group by the show’s viewership.
Despite this negative criticism, Banjo and his team ‘stand by’ and are ‘proud of’ their performance. On Sunday, Banjo relayed his response to the criticism on Instagram. He did a live video, beginning by thanking those who supported the group’s performance.
Many people did call the performance ‘powerful’ and ‘meaningful’. Banjo asserted that despite the 15,000 complaints, the performance mostly received support.
“The positive response has been huge so thank you so much, everyone, who has supported and shown love, stood by what we did.”
According to Banjo, “[the performance] was layered, it was something we wanted to bring to the stage to bring hope but also not to shy away from difficult conversations and difficult issues that have arisen.”
Banjo also defended his group’s decision to use Britain’s Got Talent as a platform for such a politically-charged performance. He said, “If an artist can’t use real-world issues, universal issues, to inspire their art and come through how they express them then what’s the point?”