Following Diversity's powerful Black Lives Matter performance on Britain's Got Talent in September — which received 25,000 viewer complaints to Ofcom — Ashley Banjo has been vocal on his own social media about the severe racial abuse he has received since.
Now, Ashley speaks with British GQ about the abuse following the performance and racism in the UK. Ashley describes the BGT performance as "a summary of the things that have affected us" this year. "It would be impossible to ignore how much the Black Lives Matter movement, the idea of racism coming to the forefront of global attention, is present. It's here, and it's right now. So in [Diversity's] summary of the year, it was impossible for me not to reflect upon it," he added.
Despite the abuse Ashley received, he explains that he's proud of the performance and the conversations started by Diversity. "What I find the most incredible thing about all of this is that the Black Lives Matter element of the routine is the part that stuck with people, which, like I said, I can't reiterate enough how much I'm proud of."
When British GQ asked Ashley about the complaints from people who argued that BGT wasn't the "right stage" for the performance, "What is the right stage?" he responded. "I mean, it's the right stage to talk about, you know, personal loss or patriotism or to bring a beautiful story this year about a dog and the dog trade. We talk about climate change. Yet, if I bring 20 seconds of the idea of racism into performance, all of a sudden it's not the right stage? And you have to ask why, you know? Why can we talk about a multitude of other issues, yet me as a creative and an artist, with something that has affected me, impacted me deeply, and also been global news for the past month, I'm not allowed to talk about it? You have to kind of wonder why."
Although he noted the constant negativity came as a shock, it didn't faze him or make him reconsider the performance. In fact, quite the opposite. "I feel proud that [Diversity] has become a bit of a symbol for something that I want to live up to. I want to be able to speak up — and not just about racism, not just about the idea of Black lives mattering," he said. "I just want people to know racism is real, and right now, we're shining the light on the idea that Black lives matter, because they do."
"I am someone who is passionately against any form of racism," Ashley said. "For me, [Black Lives Matter] is a human issue." Watch the full British GQ interview above.