Every time Megan Thee Stallion releases a new song, TikTok’s floodgates open. From “Cry Baby” to “Savage”, the social media app is full of multi-step dances, complex challenges and various remixes. That is, until black designers decide to stop making them.

“Normally, once a song by Megan comes out, there’s a dance that night, a dance within the hour,” Challan Trishann, who prefers to go by Challan T., 22, recently told The Times TikToker. . “But I [was] noticing that there is no dancing [for Stallion’s latest song].

“I was scrolling and noticed everyone waving their arms under the sound,” she added, referring to how TikTok users can find countless videos that feature and use the same sound or the same music by clicking on the spinning disc in the lower right corner of a video.

Whether it’s Keara Wilson’s “Savage” challenge, Layla Muhammad’s “Twerkulator” dance, or Jalaiah Harmon’s “Renegade”, black creators have spawned some of the biggest freaks on the internet.

However, as the movements become more and more prevalent – and usurped by white faces – their origins are fading into oblivion. As white influencers like Addison Rae make appearances on late night TV shows, break records, and take advantage of reality TV series offerings, black creators are being left behind begging for credit.

Tired of constant cultural and intellectual theft, the black creators of TikTok have been on strike since June 10, refraining from dancing to Megan Thee Stallion’s latest single, “Thot S—”.

A recent transplant from Los Angeles, living with other Black TikTokers in a house nicknamed “The Crib Around the Corner”, Challan T. is a cosplayer and content creator on the app. When he realized the strike was in effect, the Barbados native tweeted on June 20, “The way nobody knows what to do…. because we will not do LMFOAJFKFOFKFJFOFK dances ”

Challan T. said in an interview: “I made my tweet laugh … but I thought about it more and thought no, that’s a good thing that happened. I actually am very happy that this has happened and I know it is going to make a difference somewhere whether it is minimal or not.

Keon Martin, 17, from Cincinnati, came across a video of white designers waving their arms side to side when Stallion’s words clearly read, “Hands on knees, shaking a—, on my thot s—. ” He then made his own video making fun of them, which racked up over 368,000 likes.

“I just think it’s been overdue for a very long time. When I first learned that there was a strike, I was so stunned, ”Martin told The Times. “Black designers are really fed up with our dances and trends being stolen. We’re not credited, but a white person can follow our trend and come out with 100,000 followers. “

The strike did not come out of nowhere. According to Erick Louis, a 21-year-old TikTok star, there was an ongoing speech prompted by the words to Nicki Minaj’s “Black Barbies”: “I’m af— Black Barbie, pretty face, perfect body.”

“When you click on a sound, you can see all of the videos below it, and it was literally a group of white women singing that specific part,” Louis said. “Throughout the week, a lot of people, especially black women, were simply explaining their unease with the situation. It didn’t seem like the whites were ready to listen. There was a lot of gaslighting going on.

Two hours before midnight on June 10, Louis posted a video that arguably spurred the dance-free strike.

With “Thot S—” playing in the background and the words “MADE A DANCE TO THIS SONG” lingering above his head, Louis braced himself – then waved both middle fingers in the air. The words above it have been replaced with “SIKE. THIS APP WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT BLACKS. “

“We set the trends … and when we take ourselves out of the equation … all that’s left is mediocrity,” Louis told The Times. “I can’t tell you how long this is going to last, but I do want to say that I think this is an indicator of the frustration of the black community. I feel like this isn’t the last time something like this has happened.

TikToker Herecia Grace recently created a video captioned “Stay Strong Ladies!” They feel it! in support of the strike, joking about how hard it was for her and her sisters to refrain from dancing to Megan Thee Stallion’s new song. The Illinois native grew her audience by posting videos with social commentary on the black animated portrayal.

“The understanding that we weren’t dancing was just a well-known thing,” the 23-year-old said in an interview. “I feel like as black women and black people we are humans so rhythmically involved. There is a motion that goes to everything. It was my personal fight, haha.

The heightened activism over the past summer led TikTok users to add “#blm” to their bio and change their profile photos to fists. However, Louis said many of his videos regarding black issues were deleted overnight, and black creators who have millions of subscribers are still not verified on the app.

Louis said: “I know for myself personally that this is a much bigger problem outside of this digital colonization. TikTok has a really big problem with only black rulers and anti-black people. What kind of flies over people’s heads is this question about exploiting work on the app.

“Without black creators, things are not created on this app. Pop culture really moves behind us when we move it, ”Grace said. “TikTok definitely decides what goes viral, and I think they just don’t choose us. I think beauty standards have something to do with it.

There have been complaints that TikTok removed content from Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd, which TikTok says was due to a glitch.

“We care deeply about the experience of black creators on our platform and we continue to work every day to create a supportive environment for our community while instilling a culture where honoring and crediting creators for their creative contributions is the norm. “said a spokesperson for TikTok. said in a statement when reached by The Times this week.

On June 23, the company posted a blog post about its commitment to diversity and inclusion and said people can follow the recently launched @BlackTikTok account. While Louis said the company has not yet contacted him personally about the strike, the creators want words to turn into action.

Challan T., who has more than 4 million followers on TikTok, said the platform needs to be more active in advancing and advocating for black creators. In her experience, there have been several instances where she was not credited for her work.

She said she often feels uncomfortable asking for credit from those who repost her content without attribution because someone will inevitably back down – and the aversion to crediting black creators stems from one thing. .

“Racism,” said Challan T., laughing. “People just don’t want to give black people credit for the things we make. Because there are a lot of times a white designer will do a dance, and I’ll see that credit in the caption every time. If it’s a black person, it’s automatically invalid for some people, and they don’t even want to try. “

This lack of credit breeds a familiar disappointment for black creators, which transcends TikTok history and is iconic in American pop culture. In September 2019, Harmon from Georgia created the original dance “Renegade,” but a month later, TikTok’s self-styled queen Charli D’Amelio went viral for the dance.

It wasn’t until February 2020 that Harmon finally received credit after public outrage. On Tuesday, actor Leslie Jordan featured Harmon on his Instagram page, giving him credit for “Renegade.”

From AAVE (African American Vernacular English) reduced to the “language of Generation Z” on “Saturday Night Live” to Fortnite accused of stealing popular dances from the creators of Black TikTok, cultural appropriation is rampant and has tangible financial ramifications.

“I was hoping people would see from this that this app actually has no creativity without black people. So maybe we should credit them when they create these things, instead of making it difficult. Credit can take you very far, like @yodelinghaley’s credit got her in the Doja Cat clip [for ‘Say So’]”Said Challan T.

Grace wants to believe that integrating attribution into these platforms shouldn’t be such a big request, but obviously that’s not true. She would like to see TikTok promote content from black creators on the #ForYou page, which recommends videos tailored to user interests, in the same way it does for white creators.

While no one knows how long the strike will last – or whether TikTok will allay concerns with a fleeting #amplifyblackvoices hashtag and additional programs – black content creators agree it’s time for TikTok to prove it values ​​contribution and content from black creators.

” I sincerely hope [a strike] happens every now and then just to shake the table up a bit, because it seems like it really made a difference this time, ”said Challan T.“ People were actually like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t realize at how good you guys are doing on the app. ‘”

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