I’m always up for a rave. And a rave before work is one of the few things I’d stop snoozing the alarm for. But then one such event called Morning Gloryville happened in London and was broadcast to the world on Facebook Live. People of colour collectively rolled their eyes.
Still stoned on the memory of my ex’s misdeeds, now a group of mostly white “unicorns” were professing that dancing is the true way to bring about structural social change at an event dedicated to “The Motherland-Africa”. And culturally appropriating at the same time. Lord give me strength.
The case against cultural appropriation has been dropped more times than a surprise Drake album, but if you don’t know – now you know. Defenders of the event said it was to “celebrate” African culture, but all can be seen in the video of the event is a lot of animal print, jungle noises, head wraps and rumours in the comment section claim: a watermelon.
Boiling down and essentialising an entire continent that was so violently oppressed that its history has been conflated and rewritten into a series of damaging colonial tropes, and then wearing those tropes as literal costumes, is not a celebration. It perpetuates a single story that means a whole continent’s present is continuously misrepresented. With real world implications.
But it’s just a party right? Not quite.
“Wearing leopard print and head-wraps in celebration of ‘Africa’ reproduces the idea that Africa and Africans have produced nothing but this”
When commenters on the video did start to complain, the dialogue that followed demonstrated exactly why appropriation is so damaging.
“I would say jog on (whilst enjoying the western way of life, OUR FOOD, OUR TECHNOLOGY, OUR TOILETS)… and leave these individuals in peace,” wrote one commenter, Harry Lloyd, who we can safely assume is one of the “unicorns” from the video. Lloyd, like so many others, is under the uniformed impression that Western culture has been created in a vacuum, without the indentured contribution of an Empire. Wearing leopard print and head-wraps in celebration of “Africa” reproduces the idea that Africa and Africans have produced nothing but this. This comment shows how entrenched that idea has become.
The apology posted by Sam Moyo, the founder of Morning Gloryville, was disappointing. She dreams of “a world without borders” and her devotion to celebration via a dance party is apparently her tireless contribution to that struggle. We all want a borderless world but the people who are fighting those battles are putting in serious work. Comparing a for-profit rave before the morning commute to this work is offensive. Leisure activities are useful and important. They can even be self-care. But they are not a social justice campaign. Show solidarity by joining Movement for Justice or Sisters Uncut. Donate to Women4RefugeeWomen. And call your leisure time what it is – leisure.
Morning Gloryville “The Motherland Africa” was essentially a microcosm of white privilege manifesting in front of my eyes. As too many of the commenters did, telling people to not get angry behind a screen about it, but instead to create an “amazing life” is a nonsense. Not everyone has the luxury not to be angry. Not everyone has the chance to create an amazing life. People are angry for a reason and people of colour don’t get to pretend that social ills do not exist. It does not feel good to be constantly enraged but it is more useful than ignorance.