Solange Knowles poses with Jesse Williams, Black Lives Matter activists after her first Vancouver show

Following a sold-out show in Vancouver last night (April 27), Grammy Award–winning artist Solange Knowles took time to meet with members of Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapters from Vancouver and the U.S.

The “Don’t Touch My Hair” singer, whose most recent album, A Seat at the Table, explores themes of blackness, prejudice, and womanhood, posed with a group of local black activists after her show at Chinatown’s Rennie Museum. The image was shared on Instagram by American actor Jesse Williams and prominent civil rights activist and BLM member DeRay Mckesson, both of whom were also in attendance.

Knowles presented “Scales”, a performance-art project “examining protest as meditation through movement and experimentation of unique compositions and arrangements from A Seat at the Table”. Williams called the show “phenomenal” while Mckesson stated, “She [Knowles] is truly incredible live.”

After learning of Knowles’s surprise performances at the Chinatown gallery—a venue owned by local real-estate magnate Bob Rennie—BLM Vancouver published a statement on its Facebook page, expressing concern over the artist’s choice to perform in an area that has undergone significant gentrification at the hands of developers and marketers. The collective also called for increased access to the shows for black folks, a group Knowles’s work speaks to specifically.

In addition, a petition was launched by local activist organization the Anti-Oppression Network, urging Knowles to cancel her shows.

Although the performances went on at the Rennie Museum as planned, BLM Vancouver shared yesterday (April 27) that Rennie had offered members of the city’s black community complimentary tickets to Knowles’s shows. The group states that they, along with another local collective, Black in Vancouver, “decided to distribute them to marginalized black youth, black musicians, black artists, and black organizers in the city”.

“We see this as a positive gesture and we’re happy we can agree on one point: access for black folks to music written for us is crucial,” BLM Vancouver wrote. “We also recognize the importance of uplifting and centering black people. Solange is a powerful black voice and she needs to speak to a black community.”

Knowles is performing two more shows at the Rennie Museum at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. today (April 28). Both performances are sold out with all ticket proceeds benefiting the Atira Women’s Resource Society, a DTES–based nonprofit that provides safe housing and support for women and children affected by violence. 

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