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Ashley Banjo received 'racial abuse and threats' after BGT performance

Ashley Banjo has broken his silence about Diversity’s Black Lives Matter routine during Britain’s Got Talent’s first semi-final last week.

The dancer, 31, took to Instagram to share a video on Sunday in which he addressed both the positive and negative response, as he revealed he and the group have been the target of ‘racial abuse and threats’ following the dance. 

In the statement, he said: ‘It’s been a lot, everything from racial abuse to threats, to just some really nasty stuff. I’m not going to give light to it, I’m not going to give it any more time than it deserves 








Candid: Ashley Banjo revealed on Sunday he and Diversity have been the target of 'racial abuse and threats' following the group's controversial BLM routine on Britain's Got Talent

Candid: Ashley Banjo revealed on Sunday he and Diversity have been the target of ‘racial abuse and threats’ following the group’s controversial BLM routine on Britain’s Got Talent

‘But a lot of the negativity, the nastiness, and the racism shows exactly why these performances and exactly why this conversation that has arisen is so necessary. 

‘Racism is very real, I’ve known it before and I definitely know it now.’

Ashley originally began his video by thanking those who had supported Diversity and had shared positive messages and well wishes, even mentioning those who had checked in on the members mental well-being during the aftermath of the routine. 

Negative response: In the statement, he said: 'It's been a lot, everything from racial abuse to threats, to just some really nasty stuff. I'm not going to give light to it'

Negative response: In the statement, he said: ‘It’s been a lot, everything from racial abuse to threats, to just some really nasty stuff. I’m not going to give light to it’

Ashley said: ‘Firstly I want to say thank you to all the people who are supportive of me and Diversity’s performance, who’ve reached out.

‘Honestly it’s overwhelming the positive reaction to what we did. Hundreds of thousands of messages, comments, DMs and interactions in the street.

‘There’s been what 15-16,000 complaints of negativity thrown back at the performance, but trust me I’m right in the centre of it and the negativity is in the minority.

‘The positive response has been huge so thank you so much everyone who has supported and shown love, stood by what we did.’  

Seeing the positive: Ashley said, 'The negativity, the nastiness, and the racism shows exactly why these performances and exactly why this conversation that has arisen is so necessary'

Seeing the positive: Ashley said, ‘The negativity, the nastiness, and the racism shows exactly why these performances and exactly why this conversation that has arisen is so necessary’

He added: ‘Everyone who reached out who checked if we were alright, thank you to you as well. 

‘We are good though, we are feeling positive, proud, happy confident and we stand by every single decision that we made for that performance.

‘If I’m honest with you to be able to stand on the very stage that launched Diversity into the limelight as a judge on the panel, standing up for something, using our art to spark nationwide conversation, what more could I ask for as a creative and an artist?

‘To entertain, to get people talking, to cause emotion, that is everything I could have asked for so I am proud and like I said I stand by it so thank you to everyone showing their positivity.’ 

Grateful: Ashley originally began his video by thanking those who had supported Diversity and had shared positive messages and well wishes

Grateful: Ashley originally began his video by thanking those who had supported Diversity and had shared positive messages and well wishes








Sharing his decision to remain positive in the face of racist trolls, he went on: ‘After this performance everything that we’ve seen, I don’t know, it’s been overwhelmingly negative sometimes, which is tough.

‘But still, like I said, [I’m] standing strong and feeling so happy with what we’ve done, if that’s what it takes that’s a price I’m absolutely willing to pay.’

Ashley then described the dance routine in full, stipulating that Diversity were giving a ‘summary of 2020’ with their performance tackling topics like lockdown, COVID-19, the NHS, George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement.

‘It 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,’ he said of the dance. 

Positive: Ashley thanks those asking after their well being, and added: 'We are feeling positive, proud, happy confident and we stand by every single decision that made that performance'

Positive: Ashley thanks those asking after their well being, and added: ‘We are feeling positive, proud, happy confident and we stand by every single decision that made that performance’

‘That’s exactly why the question whether Britain’s Got Talent was the right platform was one that I just can’t get on board with. 

‘If an artist or creative can’t use real world issues, universal issues, to inspire their art and come through how they express them then what’s the point?

‘Britain’s Got Talent has been a stage for so many incredible performers, artists and talents who want to express all different kinds of emotions and views, and stories, human ones.

Struggle: Sharing his decision to remain positive in the face of racist trolls, he went on: 'After this performance... it's been overwhelmingly negative sometimes, which is tough'

Struggle: Sharing his decision to remain positive in the face of racist trolls, he went on: ‘After this performance… it’s been overwhelmingly negative sometimes, which is tough’

‘Of course political ideas are going to work into performances because it affects us every single day, universal things that affect us, that is what art is; it’s an expression of how we feel and this set of 2020 is exactly that.’

Explaining that he wanted Diversity’s dance to express the ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ that he and the group have experienced this year, he then addressed the portion of the dance dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement.

‘The bit that was really seemed to connect with people and agitate, annoy and offend people was the fact that we stood up and said that racism is real and as far as we’re concerned it has to change so that we’re tolerant because Black Lives Matter.

Worth it: Ashley added, 'But still, like I said, [I'm] standing strong and feeling so happy with what we've done, if that's what it takes that's a price I'm absolutely willing to pay'

Worth it: Ashley added, ‘But still, like I said, [I’m] standing strong and feeling so happy with what we’ve done, if that’s what it takes that’s a price I’m absolutely willing to pay’

‘Now, a lot of people were offended at the political nature of that statement, but that’s never what we intended, black lives mattered long before it was anything political or affiliated with one set of people with a statement.

‘Black Lives Matter is a fact. It is and always will be a fact. That’s what I stand by that’s what every single one of my team proudly standby and that’s why we included it in our summary of 2020.’  

He praised how the Black Lives Matter movement has ‘made its way around the world’ and ‘started the conversation’ about racism across the globe.

‘I’m so glad that this performance has almost ignited the spark of that conversation to be continued again,’ he admitted. 

Taking a stand: 'The bit that really seemed to connect with people and agitate, annoy and offend was the fact that we stood up and said that racism is real... Black Lives Matter is a fact'

Taking a stand: ‘The bit that really seemed to connect with people and agitate, annoy and offend was the fact that we stood up and said that racism is real… Black Lives Matter is a fact’

‘The fact that it was a medium like a dance and it was on a show like Britain’s Got Talent in the mainstream is so important. 

‘Families, schools, homes, friends are now having this conversation about something that is very real and affects so many people.

‘I’m proud, I’m happy and like I said I want to say thank you to everyone who supported us. I don’t want this conversation to end.’

Ashley concluded by reiterating his gratitude to followers who have stood by him and Diversity, and he ‘sent love’ to ‘every single one of you that’s thrown positive energy or negative energy at me and the group.’

Supportive: 'It is and always will be a fact. That's what I stand by that's what every single one of my team proudly standby and that's why we included it in our summary of 2020,' Ashley said

Supportive: ‘It is and always will be a fact. That’s what I stand by that’s what every single one of my team proudly standby and that’s why we included it in our summary of 2020,’ Ashley said

Britain’s Got Talent’s second semi-final pulled in 4.95 million viewers, just a week after its first show sparked backlash from viewers.

The ITV show has been embroiled in controversy after Diversity took to the stage with a Black Lives Matter-inspired performance, sparking over 15,000 complaints to media watchdog Ofcom.

Despite the controversy BGT only saw a decrease of 350,000 viewers on the previous week’s show when it returned to screens on Saturday. 

Still going strong: Britain's Got Talent's second semi-final pulled in 4.95 million viewers, just a week after its first show sparked backlash from viewers (Ashley pictured)

Still going strong: Britain’s Got Talent’s second semi-final pulled in 4.95 million viewers, just a week after its first show sparked backlash from viewers (Ashley pictured)

The numbers were still a strong showing for BGT, as it received more than double the viewership of its main rival in the slot, The Last Night of the Proms, which has faced its own controversy and only drew in 2.1 million viewers.

At its peak on Saturday, 5.7m viewers tuned into BGT. 

The event has faced backlash from viewers after BBC said that the controversial British anthems Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia would be performed without lyrics because they have ‘imperialist ties.’

However, the corporation made a dramatic U-turn following a heated debate and widespread anger over the decision.

Shocking: The ITV show has been embroiled in controversy after Diversity took to the stage with a Black Lives Matter-inspired performance, sparking over 15,000 complaints

Shocking: The ITV show has been embroiled in controversy after Diversity took to the stage with a Black Lives Matter-inspired performance, sparking over 15,000 complaints

Last week’s BGT pulled in 5.3 million viewers, as the show returned to screens after the semi-finals were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time in the show’s 13-year history, the semis have been pre-recorded, with the second show being filmed two weeks ago, before Diversity’s BLM performance aired.

Despite this Ashley appeared to hit back at the criticism as he entered the studio to Elton John’s hit song I’m Still Standing in a defiant display.

Good result: BGT still received more than double the viewership of its main rival in the slot, The Last Night of the Proms, which also faced weeks of controversy

Good result: BGT still received more than double the viewership of its main rival in the slot, The Last Night of the Proms, which also faced weeks of controversy








Ashley’s group Diversity, which won the third series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, performed the routine last week which narrated the death of George Floyd, who was killed when police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes in May.

The routine was met with a flurry of mixed responses from viewers, with some calling out the display as making a ‘political statement’ and others hailing the dance ‘powerful’. 

The performance has so-far sparked 15,500 complaints to media watchdog Ofcom.

Defiant: On Saturday, Ashley appeared to hit back at the criticism as he entered the studio to Elton John's hit song I'm Still Standing

Defiant: On Saturday, Ashley appeared to hit back at the criticism as he entered the studio to Elton John’s hit song I’m Still Standing








It comes after Alesha singer Dixon told critics to ‘kiss my black a**’ as she threw her support behind her Britain’s Got Talent co-judge Banjo in the wake of the controversy surrounding the performance.

The singer waded into the ongoing row about the politicisation of the ITV1 talent series as Banjo shared a post on Instagram from a critic telling him to keep politics out of entertainment after the BLM-inspired dance was broadcast on BGT.

Dixon commented ‘they can kiss my black a**’ under an Instagram post from a disgruntled social media user, who said: ‘We the Great British Public will only support you if you entertain us and do not say anything about racism.’ 

Back to business: Last week's BGT pulled in 5.3 million viewers, as the show returned to screens after the semi-finals were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Back to business: Last week’s BGT pulled in 5.3 million viewers, as the show returned to screens after the semi-finals were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Planning: For the first time in the show's 13-year history, the semis have been pre-recorded, with the second show being filmed two weeks ago, before Diversity's BLM performance aired

Planning: For the first time in the show’s 13-year history, the semis have been pre-recorded, with the second show being filmed two weeks ago, before Diversity’s BLM performance aired

Banjo shared a screenshot of a message written by a critic to his Instagram, and said in the caption: ‘1. You do not represent or speak for the Great British public. 

‘2. Silence was never and will never be an option. 3. Change is inevitable… Get used to it.’  

Alesha wasn’t the only celebrity to throw her support behind Ashley, as fellow Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden commented with a heart emoji.

JLS star Aston Merrygold added: ‘It’s like that yeah! Guess it’s time to speak louder for the people that can’t quite hear!’

Memorable: Diversity's BLM performance was met with mixed responses, with some calling out the display as making a 'political statement' and others hailing the dance as 'powerful'

Memorable: Diversity’s BLM performance was met with mixed responses, with some calling out the display as making a ‘political statement’ and others hailing the dance as ‘powerful’

Banjo’s wife Francesca took to social media to share her own thoughts on the negative reaction from some viewers, saying ‘shying away from issues’ is not the answer. 

Sharing clips from the performance, she wrote: ‘On Saturday @ashleybanjogram and @diversityofficial performed this routine on @bgt, 11 years after winning the show. To call this a ‘dance routine’ is an understatement to say the least. 

‘This piece was a take on the unprecedented events of 2020, from Covid 19 to BLM, from clapping for carers as a nation to coming together in our own families and finding the light in the darkest of times.

‘Some may find this uncomfortable, may feel it inappropriate, but shying away from issues is not going to bring about the change that is so long overdue.’ 

Calling it out:  Ashley posted a comment from one troll who referred to him, Anthony Joshua and Lewis Hamilton, and said they shouldn't 'say anything about racism'

Calling it out:  Ashley posted a comment from one troll who referred to him, Anthony Joshua and Lewis Hamilton, and said they shouldn’t ‘say anything about racism’

Response: Ashley wrote back, '1. You do not represent or speak for the Great British public. 2. Silence was never and will never be an option. 3. Change is inevitable... Get used to it'

Response: Ashley wrote back, ‘1. You do not represent or speak for the Great British public. 2. Silence was never and will never be an option. 3. Change is inevitable… Get used to it’

Supportive: Alesha Dixon told critics to 'kiss my black a**' as she threw her support behind her Britain's Got Talent co-judge Ashley

Supportive: Alesha Dixon told critics to ‘kiss my black a**’ as she threw her support behind her Britain’s Got Talent co-judge Ashley

Pictured: Other celebrities respond

Pictured: Other celebrities respond

 

Pictured: Other celebrities respond

Encouragement: Alesha wasn’t the only celebrity to throw her support behind Ashley, as Amanda Holden, Ashley’s brother Jordan, Judi Love, and Aston Merrygold also commented

She added: ‘Watching this I could not be prouder of my husband. 

‘Rose and Micah will watch this and when they are old enough to understand they will be proud that their Dad created something so poignant and used his voice to stand up for what is right. We are one race, the human race.’ 

On Thursday, Diversity’s performance became the second most complained about TV moment of the past 10 years. 

Ofcom complaints reached over 10,000 knocking the Kim Woodburn/Coleen Nolan argument – which took place on Loose Women in 2018 – off the second spot with only 7,912 complaints.

The first remains the Celebrity Big Brother ‘punchgate’ – also in 2018 – which saw  Roxanne Pallett wrongly accuse Ryan Thomas of hitting her. This garnered 25,327 complaints. 

Reaction: Ashley's wife Francesca also took to social media to share her own thoughts on the negative reaction from some viewers, saying 'shying away from issues' is not the answer

Reaction: Ashley’s wife Francesca also took to social media to share her own thoughts on the negative reaction from some viewers, saying ‘shying away from issues’ is not the answer

Proud wife: Francesca wrote, 'Some may find this uncomfortable, may feel it inappropriate, but shying away from issues is not going to bring about the change that is so long overdue'

Proud wife: Francesca wrote, ‘Some may find this uncomfortable, may feel it inappropriate, but shying away from issues is not going to bring about the change that is so long overdue’

His brother and co-star Jordan Banjo got teary as he discussed the ‘horrible’ messages the group have received on his Wednesday KISS radio show.  

Talking about the Ofcom complaints and ‘horrible’ messages the group have received from trolls, Jordan fought back tears on his Wednesday KISS radio show with co-dancer Perri Kiely. 

Perri started by saying: ‘On Saturday we performed with Diversity on Britain’s Got Talent. 

‘Our performance covered the events of this year and the appalling messages that need to be spoken about.’

To which Jordan added: ‘Of course you get some critiques but normally it’s focused on the dance. But this one was different, it was really important, it was special to us.

Topical: Diversity's routine, which narrated the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in May, had already polarised fans on Saturday night due to its overtly political stance

Topical: Diversity’s routine, which narrated the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in May, had already polarised fans on Saturday night due to its overtly political stance 

‘We are all about positivity and love and we got so much positivity and love back from this one.’

Jordan said that the group has been ‘bombarded’ with messages, he continued: ‘Horrible stuff about us, about our families, about how even now Diversity not diverse enough because there’s only five white people in it.’

The star’s voice then broke as he fought back tears and added: ‘I can’t speak for anyone else it’s sad, it’s sad, genuinely.

‘I feel anxious and worried saying something like Black Lives Matter when that’s all we want, love and positivity, no one is saying only Black Lives Matter.’ 

Perri, 24, also told a troll to ‘bin’ themselves after they hit out at the group on Twitter.  








He put: ‘Bin yourself,’ followed by a waste basket and added: ‘I can’t believe the replies to this… apparently these people are adults!?Go educate yourselves.’

It comes after lead dancer, choreographer and guest judge Ashley defended his group’s performance, calling it ‘his art’ in a previous statement posted to Instagram.  

He wrote: ‘Art: The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. My truth, my platform, my art. 

‘I’ve always tried to create not only to entertain but also to inspire… That will never change.’

Ashley then referenced a Martin Luther King Jr quote as he revealed he was both ‘grateful’ and ‘overwhelmed’ by the support. 

He continued: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’ – Martin Luther King Jr. 

'My truth, my platform, my art': Ashley addressed the negative response following the performance last week by sharing this statement

‘My truth, my platform, my art’: Ashley addressed the negative response following the performance last week by sharing this statement

‘I’m so grateful and overwhelmed by all of the love and support but also by the amount of conversation this performance has thrown up 2020 has been such a historical year. 

‘One day we will look back and realise it was the start of real change… Sending out nothing but love and positivity to everyone reading this post #wearediversity.’ 

Ashley’s post was flooded by messages of support from his fellow dancers and celebrity pals.  

His brother, Jordan, 27, put: ‘Proud.’ Perri, 24, wrote: ‘Nah I’m so gassed to be a part of this.’    

Ashley Roberts, 38, said: ‘Loved this performance!!’ Strictly Come Dancing professional, Neil Jones, 38, added: ‘For me it was powerful.’  

Ashley also wrote on Sunday, just hours after the performance aired: ‘So much to say… But I’ll Just let the performance talk. Thousands of messages of Love and support – Thank you.

‘For the thousands of messages of hate and ignorance – Thank you. You highlight exactly what needs to change. Sending nothing but love to you all #Diversity.’   

Support: Ashley's post was flooded by messages of support from his fellow dancers and celebrity pals

Support: Ashley’s post was flooded by messages of support from his fellow dancers and celebrity pals

Statement: Ashley also wrote on Sunday, just hours after the performance aired: 'So much to say... But I’ll Just let the performance talk...'

Statement: Ashley also wrote on Sunday, just hours after the performance aired: ‘So much to say… But I’ll Just let the performance talk…’ 

The former Britain’s Got Talent champions opened Saturday’s performance by reciting a viral poem The Great Realisation by the singer Tomfoolery, about the BLM movement and police brutality.  

During their performance the group also illustrated the death of Floyd, who lost his life after police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25 for nearly nine minutes.    

The routine was met with a flurry of mixed responses from viewers, with some calling out the display as making a ‘political statement’ and others hailing the dance ‘powerful’. 

One user wrote: ‘Disgraceful! Make political statements elsewhere not on a family TV show.’

Routine: The former Britain's Got Talent champions opened Saturday's performance by reciting a viral poem The Great Realisation by the singer Tomfoolery, about the BLM movement and police brutality

Routine: The former Britain’s Got Talent champions opened Saturday’s performance by reciting a viral poem The Great Realisation by the singer Tomfoolery, about the BLM movement and police brutality

While another commented: ‘Wrong time and place. BGT should be a lovely entertainment show not political. I had thoroughly enjoyed the show and forgot the troubles of the world and then thud! 

‘So disappointed though AB was a great judge and there was no need for his performance.’

Another person added: ‘I had enjoyed it until then and switched off. It is a talent show not a politics show.’ 

Meanwhile another fan wrote: ‘So disappointed this was a political performance. Didn’t expect it on BGT. Not the right performance.’

During their performance, the dance group, who were dressed in riot gear, recited a viral poem about the BLM movement before going on to show a policemen placing a hand over Banjo’s throat as he lay on the ground to the song I Can’t Breathe.

Speaking after the performance Banjo told MailOnline: ‘This performance is extremely special to me and the rest of Diversity.  

‘2020 has been an incredible moment in history for both positive and negative reasons. 

‘We wanted to use the platform we’ve been given to make our voices heard, express how the events of this year have made us feel and think about how we might look back on them in the future… We call it hindsight 2020.’  

Speaking out: Some viewers took to social media to argue that the performance was a political statement which was not for a family show

Speaking out: Some viewers took to social media to argue that the performance was a political statement which was not for a family show

Other viewers praised the group and BGT bosses for depicting the issue.  

One wrote: ‘Prime time Saturday night TV and dance group Diversity performed a routine inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement which featured a police officer kneeling on member Ashley’s Banjo’s neck. Powerful.’

While another viewer added: ‘What an incredible performance from Diversity- a really brave and meaningful way to keep the message out there! I’m really happy to see such diversity within the team now, too! Awesome!’

Another fan commented: ‘Damn! Diversity on BGT last night was the best thing I’ve ever seen, was so moving and put their story across brilliantly. Brought a tear to the eye! Amazing!’      








Another penned: ‘Wow @Diversity_Tweet just wow! Such a powerful important message and done in such a perfect way!’ 

While another added: ‘That performance by @Diversity_Tweet was absolutely amazing well done very powerful @AshleyBanjo is phenomenal at pulling routines together.’     

Following the death of Floyd earlier this year thousands across the globe took to the streets calling for the officers involved to be jailed for their crime.  

Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged in June with second-degree murder while officers Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – were also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

 

Stunning: Meanwhile other Britain's Got Talent fans hailed the performance as 'powerful' and 'amazing'

Stunning: Meanwhile other Britain’s Got Talent fans hailed the performance as ‘powerful’ and ‘amazing’ 

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