Diversity star Ashley Banjo brushed off the backlash following his group’s Black Lives Matter-inspired performance with a family snap on Monday.
The dancer, 31, took to Instagram to share a sweet snap of his daughter Rose, 19 months, and baby son Micah, five months, who he shares with wife Francesca Abbott, while he completed ‘dad duties’ by taking them to the park.
Meanwhile viewer complaints following Diversity’s performance earlier this month continued to soar to 21,673 over the weekend, with the routine now close to becoming the most complained about TV moment of the decade.
Cute: Diversity’s Ashley Banjo brushed off the backlash following his group’s Black Lives Matter-inspired routine with a snap of his daughter Rose, 19 months, and son Micah, 5 months
Ashley was every inch the doting dad as he enjoyed a day at the park with his two children, after sharing the cute family snap to ‘lighten the mood.’
He penned the caption: ‘There’s been a lot of negativity recently so I thought I’d lighten the mood with a picture of me completing some dad duties…
‘One child is brown and one is white… That should confuse the racists.’
Hitting back: The dancer shared the cute family snap while highlighting that ‘one child is brown and one is white’ in a bold message to the naysayers
Controversy: Meanwhile viewer complaints following Diversity’s performance earlier this month continued to soar to 21,673 over the weekend
Ofcom complaints following the Diversity’s divisive set reached 21,673 on Monday – and edged closer to becoming the most protested TV moment of the decade.
The flood of complaints puts the controversial routine just steps behind Celebrity Big Brother’s ‘punchgate’ which received 25,237 objections in 2018, after Roxanne Pallett falsely accused Ryan Thomas of hitting her.
On Friday, an Ofcom spokesperson confirmed to MailOnline that BGT had received 15,500 complaints. Last Monday, the figure stood at 1,121.
The representative added: ‘We are assessing the complaints against our broadcasting rules, but are yet to decide whether or not to investigate.’
Ashley recently broke his silence about Diversity’s routine during the first semi-final, and welcomed the conversation the complaints have started.
The dancer addressed both the positive and negative response in a candid video as he revealed he and the group have been the target of ‘racial abuse and threats’ following the dance.
Defiant: Ashley recently broke his silence about Diversity’s routine during the first semi-final, and welcomed the conversation the complaints have started
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.
‘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.’
He 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.
Grateful: He originally began his video by thanking those who had supported Diversity and had shared positive messages and well wishes
The Leytonstone native 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.’
Shocking: Ofcom complaints following Diversity’s divisive set reached 21,673 on Monday – and edged closer to becoming the most protested TV moment of the decade
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.’
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.
‘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.
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)
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.’
While he has faced a barrage of complains from aggrieved viewers, Ashley has embraced a strong showing of support among his celebrity friends, including Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden.
Former BGT judge Piers, 55, told viewers on Monday’s Good Morning Britain: ‘If you can’t handle that without feeling the need to never watch BGT again or to complain to Ofcom, there’s something wrong with you.
‘You, you’re the problem! You’re part of the problem.’
He added: ‘By the way, if you don’t like me saying this, then don’t watch us either. Don’t watch Good Morning Britain. Because I agree with Ashley Banjo and Diversity. And if you can’t handle it Britain, wake up.’
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
Later in the show, Piers and co-host Susanna Reid spoke with BGT judge Amanda about the controversy.
She said: ‘It is extraordinary. I think the number of negative complaints means this conversation is right and fundamental and should continue to happen.
‘What hasn’t really been highlighted is the fact that we were inundated with overwhelming positive response, hundreds of thousands of them.
‘As BGT family, and Diversity is very much part of that family, and Ashley is doing a phenomenal job on BGT, we stand by him and stand by that performance 100 per cent.’
The 49-year-old star added of Ashley: ‘He sends out positive vibes to both the haters and the lovers of the piece that they did. He is saddened by negativity.’
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.
Backing him: Ashley has embraced a strong showing of support among celebrity friends including Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden
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.
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, 5.7million viewers tuned into BGT.
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.
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.
Singer and judge Alesha 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.
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’
The musician waded into the ongoing row about the politicisation of the ITV 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.’
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.’
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.
Calling it out: Ashley went onto 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’
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.’
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.’
Supportive: 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
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.’
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.
Statement: Ashley also wrote last Sunday, just hours after the performance aired, ‘So much to say… But I’ll Just let the performance talk…’ after backlash from some viewers