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PoP goe­s the­ PC MoB!

When su­per­star Adele paid trib­ute to the Not­ting Hill Car­ni­val, she was sav­aged for ‘cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion’. Yet the irony is few have cel­e­brated mi­nor­ity icons and is­sues with her pas­sion...

- by Alison Boshoff Supermodels · Viral · Celebrities · Adele · Instagram · Notting Hill · London · Naomi Campbell · Tottenham · Notting Hill · Brixton · Mary J. Blige · Mary J. Blige · Etta James · Ella Fitzgerald · Aretha Franklin · Stormzy · Glastonbury, CT · Drake · Skepta · Los Angeles · United States of America · Youtube · Beyoncé · Jewel · David Lammy · Alexandra Burke · North London · Destiny's Child · Lauryn Hill · Michaela Coel

WITH her track record of mam­moth global mu­sic sales, Adele is well used to set­ting records. And the pic­ture she posted on In­sta­gram on Mon­day — show­ing her dressed in a Ja­maican flag-print bikini with a feath­ered col­lar and her hair in African Bantu knots, to mark what would have been that day’s Not­ting Hill Car­ni­val — did just that.

Gain­ing five mil­lion likes, the snap also sparked a global de­bate about ‘ cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion’, which has led to some calls for the singer to be ‘can­celled’ or cul­tur­ally boy­cotted.

Nu­mer­ous voices, many of them Amer­i­can, have ac­cused her of of­fer­ing racist dis­re­spect through her hair­style, which is tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ci­ated with women who have Afro-tex­tured hair. Oth­ers — many of them black-Bri­tish — have dis­agreed.

So far, Adele’s only re­sponse has been to post a com­ment in Ja­maican pa­tois, ‘Wah Gwaan!’ which roughly trans­lates as ‘What’s up?’

Who­ever is in the right, it’s clear that of­fence has been given, but it’s also clear that it was never in­tended. For the woke witch-hun­ters could not have picked a less de­serv­ing tar­get for their mis­placed fury than Adele, 32, whose global suc­cess is de­fined as much by her artis­tic bril­liance as by her ev­ery-wo­man hon­esty and fear­less cham­pi­oning of mi­nor­ity causes.

Take, for ex­am­ple, her in­stant sup­port for the vic­tims of Gren­fell — 57 of the to­tal 72 who died in the cat­a­strophic blaze in the west Lon­don tower block were from BAME (black, Asian and eth­nic mi­nor­ity) com­munti­ties.

Bri­tish jour­nal­ist Ateh Jewel, who has writ­ten a book about black hair, was one of those to ac­cuse Adele of cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion. She said: ‘ Many are ar­gu­ing that Adele was show­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Car­ni­val and Caribbean cul­ture, but ap­pre­ci­a­tion turns into ap­pro­pri­a­tion when it’s worn as a party out­fit and taken off again and dis­posed of.

‘It’s ap­pro­pri­a­tion when an Afro is worn as a joke and for fun at a stag do, when that same per­son wouldn’t be caught dead with it at a high-pow­ered board meet­ing at their of­fice on Mon­day morn­ing.

‘Has Adele ever worn Bantu knots to a red car­pet event? Has she ever worn Bantu knots on an al­bum cover or to a celeb party?’


Ernest Owens also said: ‘If 2020 couldn’t get any more bizarre, Adele is giv­ing us Bantu knots and cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion that no­body asked for. This of­fi­cially marks all of the top white women in pop as prob­lem­atic. Hate to see it.’

Many other voices in the black com­mu­nity, how­ever, were baf­fled by the re­ac­tion and took to so­cial me­dia to de­fend the star.

Supermodel Naomi Camp­bell com­mented with two love-heart emoji icons and two pic­tures of the Ja­maican flag. While Labour MP for Tot­ten­ham David Lammy tweeted: ‘This hum­bug to­tally misses the spirit of Not­ting Hill Car­ni­val and the tra­di­tion of “dress up” or “mas­quer­ade”. Thank you Adele. For­get the haters.’

The X Fac­tor winner Alexan­dra Burke also jumped to Adele’s de­fence, and said: ‘I see the pic. She looks hot. As a Ja­maican girl my­self, my girl has grown up in black cul­ture. Peo­ple for­get she’s from Tot­ten­ham.’

Born in North Lon­don, Adele’s child­hood was spent in Tot­ten­ham, Brix­ton and West Nor­wood.

Tot­ten­ham is home to one of the largest pop­u­la­tions of AfroCaribb­ean Bri­tons. It was the site of the 1985 Broadwater Farm riot and more ri­ots in 2011 after the fa­tal shoot­ing of Mark Dug­gan.

From the start, she was in­spired by black su­per­stars. Her first mu­si­cal idol was Gabrielle, and a young Adele per­suaded her mother Penny to buy her a se­quinned eye patch like the singer’s, which she was teased about at school.

She then dis­cov­ered more black artists whom she adored, Des­tiny’s Child, Lau­ryn Hill and Mary J. Blige when she was 11 or 12.

A few years later, she dis­cov­ered Etta James and Ella Fitzger­ald. She said: ‘When I lis­tened to the Et­tas and the El­las, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awak­en­ing. I was like, oh, right, some peo­ple have proper longevity and are leg­ends. I was so in­spired that, as a 15-year-old, I was lis­ten­ing to mu­sic that had been made in the For­ties.’

When Aretha Franklin died in 2018, she wrote: ‘I can’t re­mem­ber a day of my life without Aretha Franklin’s voice and mu­sic fill­ing up my heart with so much joy and sad­ness. Ab­so­lutely heart­bro­ken she’s gone, what a wo­man. Thank you for ev­ery­thing.’

Since be­com­ing a su­per­star, she has made many friend­ships with black artists — the Bri­tish rap­per Stor­mzy be­ing one of them. She wrote after his Glas­ton­bury set last sum­mer: ‘I have love in abun­dance for this strong, sweet and hon­est man. I’m so proud of him.’

Adele was re­cently pic­tured par­ty­ing with the Cana­dian singer Drake, who is a friend.

In 2019, after the break­down of her mar­riage to Si­mon Ko­necki, she was ro­man­ti­cally linked to the Bri­tish grime artist Skepta.

Not that her new LA life and glam­orous cir­cles of friends have ever erased her roots — or less­ened her de­ter­mi­na­tion to speak up in the face of in­jus­tice. Adele was quick to use her voice to talk about the death of Ge­orge Floyd, killed while be­ing ar­rested by a u.S. po­lice of­fi­cer.

She said: ‘Ge­orge Floyd’s mur­der has sent shock­waves around the world, there are count­less oth­ers that haven’t . . . This is about sys­tem­atic racism, this is about po­lice vi­o­lence and it’s about in­equal­ity. And this isn’t only about Amer­ica! racism is alive and well ev­ery­where.’

Her un­stint­ing sup­port for the vic­tims of Gren­fell, whom she vis­ited barely 24 hours after the blaze, con­tin­ues three years after the tragedy. Ear­lier this sum­mer, Adele joined in a me­mo­rial live stream on YouTube. She said: ‘Hello, it’s Adele here. I want to send my love to all of you to­day and let you know that I’m think­ing of you, as I al­ways do . . .

‘I think that this year more than ever there has never been a more ap­pro­pri­ate time for us to truly ex­er­cise ca­ma­raderie and com­pas­sion and open-mind­ed­ness and per­sis­tence.’

Yet even though she comes across as a fear­less de­fender of the down­trod­den, Adele can still doubt her­self. When in 2017, her al­bum 25 was named Best Al­bum at the Gram­mys — beat­ing Bey­once’s al­bum Lemon­ade — Adele felt em­bar­rassed to have eclipsed the artist she so ad­mired.

Adele said: ‘ I can’t pos­si­bly ac­cept this award . . . I’m very hum­bled and I’m very grate­ful . . . but my artist of my life is Bey­oncé.’

Back then, only ten black artists had won al­bum of the year since the award was cre­ated in 1959.

Ac­tress Michaela Coel said: ‘I’ve since seen the rage on so­cial me­dia at­tack­ing Adele for “dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing be­tween races”, the tweets chirp­ing “how dare she pity Bey­oncé and of­fer her some kind of pa­thetic shout out”.

‘But I screamed, “YES, ADELE, YAAAS” . . . Adele did the best thing any­one of priv­i­lege can do: she ad­mit­ted, she spoke. Be­cause Adele is not an ap­pro­pri­at­ing thief, she’s a queen, with a gen­uine de­sire for sol­i­dar­ity.’

How strange, then, that a sim­ple pic­ture in hon­our of the event she once de­scribed as a ‘ high­light of her year’ should have sparked such con­tro­versy.

After all, when she was preg­nant with son An­gelo in 2012, she was re­port­edly so up­set that she couldn’t go to the car­ni­val that her then boyfriend Ko­necki put on a Caribbean-themed party at her Lon­don house, with reg­gae mu­sic and ‘buck­et­loads of chicken . . . so Adele would get a flavour of what she was miss­ing’.

What­ever she missed this year, it can’t have been the trolls.

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 ??  ?? Adele’s sup­port­ers: Alexan­dra Burke, rap­per Stor­mzy with the singer, and Naomi Camp­bell
Adele’s sup­port­ers: Alexan­dra Burke, rap­per Stor­mzy with the singer, and Naomi Camp­bell
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