Never in my zillennial life did I think I’d create an account for TikTok, but once I did, I was hooked thanks to Black’s talented creators on the app. One thing I loved about Black TikTok was the dances done by talented creators like Keara Wilson, who choreographed a dance to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” Months later, the Nae Nae Twins came up with a dance perfectly timed to the remix of “Savage” with Beyoncé, which encouraged thousands of people to join in the fun.
As contagious as these dances are, TikTok has come under fire for algorithmically favoring white creators and content. Black culture and creativity contribute significantly to the success of TikTok in most niches, especially in the realm of choreography. Countless dances like the Smeeze, the Renegade, and more were created and popularized by blacks. However, it remains a challenge to give black creators and choreographers the recognition they deserve, especially when white dancers get more likes and opinions on a dance that comes from Black TikTok.
Now, with the help of renowned choreographer JaQuel Knight, black creators are going one step further by copyrighting their choreography. Knight has worked with great industry icons such as Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, and many others. After seeing his own work reused without credit, he wanted to make a change by creating the JaQuel Knight Foundation to give black creators ownership of their work.
Last month, Knight partnered with software company Logitech to provide the creators of BIPOC with copyright for their dance routines. The list of creators included Wilson, the Nae Nae Twins, and Mya Johnson and Chris Cotter (creators of Cardi B’s popular dance to “Up”), among others. The goal is to allow black creators to have agency over their work and Make sure due credit is given when their dances are performed..
“Ultimately, we want our work to explode,” Knight said in an interview with Soho House. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t be hot. Everything we build is the talk of the town, but the people who build it are not. “
Black culture and creativity contribute significantly to the success of TikTok in most niches, especially in the realm of choreography.
Many white creators have benefited from the work that black creators have created. In early 2020, Addison Rae was invited to perform the Renegade dance, created by black dancer Jalaiah Harmon when she was 14 years old, in the NBA All-Star Game. When it became known that Harmon was not invited to perform, Black Twitter teamed up for Harmon to be included in the lineup. The NBA only forced nach the reaction.
This year, Rae was invited to Tonight’s Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform popular TikTok dances, many of which were choreographed by black creators. Rae performed various routines and none of the choreographers were credited. After the episode aired, Black Twitter was outraged. Fallon invited the choreographers to perform only nach online criticism. Sounds familiar? This never-ending cycle of TikTok colonization led to a boycott in which frustrated black creators refrained from creating a dance to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Thot Sh * t.”
Blacks are the engine that provides TikTok with entertaining dance content, and these contributions should be rewarded with protection and due credit. Hopefully, with the help of the JaQuel Knight Foundation, black creators will be duly recognized for their dances and will be the first to get their work done in the mainstream media before dancers like Rae. Whether it’s through digital boycotts or copyright protection, one thing’s for sure: Black creators unapologetically claim what’s theirs.