How did you expect Fortnite to celebrate the USA’s Independence Day? Fireworks, Rockets. Llamas and musicians falling from the sky? Instead, Epic have more appropriate plans for 2020’s 4th of July celebration. As Black Lives Matter protests continue into the Summer, the monolithic battle royale hopes to use its new party island to educate – broadcasting Øpus United’s anti-racism presentation We The People throughout the day.
Airing every other hour for 24 hours starting this afternoon, We The People’s panel on systemic racism in media, culture and entertainment is being broadcast exclusively via Fortnite: Battle Royale’s Party Royale mode – y’know, the same one wot’s been streaming Christopher Nolan films for the last month.
The panel is being hosted by news commentator Van Jones, with guests including former Teen Vogue EIC Elaine Welteroth, journalist Jemele Hill, rapper Killer Mike and hip-hop artist Lil Baby. Epic describe it as “a series of conversations that advance the dialogue around race in America with prominent BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) voices in business, sports, media, music, and entertainment”.
I’ve not seen the show, but it’s perhaps worth considering where Fortnite itself stands in the conversation around systemic racism. Epic has had its own issues in “attaching” itself to black culture, with rapper 2Milly and actor Alfonso Ribeiro both condemning Epic’s appropriation and monetisation of dances predominantly taken from African American artists. While dance moves aren’t protected by copyright, there’s a long and murky precedent in corporate culture stealing and sanitising music, mannerisms and dance from black culture.
We The People can be viewed by entering the Party Royale playlist in Fortnite. The show kicked off at 8:46am CT (2:46pm UK time) – a nod to the 8 minutes and 46 seconds George Floyd spent with a Minneapolis police officer’s knee to his neck before death, catalysing the last few months of protests against racism and police brutality – both in the US and internationally.