JaQuel Knight on protecting Black IP through dance
The choreographer’s next move sees him behind the camera, helping to ensure Black creatives receive due credit for their work
By Leonie Annor-Owiredu Photography by Juan Veloz
More and more, Black social media users are finding that major platforms like TikTok and Instagram are allegedly censoring their posts. The hashtag #BlackTikTokStrike, for example, has recently taken hold with two million views on the short video app and users refusing to push out any new dance trends until proper credit is given to creators of colour. And on Instagram, many BIPOC users are alleging their accounts are being ‘shadowbanned’ – the platform’s murky move to censor marginalised communities and Black-run accounts.
One choreographer, however, is seeking to change that: Soho House Warehouse member JaQuel Knight, who has choreographed for Beyoncé, Cardi B and more, is taking matters into his own hands. Knight is launching his own company for BIPOC artists to copyright their work: Knight Choreography and Music Publishing Inc. And the goal is to keep Black dance alive.
We recently caught up with Knight at Soho Warehouse to talk about the personal and professional experiences that led him to create his own copyright company, the inextricable connection between Black culture and pop culture, and what excites him about the future.
When did you recognise that Black creators weren’t being credited for their work?
‘For me, it really started to hit home after the success of “Single Ladies”. It was everywhere: CNN, Glee, Sex And The City… and I didn’t see a dime of it. That was the start of me thinking, “OK, is this right? How does this work?” In many ways, that question of how we protect ourselves has always been at the top of my mind.’
What were some experiences you had that led to building Knight Choreography and Music Publishing Inc.?
‘Being in the field of choreography and creative direction, we are givers – we want to give our skills and make people the biggest stars in the world. We work non-stop. [We’re] first to get there and last to leave. When I think about all the work we’ve done, [for] all these years, and there’s no one to help you after all you’ve given, it’s not a great feeling.’