TikTok faces backlash over Black History Month event

TikTok is facing backlash following its Black History Month Creator Meetup for allegedly allowing non-Black creators to monopolize the event.

On Feb. 8, TikTok hosted a virtual Black History Month Meetup with rapper Nicki Minaj. The event took place over a private Zoom call. And according to Black TikTok creators who were at the event, non-Black creators took center stage.

Niccoya Thomas, one of the Black TikTok creators who attended the event, later tweeted, “I don’t know why I’m surprised non-Black creators felt entitled to steal a spot into the TikTok Black Creator Meetup with Nicki Minaj for Black History Month. It’s almost as if they steal our dances, trends and content, [so] why would they stop at our invites?”

TikTok told In The Know it had no official statement about the event as of Feb. 10. But in a Feb. 9 email that was sent to attendees, TikTok apologized for “the confusion and negative experience.”

“The meetup was open to our collective community of creators,” the TikTok Creator Team wrote in the email. “This was intended to be an opportunity for fans to connect with Nicki in a unique setting to celebrate her new music.”

In The Know spoke to Thomas, who said that there were around 400 people at the virtual event and that there didn’t seem to be specific qualifications for getting invited.

“There were verified accounts with over 2 million [followers] who were Black and on TikTok for four years that didn’t get an invite,” Thomas alleged. “Yet there were white people whose account[s] were sitting at 1,000, and they had received an invite.”

Based on the meetup being advertised as a Black History Month event, Thomas said she and other Black creators assumed it was exclusively for #BlackTikTok — a creator collective that TikTok started last February. But in the Feb. 9 email from the TikTok Creator Team, the company said the event was “open to all” creator communities like #CasaTikTok, #LearnOnTikTok “and more.”

But Thomas insisted that the way TikTok advertised the event, combined with it taking place in February, did not line up with what TikTok wrote in the apology email.

“TikTok knew what they were doing in the way they marketed the [event],” she said. “It was also sickening how they did not prioritize their Black creators during their month.”

Thomas also says she believes that Minaj was equally as confused by the outcome of the event.

“[The event] was supposed to speak on Black history and the creators of Black history on TikTok — the Black people who post and support the platform every day,” Thomas said. “TikTok showed the Black History Month trailblazers, and then all the non-Black people asked [Minaj] regular questions that had nothing to do with her being Black. Someone asked [her] what it was like being a ‘gay icon.'”


We have to get our own seperate meeting!! @nickiminaj #barbzsecretmeeting ( outfit from @Honey’s Apparel 🧚🏾‍♀️ !! )

♬ Do We Have A Problem? – Nicki Minaj & Lil Baby

“[She] even said, ‘I thought this was a meeting of 50 people,’ and she even gave a speech on how Black creators are needed in social media and how we run the app,” Thomas said. “I believed she thought it was a space for Black creators as well. She even said she’s going to do something different for us.”

In an Instagram Live Minaj filmed on Feb. 8 about the event, the rapper said, “I hear you guys. I heard what y’all were saying … Let me see if I can schedule something else for you guys. Because trust me, I heard y’all loud and clear.”

Thomas took to Twitter to thank Minaj for supporting Black creators. But she admonished TikTok for apparently falling short in its quest to do the same.  

“Thank you, Nicki Minaj, for giving us amazing advice as Black creators and supporting us on the platform,” Thomas tweeted. “TikTok, please DO BETTER for your Black creators as we are often pushed to the side.”

Thomas also claimed that while every event attendee got the aforementioned Feb. 9 apology email, non-Black creators “who were experiencing backlash” received personalized emails from the TikTok Creator Team apologizing and offering private calls.

Thomas forwarded In The Know a link to a video by Bryan Whitman (@bryanthediamond), who admitted in a series of TikToks that he attended the event. Whitman has over 4.5 million followers and is a big Minaj fan — as evidenced by his freakout reaction video to Minaj commenting on one of his TikToks.

After responding to commenters who thought he should not have been at the Black History Month Meetup, Whitman explained that TikTok had sent him the link to the event multiple times.

“TikTok themselves invited me to this event with Nicki Minaj, as I am a creator on the platform who has avidly spoken on multiple issues in the Black community,” Whitman said in the clip. “When I couldn’t get into the event, I was sent multiple different links because they wanted to ensure my presence.”


Reply to @cedonifrancis That being said, I am holding myself accountable. I apologize

♬ original sound – Bryan 💎

Whitman added that he now understands he should not have been at the event.

“TikTok has also since emailed me apologizing for all the backlash I’ve been receiving because clearly I should not have been there, and that was their fault,” he concluded.

Whitman’s video includes a screenshot of an email from someone on TikTok’s Content Partnerships Team. The email was addressed to Bryan and someone else — presumably Bryan’s manager — and said, “Are you both free to join a call with me today? I’m so sorry you’re getting this backlash.”

“I find it insane how they reached out to the creators who experienced backlash and not the creators who were upset at their safe space being taken away from them during their historical month,” Thomas told In The Know. “Every time a Black creator tries to get into contact, they send us their automated system, but they had time to DM personally and schedule a call [with Whitman].”

This is not the first time TikTok has been in hot water with its Black creator community. In June 2021, Black dancers on the platform went on strike by refusing to come up with a viral dance for Megan Thee Stallion’s newest single, “Thot S***,” in protest of the platform’s alleged deprioritization of Black users.

“Black folk have always been aware that we’ve been excluded and othered,” Erick Louis, who has almost 1 million TikTok followers, told The Washington Post at the time. “Even in the spaces we’ve managed to create for ourselves, [non-Black] people violently infiltrate and occupy these spaces with no respect to the architects who built [them].”

The dancer strike made a clear statement on how valuable Black creators are, particularly when it comes to starting viral trends. Two weeks after “Thot S***” was released, there were only 37,000 TikTok videos featuring it. The Washington Post compared it to previous Megan Thee Stallion singles — “Savage” had over 22 million videos, “Captain Hook” had 2.5 million videos and “Cry Baby” almost had 1 million.

Despite Black creators being at the helm of TikTok’s most viral trends, they still aren’t getting the recognition — or money — that accurately reflects their value to the platform.

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