Gabrielle Foster had has been a fan of One Direction since she was 11 years old.
“We all come from different backgrounds. We all bond with Harry, but we do not personally know what is going on in each other’s lives,” she told me. “I just want there to be more representation for everyone.” in her early twenties, Foster is one of the better known “Black Harries” on Twitter, as she was one of the first Black Harry Styles fans to organize efforts to win her public alliance with Black Lives Matter- the movement.
This took longer than many people seem to remember. In the fall of 2017, a fan threw a Black Lives Matter flag up on stage at a Styles concert in London, and Styles ignored it. His fan base was used to him receiving pride flags and dancing with them on stage, as well as giving an opening monologue about how much he valued the support of women. It did not seem like an accident that he had left the flag on the floor, untouched, even though parts of the audience held up the Black Lives Matter signs. He was known for notes something like that – he often read the signs off among the audience and teased a bit with the people who had written weird. Many fans reacted with anger. “Use your fucking platform,” one tweeted afterwards. “You enable hypocrisy.” Others were deeply wounded. “I love Harry, he is my safest place, but I feel so interrupted, so unsupported,” wrote another. Some mocked him with a play with his own lyrics, from the (horrible) song “Woman”: “You flower, you feast” became “You flower, you white feminist.”
Young people brought up to understand network effects talk reflexively about the power that comes with having many followers and a central cultural position, or a platform that is not so much a stable object or trait, but a privilege given by interconnected groups of real people and should therefore be used with caution. Black fans of Harry Styles did not argue that he should only support Black Lives Matter because it would be personally affirmative; they saw it as his moral responsibility as a person with a high public profile. But many white fans attended the conversation only to suggest that black fans were asking too much, that Harry could not support any political cause, and that a concert was not a protest. After the first riot, Styles posted a black-and-white photo of some of the signs on his Instagram with the headline “Love.” For white fans, that gesture should be enough. In June 2018, when Gabrielle organized a large exhibition of mass-printed paper signs at a show in Hershey, Pennsylvania, white fans tweeted to her about it in a gross confusion. This was already fixed, right?
“The projects we put in place throughout the trip, it started to feel hopeless at some point,” she told me. “It was a constant attack on Black fans; we’re being attacked and we can not get recognition from Harry. “Gabrielle went to another concert, in Washington, DC, and jumped out for a ticket in the standing room at the edge of the stage. She took a Black Lives Matter flag with her. and planned to throw it up to Styles to see if he would take it up. “I was very hopeful,” she told me. “He was right in front of me and he was talking to someone near me. I threw it at his feet and he looked down at it, accidentally stepped on it and walked away. So that kind of shattered me. “Her mood got worse when some of the girls in the crowd around her insisted that she only had herself to blame for the disappointment. She had kept the flag crumpled so he could not see the whole show, told they, and then she got mad at him because he did not notice it in an instant? She shot back that she had kept the flag open over the edge of the barricade for hours.The night was ruined and she went furiously home “I was really sad at the moment,” she said. “I had a picture of him standing on the flag and I was so angry. I had even considered just being unsteady because it was so awful. I went off track. “
After a long drive back to Virginia, she cooled off a bit and checked her Twitter messages. Many of her friends in Styles’ fandom had sent her clips of another Black Lives Matter flag on the Jumbotron at another show, or of Styles holding the flag up in Boston, and one of him shouted, “I love every single one of you. If you are black, if you are white… Whoever you are… I support you. ” In the end, she decided that Styles did not care. But she never quite forgot that moment of despair. “I wish he had done something before,” she told me. “It’s still being thrown in Black fans’ faces to this day by other fandoms. Well, your favorite would not even hold the flagor something like that.”
There is one designation for the type of fan who will never criticize their favorite, never hold them accountable for anything, and pamper them forever, as if every day is fresh the day they were born. It’s “cupcake” and Harry Styles’ fandom has many of them. It also has what black fans refer to as “KKK Harries” – white fans who refuse to give up for any reason in the fandom and prefer to pretend they are the only people there.