During one of the Grammy Awards’ earliest performances of the night, rapper Post Malone took the stage to perform his hit “Rockstar,” a song that was also nominated for the coveted record of the year award for rap/sung performance. But notably absent was the song’s co-star, rapper 21 Savage.
Instead of taking the stage to perform or being recognized for his two Grammy nominations, Savage is currently being held in a detention facility in Georgia. He was arrested last week for allegedly overstaying a visa that expired in July 2006.
Born She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, the 26-year-old rapper faces possible deportation. Savage has lived in the U.S. since he was about 12 but according to ICE officials, he is a UK citizen.
Although this year’s ceremony has been lauded for recognizing work by women and artists of color and using the Grammys as a platform to discuss issues in the industry, the music community was largely silent about Savage during the ceremony.
However one organization, the #Free21Savage Coalition, hoped to bring awareness to the rapper’s situation and the plight of black undocumented immigrants in the U.S. on music’s biggest night.
Before the telecast began, about 15 demonstrators from the coalition gathered outside the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live as those in formal wear filed into the Staples Center. Standing in a line, they held large letters that spelled out “Free 21 Savage.”
“This is a huge accomplishment for a black musician and instead he is in detention,” Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Patrisse Cullors told The Times.
According to Nana Gyamfi, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, there are more than 600,000 black and undocumented people living in the U.S. Many feel that the unique experiences of black immigrants are not included in larger conversations around immigration.
“This is a situation of 21 Savage ... that really speaks to exactly what is happening with black immigrants in this country,” Gyamfi said.
The organization plans to continue raising awareness after the Grammys. Shortly after the rapper’s arrest, Black Lives Matter drafted a #Free21Savage petition to stop his deportation, which currently has more than 400,000 signatures.