The short video served as Movay’s application for a new program that the wildly popular social media app is hosting to support Black creators in the wake of criticism it censored posts last summer containing the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd.
Movay’s submission was one of 5,000 that TikTok received in just 24 hours and was selected as one of 100 finalists for the TikTok for Black Creatives program.
Movay, who recently relocated to Los Angeles from Dallas to further his career as a music producer and graphic artist, said the three-month program, which launched last month, has proven helpful.
“I think it is a great opportunity for me to be able to learn some new things, new tricks, and really leverage the connections I am making,” he said.
TikTok, which launched in 2016 and has offices in multiple U.S. locations, including Culver City, was the second-most downloaded non-gaming mobile app in the world in January, according to Sensor Tower Inc.
The social media company launched TikTok for Black Creatives in February in partnership with Macro, a multimedia platform that represents people of color. Together, the companies created a 12-week mentorship program to help creators network and gather career advice from business leaders in the entertainment industry.
In recent town hall appearances, actresses Gabrielle Union-Wade and Marsai Martin shared tips on goal setting and how to build strong brand awareness.
Other social media platforms have launched similar initiatives. Facebook and Instagram recently pledged $25 million to help Black creators, and YouTube has a multiyear commitment fund called #YouTube-BlackVoices.
TikTok has not disclosed how much it’s spending on the program and did not respond to interview requests.
But Marcel Williams, 23, called the program a “great first step.” He was one of hundreds of Black content creators who last summer accused TikTok of suppressing or taking down content that shared information about Black Lives Matter.
“I remember making informational videos about the Black Lives Matter protests or about George Floyd, and I got a few violations about that,” Williams said. “I was flagged for hate speech when, in reality, it was nothing but positive asking the community to come together.”
Williams said he is eager to see how the program rolls out and believes it has the potential to spark change for Black creators on the app.
“For TikTok to make this move it shows that they are really listening … and shows that they are not shying away from the situation,” he said.
For many creators, TikTok is more than a platform for activism; it’s also an opportunity to build their brand — and ultimately their business. Being on a platform as big as TikTok gives creators the ability to gain a global following, which brings the prospect of new business opportunities or a shot at being “discovered.”
Robert Lucas, 27, another finalist participating in the program, is a self-taught cake artist. In his first three months on TikTok, he gained more than 980,000 followers.
“I am hoping that this program helps open my eyes to what more I can do, and I hope that it also pushes more Black creators to the forefront so that we can have other companies or people start to notice us.”
Movay is also a relative newcomer to TikTok, having joined late last year to post snippets of his music, show off his designs and connect with fans.
“I am taking what I am learning and applying it to my career as an artist,” he said.