February 7, 2016 and February 15, 2016, two dates marking days when social justice and celebrity influence clashed in ways that will never be forgotten. On Sunday, February 7, 2016, Beyonce performed her most recent song, “Formation“, a celebration of her African American heritage and announced her support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Previously Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z had been known to donate money to and reach out to the families of victims of police brutality but never outright stated their stance on the movement that has gotten the attention of the entire world. In her Super Bowl performance Beyonce and her back up dancers dressed up in a modern take on uniforms worn by members of the Black Panthers Party, a group started in 1966 to monitor and protect blacks from the unfair treatment of police officers. Beyonce’s performance was very controversial, while many celebrated the message it promoted, others saw it as a call to protest police, missing the whole point of not only the performance but the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole. It is important that people know, the Black Lives matter movement is not about making other races feel inferior but about promoting the well-being and just treatment of black people. Beyonce’s performance and the message of racial equality it promoted is extremely important because of who she is. Beyonce has consistently been a major influence in pop culture, when she speaks, the world listens and her positive support of the Black Lives Matter movement is a huge win for those who have been pioneering the movement since it began.
While Beyonce announced her support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Kendrick Lamar a rapper from Compton, California, has always been very vocal about his support of the movement. On February 15, 2016, Kendrick Lamar gave an awe-inspiring performance of two songs from his multi- Grammy nominated album “To Pimp a Butterfly”. Kendrick’s performance began with an extremely powerful scene of himself and multiple other black men in shackles, and jail uniforms, surrounded by jail cells. The imagery throughout his performance was meant to send a message about the incarceration rate of black men and the broken prison system while his lyrics spoke about racism in America and Kendrick’s love for his African American features. He says things like “You hate me don’t you?/You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture” and “I’m African American, I’m African [. . .] My hair is nappy [ . . .] my nose is round and wide” which touch on the topics of cultural appropriation and loving one’s typical African American features(Kendrick). Kendrick’s performance, like Beyonce’s received positive reactions and negative reactions, while it received more positive reactions online, some people in the audience had different opinions, and were pictured with shocked, terrified, and even angry expressions during his performance.
The point of Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar’s performances was not to start an uproar against the police, nor to incite violence, but to bring the conversation of racism and police brutality to those who would prefer not to pay attention or would rather avoid the issue and make them face it. Neither of them are anti-police but they are anti-police brutality, the main purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is to cure the violence blacks face when dealing with police in America and having such influential people contributing to the conversation and showing support is a huge step in the right direction. As celebrities with millions of people following their every more, it is important for them to speak up about issues that affect the communities that support them. When celebrities stay neutral or silent on the topic it makes people think their support for that artist is not appreciated.
Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar’s performances showed that they not only support the movement but that they support their black fans who are affected by the very injustices that the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to put a stop to. It is important for other celebrities to follow in the footsteps of Beyonce and Kendrick so that the conversation can continue and actual solutions to the problems the Black Lives Matter movement addresses. Celebrities have always used their platforms to support things they agree with whether that be presidential candidates, gay rights, or women’s rights, and their voices will always be very powerful and great ways to bring attention to social justice issues. Beyonce and Kendrick’s performances and the response they have gotten are examples of how a celebrities word can go far and bring a topic to the forefront of American news. For this reason, more celebrities who support the Black Lives Matter movement need to come forward and show support for their fans. In an age where celebrities are looked at for their opinions on everything from the best facial wash to use to who to vote for, for president, their voices are needed in order to get the mission of Black Lives Matter to people, help them understand the cause, and facilitate the conversation so that solutions can be found.
Watch Beyonce’s Superbowl and Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy Performance Below:
Click Here for Kendrick Lamar’s Performance.
- “Beyonce & Bruno Mars – Formation Super Bowl 2016 Halftime Show (HD).”YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5BPfRHX1SE&feature=youtu.be>.
- “Watch Kendrick Lamar’s Stunning Performance from the 2016 Grammys.”The Verge. N.p., 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. <http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/15/11004624/grammys-2016-watch-kendrick-lamar-perform-alright-the-blacker-the-berry#ooid=trOW14MDE6gCowO43SPHW0Wdr_Ehb2Xy>.
- “BeyoncÃ© Formation (Official Video) Explicit YouTube.” YouTube. YouTube, 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0u_ZFKcyIc>.