In a night of polite performances, Kendrick Lamar was willing to sweat it out and make a statement. People felt uncomfortable with Beyoncé having her dancers wear Black Panthers outfits during her SuperBowl performance? Lamar walkedon stage in chains at the Grammy’s Monday inview of millions to give a fire and brimstone performance onthis nation’s dark history.
By the time they unshackled and launched into a performance of “Alright,” as fiery as the bonfire blazing behind him, his stage had transformed. He ended debuting a new song. He stood alone because who possibly deserved to stand next to him?
With references to the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and The Black Lives Matter Movement, Beyoncé used her massive mainstream audience for her Super Bowl halftime show to deliver a pointed and powerful political message. But that message is now being twisted and perverted by police unions with an interest in preserving the unjust, anti-black status quo.
During the live performance of her latest song, "Formation," Beyoncé was backed by Black women dancers wearing black berets and black leather that clearly invoked the Black Panther Party. In a backstage photo tweeted out by the racial justice activist group The Dream Defenders, the dancers were shown raising their fists in the traditional black power salute.
Her dancers held a handmade sign that read "Justice 4 Mario Woods" -- a reference to a 26-year-old black man who had been shot and killed by police in San Francisco just a few miles from the Super Bowl site. (Woods allegedly had a knife and refused to drop it, so the cops shot him 20 times.) An autopsy showed that six shots hit Woods in the back).
None of this should be controversial. Beyoncé and Kendrick areseeking not only to make music but to make a difference -- as have generations of musicians and other cultural icons before them. In the 1960s and 70s, Black artists like Nina Simone, Paul Robeson, Marvin Gaye and countless others risked their lives and careers to be a voice of the people and speak up about the racial injustices in the nation. They had a level of fearlessness that made the “mainstream” uneasy but it made them listen. Toquote the late, great Nina Simone: “An artist’s duty is to reflect the times.”