Beyonce gets political at the Super Bowl
Beyonce issued a strong political statement with her halftime show at Super Bowl 50 on Sunday with backing dancers dressed as members of armed rights group the Black Panthers.
The superstar brought the dancers on for her new single Formation which is being widely touted as a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
At one point during the song, the supporting performers formed an ‘X’ on the field – thought to reference black rights campaigner Malcolm X – and then raised their arms in the air in a gesture referencing the black power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Australian Olympics.
Following the show, several of the dancers were pictured giving the same salute around a piece of paper that reads ‘justice 4 Mario Woods’ – a black man shot dead by police in San Francisco last December. Afterwards Beyonce said that she ‘wanted people to have love for themselves’.
Woods was filmed being shot to death by around a dozen armed police officers in San Francisco after apparently ignoring orders to drop a knife in December last year.
Woods was accused of stabbing a man around an hour earlier, but activists hit out at the shooting, saying there were likely other ways to subdue Woods without opening fire, since he wasn’t armed with a gun.
At the time Police Chief Greg Suhr said his department and San Francisco district attorney’s office would investigate the shootings.
The dancers, dressed head-to-toe in black, also donned the signature black beret of the political group that operated during the Sixties and Seventies.
Beyonce was widely expected to make a political statement during the halftime show which was headlined by Coldplay and also featured Bruno Mars.
Anticipation had been building for her performance after she unexpectedly dropped the music video for the song on Saturday.
The video, the most political Beyonce has released, showed scenes of white police lining up against a black teenager and graffiti that reads ‘stop shooting us’.
Another part of the video shows Beyonce in a flooded New Orleans, recalling scenes after Hurricane Katrina in which George Bush was accused of ‘not caring about black people’ by rapper Kanye West after relief was slow in reaching the area.
Within minutes of the video’s release, Twitter was awash with reactions to the fiercely political lyrics and scenes – and a cameo role from the singer’s four-year-old daughter with Jay Z, Blue Ivy.
Several fans hit out at Beyonce over the music video and advocated boycotting the Super Bowl, accusing her of spreading an anti-cop message which only serves to further divide communities.
Writing on the singer’s Facebook page yesterday, Kristen Wickham said: ‘As the wife of a police officer, I am offended by this entire video. Rise above and stay above the strife.
‘For a girl who grew up in a privileged, wealthy family, she has no business pandering to those who didn’t. She has no idea what struggle is.
‘I have unliked you and your husband’s pages, deleted all of your songs from my collection and will never buy another thing associated with either of you.’
Meanwhile Rebekah Simpson added: ‘Planning to boycott the Super Bowl Halftime show. All Lives Matter! I am offended by your song “Formation” and its implication that there is a vast conspiracy in law enforcement against a particular race.
‘It is just not so. My husband puts his life on the line for ALL citizens. Do you kiss your loved one good bye each day knowing that there is a high probability that he may not return that evening? The officers that I know serve the community with honor and integrity. I salute them.’
Following her Super Bowl performance on Sunday night Twitter was again filled with people supporting Beyonce, claiming she had given a ‘history lesson’ to viewers.
Beyonce spoke afterwards of how thrilling it was to perform at the Super Bowl.
She told ET online that it ‘felt great’ to perform Formation. She added: ‘I wanted people to feel proud and have love for themselves.’
The Black Panthers were an infamous armed group that was founded in Oakland in 1966, close to where the Super Bowl is being played this evening, and operated during the Sixties and Seventies.
The group, once dubbed ‘the greatest threat to the internal security of the country’ by FBI director J Edgar Hoover, was formed in 1966 to combat oppression of black people in the U.S.
While previous civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King had advocated a policy of non-violence, the Panthers supported the use of force in order to hit at authorities and protect members.
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, was sent to prison in 1946 for larceny and breaking and entering after a life of petty crime and trouble with the law.
But once in prison he discovered Islam and joined the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, dropping his ‘slave’ last name and adopting the letter ‘X’, symbolic of a stolen identity, in its place.
After he was paroled from prison in 1952 Malcolm X went on to challenge the mainstream non-violent civil rights movement of Martin Luther King Jr. Daily Mail