Written by Erin Lobner. Media by Courtney Murphy.
Forty years ago, the United States government officially recognized Black History Month. President Gerald Ford urged the country to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s especially important to support and celebrate the accomplishments of our black brothers and sisters. During this month, we tend to learn more about influential figures in history, but it’s also a good time to appreciate some of the current leaders in the ongoing movement. Recently, many celebrities made their support public through social media or performances. In honor of Black History Month, here is some recognition for one of the individuals taking a stand for what she believes.
Beyonce Knowles really brought the emphasis back to the Black Lives Matter campaign through her newly released song “Formation.” The song very frankly addresses some of the racial issues she grew up with. However, it stirred up quite the controversy, especially among police. Parts of the video include Beyonce sitting on a sinking police car, but the most powerful statement was the ending, which showed a young black boy facing a line of police officers, followed by a wall spray-painted with the words “Stop Shooting Us.”
The day after “Formation” was released, she performed it during the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl. However, it’s not the song lyrics that bothered people. Instead, it was the fact that her the background dancers were dressed similarly to Black Panthers, clad in black berets and their hair styled into afros. Some critics have even called her show racist for using only black dancers. Beyonce has also received backlash in response to a photograph of some of her dancers holding up a sign reading “Justice 4 Mario Woods,” who was shot by police in San Francisco. The sign was reportedly unscripted, but that has not appeased her critics.
Since the Super Bowl, hashtags related to Beyonce’s performance have popped up on Twitter. On one side, those in opposition to her act started “#BoycottBeyonce,” usually saying that Black Lives Matter is a lie or stringently defending police. But Beyonce’s fans continue to support her by questioning “#BoycottBeyonce” or stating their excitement over her Formation World Tour starting in April.
In addition to all the discussion Beyonce has stirred up, she and husband Jay Z donated $1.5 million several groups including Black Lives Matter. The couple’s streaming service, Tidal, was behind a charity concert in Brooklyn featuring Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Jay Z, Lil Wayne and Nick Jonas. The concert was held before Beyonce released “Formation,” providing evidence that her actions were sincere instead of just an attempt to sensationalize her performance.
Black Lives Matter can be a touchy subject. Not all people agree with how Beyonce showed her support, but in the end, she took actions to fix a problem she saw. At Greenville College, we believe in peace and reconciliation. It’s important that we support both our black neighbors and the police officers protecting our country. If there is anything we can learn from Black History Month, it’s that tearing down one person or group does not help anyone. But if Beyonce did nothing else, she started a conversation about an important issue, and now it’s time for us to consider our response.
I appreciate this important reminder of the origins and purpose of Black History Month.