Beyoncé came out swinging during the Super Bowl halftime show last night, with her dancers dressed as Black Panthers, and performing her newly-released, fiercely political song "Formation." After the show, the backup dancers posed in front of a sign demanding justice for Mario Woods, a 26-year-old black man who was shot and killed by San Francisco police on Dec. 2:
Woods' family has filed a civil rights case against the San Francisco Police Department and has called for a federal investigation into possible discrimination and excessive use of force by the department.
The dancers' outfits were a callback to the Black Panther Party, the iconic black activist group founded in the 1960s. And the song, which Beyoncé released the day before the Super Bowl, is undeniably about taking pride in her black heritage.
"Okay ladies now let's get in formation, cause I slay" she chants, words that certainly resonated with former Black Panthers like musician and producer Nile Rodgers:
While "Formation" doesn't ever say the words Black Lives Matter, the movement is clearly on Bey's mind. The video opens with scenes of a flooded New Orleans, flashing police lights, and the singer perched on the roof of a sinking police car. And toward the end of the video you'll spot some graffiti that reads "Stop Shooting Us" as a kid in the hoodie dances in front of a line of police officers.
The song has been hailed as her most political song yet, and it's no coincidence she performed "Formation" on arguably the largest and loudest stage in the world, where tens of millions watched her sing this message: "I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros. I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils."
Indeed, behind the scenes, it seems like Bey and Jay-Z might have been quietly supporting Black Lives Matter activists for quite some time. Unconfirmed reports that they'd been providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to bail out activists arrested at protests in Baltimore and Ferguson circulated in May last year.
In a more public move, Jay-Z's music streaming service Tidal announced last Friday that the business will donate $1.5 million to several social justice groups tied to Black Lives Matter, Mic reported:
The nonprofits Tidal will fund include Opportunity Agenda, Hands Up United, Sankofa.Org, as well as local organizing groups in California: Community Coalition; Florida: Dream Defenders; Illinois: Black Youth Project; Maryland: Baltimore Justice Fund; Empowerment Development Corporation; New York: Million Hoodies; NY Justice League and Ohio: Ohio Students Association/Organizing Collaborative.
According to Tidal, donations will also be given to organizations created by the families of victims of police brutality, including the Trayvon Martin Foundation, the Michael O.D. Brown We Love Ours Sons and Daughters Foundation and the Oscar Grant Foundation.
This all comes a few years after the singer Harry Belafonte told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012 that he didn't think the couple was doing enough for minorities, saying "they have turned their back on social responsibility." Jay-Z's comeback to that, in his song "Nickels and Dimes" seemed pretty on point in light of these latest public moves: "You don't know all the shit I do for the homies."