With references to the Black Lives Matter movement, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, Beyoncé’s half-time show at the Super Bowl on Sunday might be the most radical political statement from the superstar in her 20-year career.
Backing dancers wearing Black Panther-style berets and clad in black leather were photographed after the performance posing with raised fists evocative of the black power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
The visual homage, 50 years after the formation of the radical civil rights group, came just days after Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z announced that he would donate $1.5m (£1m) raised at a charity concert run by his streaming service Tidal last year to the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice organisations.
Snapped backstage, the dancers also held a picture with the slogan “Justice 4 Mario Woods”, who was shot dead last December by police in San Francisco, this year’s Super Bowl host city.
Woods, who was reportedly armed with a knife, was filmed as he was shot dead after being surrounded by about a dozen police officers. A lawyer representing Woods’s family has said he is investigating bringing possible criminal charges, claiming the officers acted like a “firing squad”.
Beyoncé was widely tipped to be preparing to make a deeply political statement with her Super Bowl show after releasing a surprise single and video, Formation, on Saturday, which referenced both Hurricane Katrina and the recent mass protests across the US over police killings of unarmed young black men.
The video shows Beyoncé sitting on top of a police car and includes scenes showing a young black boy dancing in front of lines of riot police, who put their hands up, before cutting to a wall of graffiti that reads: “Stop shooting us.”
Beyoncé’s performance was not the only political statement of the night, with Coldplay’s set featuring a marriage-equality inspired rainbow wave of placards held up across the stadium, which spelled out “Believe In Love”.
Commentators said the message was indicative of how far the gay rights movement has come. “This was a combination of local pride – I was born and used to live in San Francisco – and the simple reminder of the country’s progress on LGBTQ acceptance,” wrote Seth Millstein of Bustle.
“Even five years ago, it wouldn’t have been conceivable for the Super Bowl to express an unabashedly pro-gay message during the half-time show.”
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