The #BlackLivesMatter movement started in 2012 after George Zimmerman was acquitted after taking the innocent life of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, the organization fights for basic rights and equality of black lives all over the world. “Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our dehumanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society,” the organization states about themselves on their official website.
Since the creation of the the organization, the movement has not slowed down or lost sight of its mission. There are daily tweets, peaceful protests, as well as celebrities joining the movement and voicing their support. And now there is wave of music artists using their fame to showcase the struggles of black lives in America by creating “protest” songs. Among these artists are soulful R&B singer Janelle Monae, queen of pop Beyonce, and lyrical genius rapper Kendrick Lamar.
Janelle Monae released the song “Hell You Talmbout”, produced by her own label Wondaland Records about
seven months ago.
“This song is a vessel. It carries the unbearable anguish of millions. We recorded it to channel the pain, fear, and trauma caused by the ongoing slaughter of our brothers and sisters,” Monae wrote on her personal Instagram about the song.
There is a African influence with drums throughout the background of the song, and the entire song is dedicated to the singer calling out for the listeners to “say the names” of African American victims of police brutality.
Among the mentioned names are Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and many more. Janelle Monae is an active advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, participating in a march against police brutality in Philadelphia, as well as always encouraging her fans to stay updated on the racial injustice problems in the U.S.
Receiving much controversy, household name Beyonce dropped her single and music video for “Formation” a day before Superbowl Sunday. The video was filmed in New Orleans, and depicts scene of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Also in the video is the daughter of the artist, Blue Ivy, shown while Beyonce sings the line “I like my baby’s hair with baby hair and afros” referring to the hairstyles common to the black culture. Beyonce’s lyrics call out her haters, showing that she loves her background and culture, essentially being proud of her “blackness”. The video also calls attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, with a little boy shown dancing in front of a line of police followed by all of them putting their hand up, representing the “hands up don’t shoot” motto picked up from the Michael Brown case.
The Super Bowl debut also caused a great upset for some, while others praised Beyonce for her outstanding performance. All of the dancers were African American, dressed in all black featuring leather jackets, berets, and afros- said to be representing the 1960s Black Panthers Party. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the halftime show was “outrageous” and “ridiculous”; while Deray McKesson, and activist and running for Baltimore mayor tweeted “At its core, she is reminding us that economic justice is a key component to liberation work.”
“I loved the performance– I think everyone should be able to express their own opinion, especially people like Beyonce who is using her fame to help others,” junior Grace Hess said.
Beyonce is very prevalent in the Black Lives Matter movement, just last year her rapper husband, Jay Z and herself donated thousands of dollars to help bail out peaceful Baltimore protesters that were arrested.
Lastly, and most recently, Kendrick Lamar also gave a political performance at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Beginning with himself and his dancers chained together, and his band in jail cells, he reaches the mic and opens with the first verse of his song “Blacker the Berry.” Lamar then transitions into an electric performance of his song “Alright” while in front of a giant bonfire with tribal dancers surrounding him.
“I thought that the Kendrick Lamar’s performance was great, very inspirational and a strong message to society,” senior Gabi Fadden said.
Kendrick Lamar’s songs, especially “Alright,” are considered an embodiment of the Black Lives Matter
movement shown with that song being chanted at a protest at Cleveland State University after the crowd was pepper sprayed by a officer.
Janelle Monae, Beyonce and and Kendrick Lamar all have one thing in common, they are illustrating “black excellence” and setting a huge example for the Black Lives Matter movement. Using their platforms in society to make a greater good for those who are under-represented.