Queen Beyoncé and King Kendrick

Skyler Black

Celebrities have been using their fame as a platform for social and political ideology for decades. The last few years have been controversial to say the least and through social media, the conversation has been started. It is only fitting that during Black History month, two of the biggest stars in the music industry would start the biggest conversation of all on two of the biggest stages available.

In the last two weeks, the world has been graced by the musical performances of Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé Knowles. From the day before Super Bowl 50, when Beyoncé released her newest hit “Formation,” to Kendrick’s performance at the Grammy Awards, the music industry has shown us, once again, it can be used to send a message.

Beyoncé’s “Formation” video is a powerful compilation of imagery from her childhood and the present state of the United States. She shows scenes from a hurricane torn Louisiana repeatedly. Beyoncé is also able to show her southern heritage through the lyrics and imagery paired together. With the imagery of Louisiana and the Black Lives Matter movement, we are shown things that should open our eyes. The message she is telling the world is something that we should already be aware of but are too scared to talk about. She is showing the volatile nature of the nation when dealing with matters of equality. A crudely spray painted “stop shooting us” juxtaposed with a line of police officers in front of a child tell the public to start paying attention to the social injustice that is taking place.

While the music Kendrick performed was not brand new music, the images that he depicted while at the Grammy Awards were used to create a new reaction from the people viewing them. He performed a mashup of two of his hit songs and a never before heard song. Kendrick came out onto the stage in chains and a prison uniform with a group of men while singing “The Blacker the Berry” to help shed light on a struggle of racial injustice. Again, the issues and ideas that Kendrick brings forward in his music and performance are not new. Racial injustice is not a new idea that is surprising people when it is brought up. The final image that the audience is left with is a silhouetted Kendrick standing in front of a stark white image of Africa with the word “Compton” written in the center.

The purpose of both of these performances is to create this conversation with America about the inequality that runs rampant across the nation. A quote from Victor Hugo, a French poet, states that music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. But sadly, a large population believes that these performances were racist and wanted to organize rallies against Beyoncé and Kendrick.

I am genuinely terrified when the people of this world cannot understand that these topics need to be brought up. We are meant to create a community where the members within it can voice their opinions and not be created into pariahs. These celebrities are trying to bring the voices of millions forward for the face of America.

Beyoncé and Kendrick choose the date and venues of these performances for a specific purpose. They were aware that the eyes of America would be watching these televised events. Super Bowl 50 drew in 111.9 million viewers on television according to CNN while the Grammy Awards drew in 24.9 million viewers according to deadline.com. Two of the biggest celebrities in the nation were able to show millions of people around the world a message that was bigger than the songs themselves.

People seem to not understand that the Black Lives Matter movement is not a fad that is going away. These movements do not need to go away. In fact, they are necessary to continue conversations that America is desperately lacking. Celebrities are not the only people who can start the conversation. We can make the change in our own society if we just understand the issues and address them.