The pop star’s voice was never been more forceful—or more necessary.
For the second time on Thursday, Beyoncé demanded that the whole world rise up against police brutality.
At a concert in Glasgow on her Formation World Tour, she stopped the show to request a moment of silence in honor of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, black men whose deaths this week at the hands of police officers were caught on video. Behind her, a screen projected the names of dozens of victims of similar crimes, closing with the words “...and countless others.”
The concert took place mere hours after she posted a message on Instagram stating, “WE ALL HAVE THE POWER TO CHANNEL OUR ANGER AND FRUSTRATION INTO ACTION.” The post drove visitors to her website, entirely redesigned to be taken over by an all-caps manifesto called “Freedom”:
“WE ARE SICK AND TIRED OF THE KILLINGS OF YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN IN OUR COMMUNITIES. IT IS UP TO US TO TAKE A STAND AND DEMAND THAT THEY ‘STOP KILLING US.’
WE DON’T NEED SYMPATHY. WE NEED EVERYONE TO RESPECT OUR LIVES. WE’RE GOING TO STAND UP AS A COMMUNITY AND FIGHT AGAINST ANYONE WHO BELIEVES THAT MURDER OR ANY VIOLENT ACTION BY THOSE WHO ARE SWORN TO PROTECT US SHOULD CONSISTENTLY GO UNPUNISHED…”
You can read her full statement here. In it, Beyoncé forcefully urges readers to “voice protest” to our respective politicians and legislators directly. The stern tone of her words paired with an actual call to action stand in stark contrast to the passive #thoughtsandprayers offered up by celebrities like P. Diddy and Mischa Barton, whose tone-deaf moment of reflection has now been deleted.
Protest is messy. Protest is divisive. Even the most philanthropic of celebrities rarely do it, and when they do, they run the risk of ending up like Emma Thompson, who “narrowly” avoided being sprayed with manure when she staged a fracking protest on a farmer’s land without his permission. That’s because protest is one of the quickest ways to alienate your fans. The most genuine participation can still come across as a publicity stunt, comments made in the heat of the moment run the risk of sounding ill-informed, and some fans who loved you will simply stop once they realize you disagree with their beliefs.
Even Queen Bey isn’t immune, her call for protest alternately blamed for being a publicity stunt, inciting deadly violence against police officers at a Dallas rally Thursday night, and failing to take “real” action on the “front line.”
Whether you think a Glasgow stage counts as a front line or not, it isn’t really feasible for Beyoncé to take to the streets of Baton Rouge or Falcon Heights without being swarmed by paparazzi. But I digress. In 2014, Alex Proud argued in the Telegraph that celebrities shouldn’t be trusted as “experts on subjects that really matter,” since being good at acting or singing doesn’t necessarily qualify someone to hold forth intelligently on a complex topic. Even if that’s true, Beyoncé is a black woman married to a black man with black children who will be raised in our new reality. She’s at least a little qualified. Thankfully, no matter how loud her dissenters, Beyoncé’s mainstream influence seems relatively outrage-proof: The mention of Red Lobster in her controversial single “Formation” boosted sales by 33 percent.
If Beyoncé can do the same for the Black Lives Matter movement, her all-caps command that we take action might be more than a positive thing to do on a day full of bad news. It’s an act of service.