Black Entertainers and their Use of Celebrity for Social Change

In Arts & Entertainment by Domonique Hamilton1 Comment

Photo via Flickr

Saturday morning, one day before her amazing Black Panther inspired Super Bowl performance with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, Mrs. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter dropped a new video for her new single, “Formation,” in which she unapologetically boasts about her African American roots.

 The video features a great deal of pro black imagery. In one such image, Black graffiti on a white wall, reads “Stop Shooting Us,” referencing the tragic, yet frequent, videotaped police killings of African Americans. These horrific homicides have been trampling the country on a epidemic level since the 2012 killing of Travon Martin.  Another scene displays a Black child dancing in front of heavily armed policemen, forcing them to surrender followed by a scene referencing the aftermath of the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina.

This representation of African American social issues and history sent a controversial wave throughout America, much of which centered on the fact that Beyoncé did not incorporate any other race into her video or Super Bowl performance. In her performance, the songstress boldly cast a light on the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party by dressing her dancers in costumes reminiscent of their signature black attire and berets.  For many, this display of activism was much needed and long overdue for a star of her status to do.

What Beyoncé did was not demean any other social issues, races or cultures. It was not anti-White nor was it anti-police. The images in her video shined a spotlight on the still prevalent tumultuous matters people tend to forget about soon after they happen.

Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Sandra Brown. Walter Scott.

They still matter.

Sure, society mourned and protested for these highly publicized police killings, but what about the ones that are not nationally broadcasted? What about the Black people who are wrongfully and brutally killed every day by police because the law doesn’t protect them as they should?

Nicolas Robertson for instance.

Americans turn a blind eye to social issues that are not right in their face, and on some level that is understandable. Some question what can they do? These problems are deeper and way more complicated than sharing a post on Facebook that talks about the Black Lives Matter Movement that only a minuscule amount of people will see.

However, celebrities have something the average person does not: they have a voice in which can reach millions, domestically and internationally.

What Beyoncé did went beyond the lyrics of the song or her dance moves. By her using pro Black imagery and live African American inspired visuals, she lent her massive voice to the issues people appear to have forgotten about.

She let people know that these atrocities have happened in the Black community, and they are still happening. She let her Blackness shine and paid homage to a legendary and historically important organization that is not nearly talked about enough in school during a time in which they should be discussed the most; it being Black History Month.

It appears she has succeeded in her quest; everyone is talking about it. Her performance has generated interest to what people are talking about, being social issues pertaining to Black people. Because of the enormity of her celebrity this attention is not just nationwide, but happening on an international scale. There are various responses; some are praising her bold move, others condemning her for it.

But one thing is fact is true: people are acknowledging and talking about it.

More celebrities need to make statements like this which get people to pay attention. Not just posting a Tweet saying #BlackLivesMatter or silently donating some money to an organization. They should use their influential voices, artistry, and reach to get the message out that there are many prevalent problems still happening to Black people on a daily basis. Just because you don’t see it does not mean it is not occurring.

Black entertainers like Kendrick Lamar and Samuel L. Jackson try to bring awareness to Black struggles, but their reach is fairly limited, and more is never too much. Many Black artists do not have the star power that Beyoncé enjoys, however together they can be a truly unstoppable force.  

In fact, celebrities of all races and culture who stand in solidarity should participate in the movement.

For example, it would be nice to see Justin Timberlake, whom is heavily inspired by R&B in his solo career and genre stemming from African American produced jazz and blues, to use his voice and megastar status to shed light in a way Beyoncé did on the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Overall, any type of publicity is good publicity, and at this point, in order to be able to generate actual and successful change, the Black Lives Matters movement needs all the help and exposure it can get.



  1. Tracy Grayson

    I agree we have to take what we can get. But do you really think the lyrics of “Formation” are progressive? Slaying and making money and eating at Red Lobster? I don’t think so. Maybe these are baby steps, and like I said, we take what we can get. But let’s be real.

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