The decades old presentation ceremony honoring musical accomplishments got serious this year as performers used the spotlight to shed light on the police state.
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) February 9, 2015
The first performer of the night to address the issue of police killings was Pharrell Williams. Williams and company performed a version of “Happy” which is in stark contrast to the original version. Donning their black hoodies and with “hands up,” performers gave an artful gesture in the wake of so many slain lives.
Another artist in the “black lives matter,” Grammy takeover was singer Beyonce. She performed a rendition of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” while her choir-inspired backup dancers raised their hands in solidarity.
Prince, or the artist formerly known as, kicked off his presentation by saying, “Albums still matter. Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”
Common took to the stage after Beyonce to do his part to raise awareness. During the performance, Common subtly called out police brutality and institutional racism by holding up his hands in the “Don’t Shoot” protest gesture.
Because of the relentless drive of protesters across the nation, the issue of police brutality has quite literally taken main stage. In fact, the act of calling out police violence has now reached an almost “trendy” status.
Celebrity attention to matters such as police violence is certainly important. Those willing to put their careers in jeopardy by calling attention to the corruption of the status quo deserve to be commended.
However, it is also important to note that there is a risk of cheapening the movement through referencing it for personal gain. The problem of police brutality is nothing new, but the mainstream recognizing it, certainly is.
Hopefully, these celebrities are genuine in their support for inciting peaceful change; we remain optimistic.
Some brave celebrities used their status to inspire change before it became the cool thing to do.
On his facebook page in December Jackson offered a challenge to “all [the] celebrities that poured ice water on [their] head, a chance to do something else.”
Jackson challenged celebrities to sing the “We ain’t gonna stop, till people are free” song.
The song starts off with a reference to Eric Garner’s last words.
I can hear my neighbor cryin’ ‘I can’t breathe’
Now I’m in the struggle and I can’t leave.
Callin’ out the violence of the racist police.
We ain’t gonna stop, till people are free.
We ain’t gonna stop, till people are free.
Jackson then ends the 47 second challenge asking celebrities to “come on, sing it out.”
While protesters across the nation sand this song in solidarity, not many celebrities jumped on board with Jackson’s call to action.
Prior to Jackson, immediately following the killing of Michael Brown in August, actor Orlando Jones issued his call to action.
Jones’ call to action included a reference to the ice bucket challenge, only Jones used a bucket of bullets.
“It’s not about black or white,” said Jones, in his video. “It’s not about rich or poor. It’s about us vs. them. There are more of us — from all races, genders and identities — then there will ever be of them. And we will be victorious.”
Throwing your hands up is one thing. Dumping a bucket of spent rounds on your head, and transcending racial barriers by forcing the notion that all lives matter, is something much more.
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