When Beyoncé and her dancers appeared on the field last night, it was clear that the superstar’s performance carried a political message – from the lyrics of her new single “Formation” to her dancers’ costumes, described as an “homage to the Black Panther Party.” And at the request of Black Lives Matter activists, a group of Bey’s dancer’s filmed a short video demanding justice for Mario Woods, an African American man recently slain by the police.
How did the activists manage to get the dancers’ attention? Rheema Emy Calloway and Ronnisha Johnson explain to The Guardian:
“[These activists] recounted in a phone interview how they ‘chased the dancers down’ after the performance to help bring national attention to the story of Woods, a 26-year-old African American man who was shot and killed by San Francisco police officers on 2 December 2015.
‘From the look on the faces of the dancers, they’d already heard about the case,’ Calloway said.
Calloway and Johnson, two activists with Black Lives Matter Bay Area, had managed to get tickets to the show through a contest and traveled to Levi’s Stadium with a school band that was to perform during the show.
After watching Beyoncé’s performance of Formation from the field, they were able to snag a few seconds with a group of dancers and asked them if they would be willing to make a quick video in support of their cause, a video that quickly went viral.”
In the video the dancers raise their fists “in a Black Power salute” with the activists’ sign, “Justice 4 Mario Woods,” held front and center.
When news of Woods’s death first broke, he was said to have pointed a kitchen knife toward an officer after being stopped on the street. Under these circumstances, the San Francisco police claimed that their officers were justified in using deadly force. However, recent footage of the shooting “appears to show that Woods’s arms were at his sides when the police opened fire.” At least a dozen officers surrounded Woods before he was shot.
Singer Alicia Keys contacted Black Lives Matter Bay Area through her agent “before her 6 February performance at Super Bowl City in order to learn more about local issues facing the black community. Johnson was able to speak with the agent and share the story of Mario Woods.” Keys then mentioned the shooting at the start of her show, before an audience of thousands. From The Guardian:
“‘I want to thank you for your commitment to making sure justice is done for Mario Woods,’ Keys said...‘As the mother of two black sons, it breaks my heart to see what we’ve been seeing, the killings we’ve been seeing on camera and all the people that we’ll never see. Black lives matter, and we of every color need to come together to end systemic racism.’”
Keys’s statement certainly brought more visibility to the issue, but it was the video filmed at the Super Bowl that finally garnered significant national attention.
Gwen Woods, Mario’s mother, hopes to contact the dancers to thank them personally for their meaningful gesture.
“I was really depressed, and that gave me a jolt,” she told The Guardian. “To see them with the signs, it jolted me back into reality. It uplifted me.”
You can watch the video via the tweet posted below.
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Images via Twitter.