By Frank Kineavy
Multi-platinum recording artist Beyonc Knowles has heightened the debate about race relations and garnered the attention of law enforcement officials across the country, who are calling for a boycott of the music icon’s upcoming tour.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Knowles stole the show and subsequently made headlines with a performance of her latest single “Formation,” during which she sported traditional Black Panther attire and made references supporting Black Lives Matter. In the weeks following, the conversation of race relations reemerged in the mainstream media, with fans of Beyonce’s performance calling it heroic, while critics calling it another anti-cop protest with an inappropriate nod to Black Panther movement.
Many law enforcement unions across the country have since called for a police boycott of Beyonce’s tour, which kicks off in Miami in April. In addition to not buying her music, police unions from Miami to New York to Nashville are telling their members toboycott any off-duty security work at her concerts.
During a sermon onSunday, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan vowed to provide protection for Beyonc if police did not.
“She started talking that Black stuff … and white folks (said), ‘We don’t know how to deal with that,'” Farrakhan said. “But when one of us shows some independence, look how you treating Beyonc now. You gonna picket. You not going to offer her police protection But the FOI (Fruit of Islam, the security branch of the Nation of Islam) will.”
As the controversial video of “Formation” was released on the 21st birthday of Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, fans point to the timing as a tribute to Black History Month. Also, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Black Panther Party. By some, the Super Bowl performance and music video both serve as a powerful tribute to Black culture. Others view the video and performance as Knowles using the Super Bowl, with an audience of 112 million, as a platform to demonize police and pay tribute to a group who has a history of promoting and displaying violence.
Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz accused Knowles of using the Super Bowl stage as a means “to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers and her anti-police message.” From its inception, the Black Panther Party movement aimed to be an alternative to Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach to civil rights. Officially formed from 1966 to 1982, many violent altercations occurred between members of the party and law enforcement.
New York’s Sergeants Benevolent Association also criticized the pop star’s recent political activism. The group’s president, Sgt. Ed Mullins, said,”As a celebrity figure Beyonc should take greater responsibility in her divisive actions that further complicate relationships between communities of color and the members of law enforcement.” Knowles is a quiet but big supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, which came to rise due to the complicated relationship between law enforcement and communities of color.
The 2013 acquittal of Zimmerman for Martin’s murder, inspired Opal Tometi, co-founder of BLM, to take to social media and build the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Her campaign gained immense popularity and media coverage after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Further fostering the tension between law enforcement and supporters of the movement, Knowles’ video for “Formation” features a young boy in a hoodie dancing in front of police officers in riot gear, flashing images of graffiti that read “Stop Shooting Us,” a popular tagline for Black Lives Matter.
Nashville’s Fraternal Order of Police president stated, “We ask officers to refuse to support the efforts of artists who promote a false narrative of law enforcement attacks on black citizens.” The reason for protest is being made clear by law enforcement unions across the U.S. One sheriff from Tennessee blamed the “anti-police ‘entertainment'” for the “violence and senseless killing of seven deputies in the U.S. since the show aired. My comments are an observation of the violence that has occurred but in no way is meant to offend anyone.”
In a time of heightened racial tension, Knowles turned America’s most famous sporting event into a platform that reasserted the debate over police brutality, whether it was intended or not. Beyonce hasn’t commented on the controversy that has been called both a tribute to Black pride and culture, and a defamation of law enforcement. On both ends of the spectrum, Knowles makes headline after headline, and in response police unions plan to boycott her upcoming “Formation” world tour.”She made a statement and now law enforcement is making a statement. What’s clear is that no one in the country is trying to resolve the issues between communities of color and the distrust of law enforcement,” Mullins said.