Friday, July 8, 2016

Jay-Z and Beyoncé Call Fans to Action after Recent Shootings

Americans across the nation began this week celebrating their independence. Unfortunately as this week comes to an end so have those initial feelings of elation. Fireworks have given way to firearms and holiday tweets have evolved into solemn hashtags mourning the lives lost to recent police brutality and gun violence.

In this week alone, two African-American men have been shot and killed by police officers. Alton Sterling’s confrontation with police and death was recorded by an eyewitness parked outside of a Baton Rouge convenience store. Merely 24-hours later Philando Castile of Falcon Heights, Minn. was shot and killed during a traffic stop. The entire ordeal was streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend. These killings have prompted Black Lives Matter protests nationwide. Hysteria only increased after five police officers were killed and seven others were wounded at a Dallas protest late Thursday night.

The frightening regularity of police brutality and gun violence has prompted responses from politicians and celebrities alike. Two of the most notable figures speaking out are Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Jay-Z released a song, titled “Spiritual”, on Tidal late Thursday night. The track was inspired by the imprudent handling of high-profile instances of police brutality. The new single certainly has fans excited, considering this is the mogul’s first project as a lead artist in three years. The raw lyrics of “Spiritual” give listeners a small look into Jay-Z’s anger with the treatment of young black men in America. This is most directly seen in the track’s hook when he states “Yeah, I am not poison, no I am not poison / Just a boy from the hood that / Got my hands in the air / In despair, don’t shoot / I just wanna do good, ah.” Unlike most songs found on Tidal, “Spiritual” is currently streaming for both subscribers as well as non-subscribers.

A letter from Jay-Z was also attached to the song. The letter explains the inspiration behind the track and calls her serious social reform. Jay-Z confesses the song was initially recorded and meant to be released in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown, however at the time he didn’t have enough time to complete it.  The note concludes with a quote from abolitionist Fredrick Douglass: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Beyoncé has also made her stance on recent events very clear. During her concert in Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday, Queen B had a moment of silence to honor all of those who have been killed by police brutality. The moment became even more solemn when the names of victims of police violence were displayed on giant screens behind the pop star.

After her Glasgow performance, Beyoncé posted a letter on her website. Like her husband, the artist expressed her anger for the events which have unfolded of the course of a week. The letter ended with Beyoncé encouraging her fans to contact their local politicians in order to protest on behalf of Sterling, Castile, as well as the other victims of gun violence.

The power couple is only two of the countless artists who have expressed their anger and frustration for recent events. On Wednesday, Canadian-rapper Drake released a statement of his own. In the statement he calls the United States his “second home”. The rapper also added “No one begins their life as a hashtag. Yet the trend of being reduced to one continues.” Chris Brown has also expressed his pain as well. On July 7th the RnB singer released “My Friend,” a song which he states is intended for those who are “dealing with injustice.” Brown has also been vocal about his anger on social media. In a series of images and videos on Instagram, he urges celebrities to “use their power and voices” in order to enforce change within our society. 

A video posted by 1 (@chrisbrownofficial) on

- Intern Brittney

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