The important #BlackLivesMatter statement that prevailed at the Grammys
At last night’s Grammy Awards, Pharrell Williams had a pretty massive night. He won a handful of awards (including Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Urban Contemporary Album), he got Twitter once again talking about his outfits (most notably his bellhop look), but most significantly, he came out in powerful, heart-pounding support of #BlackLivesMatter — and he was not alone.
During his performance of “Happy” Pharrell led a demonstration of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” symbol — the symbol that originated as a show of solidarity after unarmed teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. Both Hands Up, Don’t Shoot and #BlackLivesMatter became rallying cries for the hundreds of thousands who demonstrated all across America demanding that the killings of unarmed black Americans be stopped.
Pharrell’s back up dancers also paid homage to another unarmed black teen killed, Trayvon Martin, by sporting black hoodies, which is what Martin was wearing when he was shot by George Zimmerman. The moment was subtle and quick but when freeze-framed it’s pretty take-your-breath-away.
Pharrell was not the only one who invoked protest against racial injustice at the awards show. While presenting the Album of the Year Award, Prince recalled the movement saying, “Albums still matter. Like books and black lives, they still matter.”
Common and John Legend also performed their gorgeous award-winning song “Glory” from the film Selma. One lyric that Common raps is, “That’s why Rosa sat on the bus/ That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up.”
Beyoncé’s gospel performance of “Precious Lord Take My Hand” also included the symbol, with the all-male gospel choir behind her raising their hands in solidarity.
In effect, the efforts of performers to raise consciousness about today’s ongoing racial injustices showed incredible solidarity for a higher cause. These artists chose the biggest stage in their entire industry, on the biggest night in the business to tell the rest of the country to keep paying attention, keep protesting, keep pushing for change. It’s a powerful message from some of the entertainment’s biggest influencers, and it matters more than any award.