Beyonce under fire over Super Bowl show

Beyonce and her dancers raising their fists during her Super Bowl performance on Sunday, a gesture interpreted by some as the salute of the nationalist Black Panthers.
Beyonce and her dancers raising their fists during her Super Bowl performance on Sunday, a gesture interpreted by some as the salute of the nationalist Black Panthers.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • With slogans against police brutality and celebrations of African beauty in her new song, Beyonce has suddenly transformed from crowd-pleasing entertainer to outspoken spokesman for the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement.

After unveiling a new song, Formation, on Saturday, marked by a video rich in political imagery and a raw bounce beat in the style of Southern hip-hop, the pop star took the message to the largest possible audience as she performed the song during the halftime show of the Super Bowl, which drew more than 111 million viewers.

Formation marks the most political turn yet for Beyonce.

Her video brings together fleeting but poignant scenes of African American struggles, especially the string of killings of black men by police in the past two years that have triggered the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

In the most striking image, a boy in a hoodie dances before a phalanx of police in riot gear. Later, the police raise their hands up like people under arrest as graffiti on the wall reads "Stop shooting us".

Setting the video in New Orleans, Beyonce also extols natural African hair just as the camera turns to her four-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy.

She quickly came under fire over the performance at the Super Bowl. At one point on Sunday, she and her troupe of dancers in short leather jumpsuits raised their fists - a gesture interpreted by some as the salute of the nationalist Black Panthers.

Members of the National Sheriffs' Association, who were at a convention at a Washington hotel, lowered the volume on the television set and turned their backs to Beyonce, the group said on Facebook.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican known for his tough-on-crime politics, said Beyonce should have instead tried to build respect for police officers within the African-American community.

"This is football, not Hollywood, and I thought it was outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us and keep us alive," he told Fox News.

Her performance, however, heartened many Internet users.

Ms Opal Tometi, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, voiced appreciation for Beyonce on Twitter and noted that the Super Bowl fell on the birthday of Ms Sandra Bland, an AfricanAmerican woman who was found hanging last year in a Texas jail in disputed circumstances after she was pulled over for a traffic violation.

The political leanings of Beyonce and her husband Jay Z are no secret. They have supported President Barack Obama, throwing a fund raiser for his 2012 re-election campaign. But they have also come under fire.

Harry Belafonte, the calypso king from the 1950s who used his money to bankroll activists during the Civil Rights Movement, in 2012 said they had "turned their backs on social responsibility".

Even if she faces a backlash, Beyonce seems confident of her solid fan base. A moment after her Super Bowl performance, she announced a 40-date tour of stadiums across North America and Europe.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'Beyonce under fire over Super Bowl show'. Print Edition | Subscribe