My Aunt -- a Former Black Panthers Activist -- Would Be Proud of Beyonce's Super Bowl Performance

Beyonce at the Super Bowl 50 halftime performance

Though the lights are off at Levi's Stadium, and members of the Denver Broncos are heading home victorious, there's still discussion about Super Bowl 50 -- and it has nothing to do with football. While millions of viewers tuned in to see Coldplay's halftime show, some of us were conducting our own analysis of Beyonce's performance that paid tribute to the Black Panther Party.


Bey's performance might've looked like something you've seen before: Beyonce, a team of dancers, a sexy getup, and moves that would step up your dance game. And even though all of that was front and center, there was a visual message present that goes beyond the naked eye.

Like the Super Bowl, the Black Panther Party (or the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) is also celebrating 50 years. Notorious for donning black berets and fists of pride, the Black Panther Party was an organization that got its start in Oakland, California -- which just so happens to be a driving distance from the Super Bowl stage in Santa Clara, California, where Beyonce and crew threw down.

As I sat and watched the halftime show with my family, I couldn't help but think about the significance of Beyonce's choice of attire (which also paid tribute to Michael Jackson's 1993 Super Bowl performance), the drop of her controversial song "Formation" the day before, and what Queen Bey was really trying to address through her artistic endeavors.

A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

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You see, the Black Panther Party isn't some scary group, and I'm not saying that because I am black. While there are many who love to try to compare it to the KKK, or write it off as a mob of angry people of color for no good reason, I know better. If alive today, my aunt and family friends, who were once activists in the movement, would likely be happy to see such a touchy subject as racism being discussed on a national level -- and without apologies.

Granted, there are some who might ask where Bey and her crew's outfits' bottoms are, but my auntie was no stranger to hot pants (hey, now).

A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on


The core mission of the Black Panther Party was to hold officials -- specifically the police -- in Oakland, California, accountable for their actions. Citizens of the community who eventually became members were sick and tired of seeing injustice, especially police brutality, playing out in their neighborhoods. And rather than turn a blind eye, they decided to patrol their own communities, as a reminder that they would no longer go quietly into the night.

Spreading across the country (and even internationally), the Black Panther Party also empowered blacks to be the change they so desperately wished to see. This in turn ignited many social programs -- including resources for drug rehabilitation and health services, disarming gangs, and the creation of the Free Breakfast for Children program, which enabled at-risk children to have access to the most important meal of the day.

And yes, J. Edgar Hoover did establish an FBI task force that once considered the Black Panther Party "the greatest threat to internal security of the country." But we should also let history remind us that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was considered a national terrorist in the eyes of the bureau, too.

Growing up in a small town in West Virigina, my auntie and her family were one of a few black families who experienced an unthinkable amount of discrimination. Hearing about the Black Panther Party excited her to find her voice and try to effect change. In many ways, I learned the importance of serving my community and volunteering through my family.

More from The Stir: 6 Powerful Lessons Your Kids Will Learn by Volunteering

Regardless of what you think about Beyonce, or her Super Bowl performance (she's not paying me to make you like her), I believe it is important to point out the cultural significance she wanted to convey. Bey isn't the first to use her platform to speak to things that tug at her heartstrings, and she certainly won't be the last.

The media is oversaturated with news about inequality (I know, I know -- I know!). And to be honest, it is my hope, with yours, that our children can grow up in a world where they aren't reminded of any physical differences. But, sadly, we're not quite there yet. On the path, sure. But reached the destination, no. And Beyonce is saying just that in a way that will resonate with today's youth.

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Unfortunately, there are way too many situations of people of color dying in police custody, being shot to death before having their day in court, or being mistreated and beaten. I'm not saying that all involved are automatically innocent, or that all cops are bad. My father is a retired police sergeant, and would tell you otherwise. But even he hangs his head in shame at some of the stories he reads and hears.

I'm a firm believer that all lives matter, but until we can get to a point where individuals of color who are pulled over or arrested can plead their case -- like those who commit mass shootings and don't turn the gun on themselves -- without being killed, there will always be groups and activists speaking up for those who feel their voice has been silenced.

The revolution will be televised. Thank you, Bey, for doing exactly that.


Image via PG / Splash News

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