By Hayden Wright
Last week’s spate of violent tragedies—the shooting deaths of Anton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers—ignited a heated national dialogue about racism, gun control, and finding a path forward. Musicians expressed condolences for the slain black men just days before a issuing new round of contemplative statements for the murdered officers. Beyoncé, whose last album Lemonade positioned her as a powerful voice in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, made a plea for solidarity and nonviolence in an Instagram post:
“Rest in peace to the officers whose lives were senselessly taken yesterday in Dallas,” she wrote. “I am praying for a full recovery of the seven others injured. No violence will create peace. Every human life is valuable. We must be the solution.”
During a concert in London’s Hyde Park, Stevie Wonder offered a similar call for harmony.
“In this troubled time I want to say to all of you that I love you all,” he told the crowd. “And I love you because I was blessed to be blind, it was a gift so that I could show those of you who have everything you have the blessing you have to use them all. That everyday is to please God and to use the gift of song that he has given me to encourage you to move forward.”
While the accelerated nature of celebrity Twitter reactions may seem to pale in the face of national crises, activist and academic Marc Lamont Hill said that we’re experiencing a new “wave of celebrity activism.” When artists use their platforms to shed light on important issues, their reach and influence could effect productive change. This, Hill says, creates a “heightened consciousness” among loyal fans.
“To turn talk into action, you have to feed people with concrete steps, and what makes these artists so special today is they’re beginning to do that,” Hill continued, according to Billboard. “Jesse Williams and Talib Kweli and John Legend… they’re connected, not just to powerful, inspiring rhetoric, but they’re connected to powerful organizations and movements that are leading us to social change.”