Culture

Why Did Team Beyoncé Single Out Mario Woods?

CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Jae C. Hong

Beyonce, left, performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Beyoncé dropped a new black power/black girl magic anthem on Saturday and then slayed our lives with her Super Bowl performance of the song on Sunday. You (should) also know by now that the show she put on was unapologetically black, from the lyrics (I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros/I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils) to the dancers wearing Black Panther uniforms.

But what you may not know is the name that Beyoncé and her dancers showcased after their performance: Mario Woods.


Woods was a 26-year-old black man gunned down by five officers in San Francisco. Police say he posed a threat to their safety because he lunged toward them. But videos recorded by multiple bystanders show Woods merely walking along the sidewalk when police opened fire. He wasn’t lunging or stretching out his arm while holding the knife, yet San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr maintains the shooting was justified.

Woods’ name wasn’t mentioned during the half-time show, but the “Justice 4 Mario Woods” sign held up by Beyoncé’s dancers after the show retroactively turned the performance into a dedication. It was a statement that black lives matter. It was a statement against police shootings — a continuation of the “stop shooting us” message graffitied in the ‘Formation’ video.

And it was the kind of statement that people tried to boycott before the game even began.

Between the time she released her single and the time she performed it live in front of over 100 million viewers, people called for a #BeyoncéBoycott because of Formation’s “anti-police lyrics.” No matter that Beyoncé’s song makes no mention of police. The fact that she laid on top of a police car in her video and had white police officers raising their arms in the “hands up, don’t shoot” position was too much for some people to handle.

But neither Beyoncé nor her crew members were here for the criticism. By singling out Woods — in the city where he was killed, during the biggest night in American sports — they were going to make you hear and see that black lives matter — in every community, at every moment.

And they were going to do it while paying homage to the black revolutionaries who paved the way for the activists demanding justice for black lives today. The Mario Woods tribute was powerful on its own, but the women dancing beside Beyoncé — donning afros and all-black costumes — made an even louder statement about the women behind the Black Panther movement in the 1960s. Those women shirked traditional gender roles and fought the political, economic, and social oppression of African-Americans — and looked badass doing it.

black panthers

CREDIT: YouTube

With their performance and Woods shout-out, Beyoncé and her team carried that torch into the Super Bowl — and refused to put it out for anybody. They danced all over your discomfort and made the night political. They showed us that the revolution will be televised.

Now get in formation.