Grammys turn into stage for activism

Agence France-Presse

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Grammys turn into stage for activism
Beyonce, Pharrell Williams incorporate subtle protests in separate performances as their back-up dancers raised their arms in the 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' pose

LOS ANGELES, USA  – The music industry’s biggest night turned into a globally watched stage for activism Sunday, February 8 with stars at the Grammys speaking out against police brutality and domestic abuse. 

Two of the biggest names at the annual awards night, Pharrell Williams and Beyonce, incorporated subtle protests in separate performances as their back-up dancers raised their arms in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose. (FULL LIST: Winners, Grammys 2015)

The protest comes amid the growing “Black Lives Matter” movement in the United States in response to a string of high-profile killings by police of African Americans.

Williams – whose “Happy” become a global hit with its straightforward theme of joy  – took the song in a more political direction with dark classical strings and a piano interlude by Lang Lang. (WATCH: Kristen Wiig dances for Sia at the Grammys)

While Williams dressed as a hotel servant in the style of the irony-rich film The Grand Budapest Hotel, his dancers put on black hoodies  – a likely reference to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was shot in February 2012 by a neighborhood watchman in Florida.

Williams and his dancers raised their arms in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” tribute  – which has been used at rallies across America, and mirrored by university and professional athletes in protest at police mistreatment of minorities.

Later in the show, Beyonce took a similar tack, with her dancers also putting their hands up in the dramatic pose. (READ: Kanye West and Taylor Swift: Friends again at Grammys 2015)

She later gave the stage to the rapper Common, who directly spoke of the tensions with police in Ferguson, Missouri in the song “Glory,” which is featured in the Oscar-nominated civil rights film Selma.

“Hand to the Heavens / No man, no weapon,” he sings on the song performed with John Legend, who accompanied on piano.

“That’s why Rosa sat on the bus / That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up.”

And during the evening, Prince, presenting the Album of the Year award, offered a pointed comment: “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”

Despite the Grammy focus on racial inequality, no African American artist won in the four top categories.  –

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