Jay Z and Beyoncé speak out after latest black killings by police

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Rapper releases song, Spiritual, with the lyrics ‘Got my hands in the air / in despair, don’t shoot’, while Beyoncé published statement saying: ‘We don’t need sympathy. We need everyone to respect our lives’

Jay Z and Beyoncé speak out after latest black killings by police
Black power couple … Jay Z and Beyoncé. Photograph: Mason Poole/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment

Jay Z and Beyoncé have both responded to the fatal shootings of two black men by police in the United States – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday and Philando Castile in a suburb of St Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday.

Jay Z has a released a new song called Spiritual on his Tidal streaming site, which is accompanied by a note from the rapper: “I made this song a year or so ago. I never got to finish it. Punch [Terrence Henderson, the co-president of Top Dawg Entertainment] told me I should drop it when Mike Brown died, sadly I told him, ‘This issue will always be relevant.’ I’m hurt that I knew his death wouldn’t be the last. I’m saddened and disappointed in THIS America – we should be further along … Blessings to all the families that have lost loved ones to brutality.”

The note ended with a quote from the 19th-century abolitionist campaigner Frederick Douglass: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

The lyrics annotation website genius.com describes the song as one in which “Jay asserts his spirituality in dealing with issues of self-worth facing young black men in America”. The song’s hook is the most direct section to address police violence: “Yeah, I am not poison, no I am not poison / Just a boy from the hood that / Got my hands in the air / In despair, don’t shoot / I just wanna do good, ah.”

Beyoncé, Jay Z’s wife, posted a statement on her website on Thursday – before five police officers were shot dead during a protest in Dallas – which responded angrily to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

“We don’t need sympathy,” she wrote. “We need everyone to respect our lives … These robberies of lives make us feel helpless and hopeless but we have to believe that we are fighting for the rights of the next generation. This is a fight for anyone who feels marginalised, who is struggling for freedom and human rights … The war on people of colour and all minorities needs to be over.”

The statement concluded with a request for fans to contact their politicians and legislators, and provided links to Congress as well as an invitation to voice protest on behalf of both Sterling and Castile.


At her concert in Glasgow on Thursday night, she held a moment’s silence and used the giant screens to display the names of victims of police violence.

On Wednesday, another superstar, Drake, had posted an open letter on Instagram about the killing of Sterling, in which he wrote: “It’s impossible to ignore that the relationship between black and brown communities and law enforcement remains as strained as it was decades ago. No one begins their life as a hashtag. Yet the trend of being reduced to one continues.”

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