Why Beyoncé’s Activism For Nigeria Missed The Mark

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Beyoncé is facing backlash following a statement she made about police brutality in Nigeria.  

The criticism came after she offered food and shelter to Nigerians, who are saying this really isn’t the type of support they need right now.  

So, what exactly went down here, because this isn’t the first time celebrity activism has gone wrong. 

Well, Beyoncé shared a statement to Twitter through her charity account BeyGood, in response to protests that have been happening in Nigeria.  

She wrote that she was heartbroken to see senseless brutality taking place, and that she was collaborating with coalitions to provide emergency healthcare, food and shelter. 

Soon after sharing the post, it went viral, but for kind of the wrong reasons.  

One person tweeted, “Can somebody tell this woman we are not hungry??? We need support to fight for our existence”. 

And another person tweeted, “Somebody please tell Beyoncé the only hunger in Nigeria now is the hunger for justice”. 

The response was far from what other A-List celebrities like Nicki Minaj and Rihanna received after showing their support. 

So Why Did Beyoncé Miss The Mark SBadly?  

Well, to understand that, you need to know a bit about what’s been going on in Nigeria.  

On October 3rd, a tweet about a young man being shot by a SARS officer went viral. 

SARS is the Special Anti-Robbery Squad that is a part of Nigeria’s police force, and people have been accusing them of robbing, attacking and even killing people for years now.  

Nigerians have since taken to the streets in peaceful protest against police brutality.  

Over the last two weeks there’s been an outpouring of support for the Nigerian protestors, and #EndSARS has been trending worldwide on Twitter. 

But by the time Beyoncé tweeted her support, the peaceful protests had turned violent and, according to Amnesty International, at least 69 people have now died. 

Why Are Nigerians Being SHard On Beyoncé In Particular?  

A lot of people were offended that Beyoncé’s tweet assumed the protestors were poor – when the people who started the #EndSARS protests have described themselves as social media influencers from the middle-class, and the crowds they’ve ignited are a real social mix. 

That’s Tiwa Savage, a Nigerian singer and actress, who in a video on Instagram, argued that she wanted Beyoncé to use her voice and platform to bring awareness to what’s happening in her country. 

A publication called Zen Magazine Africa shared the same feelings when they tweeted, “We don’t need care packages… we need you to get on all news platforms and speak up for us”. 

In recent years, Beyoncé has moved past being just a singer and is among other A-List celebrities devoting their careers to social activism.  

Specifically, she has brought attention to racial and social inequalities in America, donating huge amounts of money through her charity BeyGood 

But this isn’t the first time critics have accused Beyoncé of profiting off Africa and its aesthetic, rather than truly raising awareness for a cause.  

So, What Can WLearn From Celebrity Activism Gone Wrong?  

We spoke about this with Dr. Hilary Wheaton, from the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies.  

Dr. Hilary Wheaton: “Where you see celebrity activists become incredibly successful at drawing attention to their cause, is when they truly live that cause. Where it’s not just about that occasional tweet, or the occasional commentary, it is that everything that they do  you can see a common theme. 

Timing is key, you know, the time at which a celebrity chooses to engage in activism, and whether they have a history of activism for a particular cause – or whether they might be perceived as only participating because the pressure has been put on them.” 

The Takeaway 

Even though Beyoncé often uses her influence to spark social change, her recent activism for Nigeria totally misread the mark 

While her intentions were probably good, it really highlights the importance of listening to what people are fighting for, especially if you have the kind of reach and platform that someone like Beyoncé does.