How Ferguson Came to the GRAMMYs

By Kevin Rutherford

As expected, Black Lives Matter came to the GRAMMYs.

But it didn’t begin with a performance of “Glory,” the song from civil rights historical film Selma performed by John Legend and Common. Nor did it start with the track that preceded it, Beyonce doing Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”

Related: Behind ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord,’ the Gospel Song Beyonce’s Singing at the GRAMMYs

It began, instead, with one of the most unlikely songs of the night: Pharrell‘s “Happy.”

The hands-up-don’t-shoot pose that became a rallying cry after the Ferguson, Mo., shooting of Michael Brown was displayed by the backup dancers during the performance of the usually upbeat tune. Many surmised on Twitter that the dreary version of “Happy” was referencing the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Eric Garner in New York City, and once the dancers displayed the hands up motion, it was practically solidified.

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Later, following the final awards of the night—Album, Record and Song of the Year—Beyonce emerged for “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”—and again, the backing singers raised both their hands as they sang the classic gospel tune.

It was followed by “Glory,” which has been linked closely with protests over the killings of Brown and Garner since its release—and again, the backing performers, plus Common himself, made the sign, showing solidarity with those still protesting months later.

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Not only that—though he didn’t raise his hands, Prince also showed his support during his lead-in speech to the Album of the Year winner. “Like books and black lives, albums still matter,” he said to a round of applause.

For a full rundown on what happened all evening—plus what’s to come in the GRAMMY press room—check out our live blog. See here for a full list of winners.

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