Usher shares thoughts on police brutality and Beyonce’s ‘Formation’ critics at Georgia State University

Usher made sure his Atlanta show was special. Photo: Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC.

Usher made sure his Atlanta show was special. Photo: Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC.

There has been a series of Tidal-sponsored events in Atlanta in the last few months, including free T.I., 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne concerts.

But there’s something different about their latest presentation.

Usher appeared at Georgia State University during an event sponsored by the music streaming service on April 12. He wasn’t there to perform, however. Instead, he talked for nearly an hour about social injustice.

The Atlanta entertainer shared his thoughts on police brutality, how he hopes his own art can be used to raise awareness and the claims that Beyonce’s viral music video for “Formation” was anti-police.

In 2015 Usher released “Chains,” an interactive Tidal exclusive that features photos of people who were killed by police such as Michael Brown and Tamir Rice. Activate your camera and the video will pause every time you look away. “Don’t look away” will appear on your screen.

“You can’t look away,” Usher said of the symbolic video. “In order to fix [the issues] we have to face [them].”

For him, “Chains” represented a new era in his career.

“’Chains’ to me was that opportunity to use my platform for something other than wealth,” he told attendees. “It was really courageous for Tidal and myself to come together for something that was taboo.”

He used the word “courageous” to describe Beyonce for releasing her viral music video “Formation,” too.

The controversial release, which features Beyonce lying on a sinking police car, has been critiqued for being “anti-police.”

“Ridicule comes with reality,” Usher said when asked what he thought about those critiques.

He, like Beyonce, also stressed that he is not anti-police.

The singer urged students to use their voices to raise awareness for social issues, too.

“As long as you have the ability to influence one person, that’s all you need,” he said.  “It’s a choice. It’s a matter of you making [these issues] a priority.”

When asked whether or not he talks to his sons about police brutality, Usher told the audience he hopes he is raising respectful young men who “understand the reality of things potentially being taken to a level where they eventually lose control.”

He said it is important that they understand that being disrespectful or arrogant towards authority figures can potentially put them in a dangerous situation.

Usher said he believes it’s important to open the lines of communication between police and the community so that both sides are able to effectively voice their fears and concerns and work towards a resolution.

He’s also revealed he’s fan of police cameras, but is wary of potential pitfalls.

“There’s a way to distort that [expletive], too,” he said.


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