Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime dancers hold up a “Justice 4 Mario Woods” sign and make a black power salute.

Here's the story of how a couple of Black Lives Matter activists got Beyoncé's dancers to hold up a "Justice 4 Mario Woods" sign after her Super Bowl halftime performance. 

Mario Woods was a 26-year-old man who was shot more than a dozen times by San Francisco police, a killing that many Black Lives Matter activists say was unnecessary and excessive.


According to the Daily Mail, Beyoncé's dancers didn't bring the sign denouncing Woods' killing into the football stadium themselves. Rheema Calloway and Ronnishia Johnson, two 25-year-old black women, hid signs protesting Woods' killing in their clothes as they entered Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. They had won tickets to Beyoncé's halftime show from a local radio station.

Long story short: The signs weren't detected by stadium security. Calloway and Johnson got through, came out on the field to watch Beyoncé's performance and, they say, were delightfully surprised to see that Beyoncé had a Black Panther Party theme to her show.

"We did not know Beyoncé was going to have a Black Panther theme to her performance, even though she had dropped the 'Formation' video the day before, which has a lot of black culture references," Calloway said.

"When we saw the dancers in their outfits and black berets, we were like, 'Yes, yes!' " Johnson said. "That was confirmation that we needed to do what we came to do there."


When Beyoncé's performance was over, they chased after a few of her dancers and asked them to hold up their protest sign. They say that the dancers were fine with it.


"They agreed to hold the sign and say, 'Justice for Mario Woods,' and we filmed it on my iPhone," Johnson explained. "Other dancers came around us, and from the expressions on their faces, it seemed as if they had already heard about Mario's case and were empathetic." 

Both women made it a point to say that Beyoncé was "rushed off the stage immediately" after the performance and knew nothing about her dancers participating in the photo, as if not wanting to implicate Beyoncé. They also don't want the dancers who did participate to be reprimanded in any way.


"We don't know who the dancers were, but we hope that Beyoncé doesn't have a backlash against them for what they did," Johnson said. 

You don't need to be a member of the Beyhive to know that the dancers in the photo aren't Beyoncé's main dancers that have toured with her before, so it will be interesting to see if Beyoncé forbids her dancers from participating in social justice protests beyond what's choreographed for the show. But it would make sense that these dancers were in the social justice spirit and thought it would be OK to participate. Beyoncé had her dancers in berets, Afros and all-black Black Panther-esque costumes—certainly an ode to the Black Lives Matter movement.


Not to mention the visuals that came after, with Beyoncé's mom, Tina Knowles, holding up the black-power-fist salute in a picture that did contain several of Beyoncé's main dancers.

The mainstream always has a way of punishing black Americans who appear defiant or militant, so time will tell if Beyoncé chooses to distance herself from a movement that right now she seems to be hitching her wagon to so vehemently. 


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Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.


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