Janet Jackson’s 2018 ESSENCE Festival performance was filled with unforgettable moments from beginning to end, but before she got to the classic songs we love and the dance moves we can’t get enough of, the superstar entertainer used the massive platform to address a few very important issues.
The entire audience in the sold-out New Orleans Superdome crowd was on their feet with cell phone cameras in the air as the stage went dark and all eyes zoomed in on the jumbotrons waiting to catch a first-glimpse of Ms. Jackson.
Instead, a list bearing dozens of names of Black men and women victimized by police brutality flashed across the screen, quickly followed by news soundbytes of other racially-charged attacks on people of color that have dominated the news cycle over the past few years.
The video went on to call out white supremacy and domestic terrorism, emphasizing that the widespread epidemic of racism is not a Black versus White issue, but rather a “right versus wrong” issue. The powerful video ended with a call to action and a recording of a “We want justice!” chant as images of Black power fists filled the screen.
Moments later, Janet emerged on stage to the tune of her socially-charged single, “The Skin Game,” to kick off the show.
While some fans pointed out that the powerful opening montage was something Janet has been doing since kicking off the first leg of her State of the World tour last year, most also recognized that it was that much more of a statement in front of a predominantly Black ESSENCE Festival crowd for the first stop on the final leg of the tour.