On Sunday night, the singer, 33, donned a flowing white frock as she stood still and sang the Gospel standard with a choir of black male singers, also clad in white, behind her.
In a new video released by the singer, Beyoncé explains she seized the moment to showcase black men after a year of racial turmoil marked by deaths of unarmed black men including Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
“I wanted to find real men that have lived, have struggled, cried, have a life and a spirit about them,” she explained to the camera. “I felt like this was an opportunity to show the strength and the vulnerability in black men.”
Before the performance, her good friend Gwyneth Paltrow took the stage and explained the hymn was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who is the subject of the Oscar-nominated film Selma. Just after delivering the showstopping performance, Bey then introduced Common and John Legend, who performed their song “Glory” from the film.
In the new video, Beyoncé revealed “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” had deep meaning for her family.
“The first time I heard ‘Precious Lord,’ I was a kid and my mother sang it to me,” she explained. “She sang the song with her eyes closed and she was a vessel. It was like God speaking, using her body to speak and to heal.”
“My grandparents marched with Dr. King and my father was among the first generation that attended an all-white school,” she said later. “My father has grown up with a lot of trauma from those experiences.”
Some of the men included in the video also talked on-camera about the challenges of navigating life as a black man.
“As a black male you’re viewed as a threat,” said one. “I’m not a threat, I’m one of the happiest people there is. I’m not angry, nothing brings me down. I’m very positive. But you can see blind fear still to date, like if you’re a black male walking down the street.”
But the message of the song is one of hope – a point that was not lost on the participants.
“The message of ‘Precious Lord’ is pretty much one of trust,” says one man. “It’s pretty much trust. Trusting in God to help you and take care of you when you can’t take care of yourself.”