Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is not only an iconic black musician whose powerful ballads have resonated with people all around the world, but is also a huge inspiration for the Black community and her recent powerful statement on sexism, the Black Lives Matter movement and being ‘othered’, asking people to stand up and be seen during YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” virtual graduation on Saturday has won people over all around the world. The singer started by congratulating the high school seniors who persevered through an unprecedented time in the country.
Beyonce was a part of the all-day online celebration which honoured graduating students who were unable to have an in-person commencement ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also featured were words of encouragement from former POTUS Barack and FLOTUS Michelle Obama, famous K-pop band BTS and Lady Gaga. Not to forget musical performances from Chloe x Halle, Lizzo and the New York Philharmonic and Katy Perry.
Queen Bey started her speech by thanking the Obamas and congratulating the Class of 2020 for making it despite the adverse conditions of the world. She said, “Congratulations to the class of 2020, you have arrived here in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed Black human being. And you still made it, we’re so proud of you.”
“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the worlds know that Black lives matter.”
Beyoncé thanks everyone for raising their voice for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying, “Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the worlds know that Black lives matter. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others have left us all broken. It has left the entire country searching for answers. We’ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, could start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you, this new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today.”
Speaking about self discovery and venturing out on your own, Beyonce said, “Some of you might be the first in your family to graduate from college.“Maybe you did not follow the path that was expected from you and you probably questioned everything about your decision — but know that stepping out is the best thing you can do for self-discovery. I know how hard it is to step out and bet on yourself.”
Sexism in the music industry
Talking about how the music industry is still quite sexist and how she had to carve her own path, she shared in the nearly 10-minute long video, “The entertainment business is still very sexist. It’s still very male-dominated and as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to what I knew I had to do — to run my label, and management company, to direct my films and produce my tours that meant ownership, owning my masters, owning my art, owning my future and writing my own story.”
Sharing her own ‘terrifying’ experience of starting her company in a male-dominated industry, the Lemonade singer said, “Not enough Black women had a seat at the table. So I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table. Then I had to invite the best there was to have a seat. That meant hiring women, men outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlook and waiting to be seen.”
She went on to add how one’s race and gender played a part in being selected as worthy candidates, “Many of the best creatives and business people, who although supremely qualified and talented, were turned down over and over as executives at major corporations because they were female or because of racial disparity. And I’ve been very proud to provide them with a place at my table. One of the main purposes of my art for many years has been dedicated to showing the beauty of Black people to the world, our history, our profundity and the value of Black lives. I’ve tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence.”
‘Don’t let the world make you feel that you have to look a certain way to be brilliant.’
The singer also shared that one doesn’t need to conform to be brilliant, and that everyone is born with a masterful gift, saying, “To the young women, our future leaders, know that you’re about to make the world turn. I see you. You are everything the world needs. Make those power moves. Be excellent. And to the young kings, lean into your vulnerability and redefine masculinity. Lead with heart. There’s so many different ways to be brilliant. I believe you and every human being is born with a masterful gift. Don’t let the world make you feel that you have to look a certain way to be brilliant. And no you don’t have to speak a certain way to be brilliant. But you do have to spread your gift around the planet in a way that is authentically you.”
And for those who felt like outsiders, the ‘others’, the Single Ladies singer said, “To all those who feel different. If you’re part of a group that’s called ‘other,’ a group that does not get the chance to be center stage, build your own stage and make them see you. Your queerness is beautiful, your blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you, is beautiful. I hope you continue to go into the world and show them that you will never stop being yourself. That it’s your time now, make them see you.”
“Respect is everything.”
Beyonce added, “Whatever you do, don’t let negativity of people projecting their own self-doubts on you to deter you from your focus. Turn those criticisms into fuel and motivation to become a beautiful beast. Respect is everything.”
The Dear Class of 2020 is one of the many virtual graduation ceremonies that are taking place for those who couldn’t go for their graduation ceremonies in person and to celebrate the class of 2020. The event was originally scheduled for June 6,but was pushed back a day to honour the memorial service of George Floyd, who died on May 25 at the hands of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Video footage showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes as Floyd pleaded, calling out to his mother, and saying his final words that have now become synonymous with the current Black Lives Matter protests, “I can’t breathe.” George Floyd’s death has sparked protests all around America and the world, on ground as well as on social media, with people demanding an end to police brutality and racism.