I am Mexican-American – more Mexican than American if I’m being honest – living in a city where we don’t really experience racism because it has a predominantly Hispanic population. My culture tends to have a lot of machismo where women are seen as less than the man. So when I started following Beyonce’s work, I was woken up with topics I was unaware of related to racism, police brutality against Blacks, white privilege, and feminism.
I’ve been a Beyonce fan since 2008. Through her work I have learned what being a feminist means and the history, the struggles and the pride of African-Americans. Although I would like to talk about all the ways she has inspired me, I’m only going to focus on her most recent piece of art.
Beyonce debuted as a director and producer when her film Homecoming premiered on Netflix on April 17, 2019. It showcases a combination of her two performances at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival as well as parts of her journey to create one of the best performances in Coachella’s history. It was released just around 2 a.m. And yes, I stayed up to watch the premiere. It lasts two hours and seventeen minutes, so I went to sleep around 5 a.m., but the sleep deprivation was worth it. It has become the most celebrated concert film according to several sources. But what really made it special was her feminist approach and her celebration of black excellence. Something to admire from Beyonce is that not only does she try to be the best as a performer, but she’s also an activist and uses the platform she has created to influence and make an impact in today’s society.
“When i decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella,” Beyonce says.
Below are three things I learned that made “Homecoming: a film by Beyonce” not just a concert film but a celebration to feminism and black culture.
1. First African-American Women To Headline Coachella
Originally, Beyonce was supposed to perform in 2017. But she got pregnant with twins and had to cancel all her shows from that year. A disappointment for us, her fans, but it gave Beyonce and her team another year to plan and perfect what has become known as ‘’Beychella.”
“Coachella thank you for allowing me to be the first Black woman to headline Coachella,” Beyonce says right before she started signing “Run The World (Girls).”
Since I started listening to her music, Beyonce has always been a strong feminist and she is known for encouraging girl power in her songs. Throughout the two hour show, she made sure to hype up all the audience but especially women by asking things like “Ladies, are we smart? Are we strong? Do we have any strong women out there tonight?” And by making a “suck on my balls, balls” step performance that showcases feminine strength. Although she’s an icon, a living legend, she is still a human being with her own struggles.
The Queen B talked about her difficult pregnancy and how hard it was to get back into shape for this performance. It was her first big appearance on stage after giving birth to Rumi and Sir and she wanted to create her own homecoming. “I definitely pushed myself further than I could,” the singer says. I felt that as the strong feminist woman she is, she wanted to demonstrate that she can be a mother, a wife and still one of the greatest living entertainers.
2. Black National Anthem & Important Black Figures
Coachella is known to have a predominately white audience. Therefore Beyoncé, being the first black woman to headline the show, had to make a statement, just like she did back in 2016 when she performed Formation at the Super Bowl. Right after she sang Freedom, she performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” that says “Let our rejoicing rise, high as the list’ning skies, let us march on ‘till victory is won.” At first, i thought it was a beautiful song she cover for the concert, but then I found out this song is known to be a Black national anthem in the United States.
She also used references of important black figures I was unaware of, like an excerpt from Malcolm X’s 1962 “Who Taught You To Hate Yourself” and Nina Simone when she talks about blackness:,
“Giving out to them that Blackness, that Black power, that Black pushing them to identify with Black culture; I think that’s what you’re asking. I have no choice over it; in the first place, to me we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world, black people. My job is to somehow make them curious enough or persuade them, by hook or crook, to get more aware of themselves and where they came from and what they are into and what is already there, and just to bring it out. This is what compels me to compel them and I will do it by whatever means necessary.”
I think Beyonce in a way feels the need to represent her culture, her people, her roots just like Nina Simone. And she is doing it. She is reaching to all kinds of people, especially at a music festival of this magnitude and using a platform like Netflix to showcase her work is a clever way to reach another type of audience.
3. Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)
Queen B’s performance had a theme for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and she talks about the meaning behind it. “I always dream of going to an HBCU. My college was Destiny’s Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher,” Beyonce says as images and videos of the rehearsals pass by. She wanted to give us not just black culture, but black college culture. Yonce wanted a full homecoming experience and in order to do that she and her team got the best, a full on marching band, a drum line, a choir, steppers, and a lot of dancers. “I wanted a Black orchestra, i wanted the steppers, i needed the vocalists,” Beyonce says.
Over 100 people were on stage with her, including musicians, dancers, and other performers. Many were former HBCU students. She had five different outfits, and the second costume she wore a cropped hoodie with the Greek letters BAK. When i first saw this i didn’t know what it stand for, so i had to Google it and I found out it that fraternities and sororities are usually named after three Greek letters so the singer created her own paying tribute to Divine Nine, the Black Greek letter organizations. “So many people who are culturally aware and intellectually sound are graduates from historically black colleges and universities, including my father,” she says. “There is something incredibly important about the HBCU experience that must be celebrated and protected.”
In my opinion, Homecoming is more than just a concert film. To me it is an exciting performance with drops of education about black culture, while for African-Americans is a celebration for black pride. Beyonce says, “It’s hard to believe that after all these years, I was the first African-American woman to headline Coachella. It was important to me that everyone that’s had never seen themselves represented felt like they were on that stage with us.”