Beyoncé’s Blackness Parade at Coachella is What I Want to Do When I Grow Up
I am a card carrying Beyhive member, so if you came here for me to tear down Beyoncé’s performance or minimalize it in any way, shape, or form, you are going to be very sad.
I had the pleasure of sitting and watching her full performance and as usual I was not disappointed. Since Beyoncé has been a solo act, I have gone to all of her concerts. The main reason is that this woman knows how to put on a show. From the pyrotechnics, to her very much LIVE singing, I cannot take my eyes off of her. I hate concerts where people just stand and sing. I can watch your videos for all of that. If I’m going to pay money for a performance, I need to be visually entertained! I need my dollars’ worth of action or I will set this whole arena on fire…with my words on the internet. (Just covering myself in case a fire is started in a vicinity near me. It wasn’t me folks) I always thought it was pretty interesting to see how someone can keep up such high energy while singing, when I have an issue with just walking and talking. From her amazing ode to the wonderful HBCUs in America, to her singing of the black national anthem, and down to her bringing on the crew she first started with, Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé left it all on the table.
What I really loved about her performance was just the sheer over the top celebration of black culture that was overt and subtle at the same time. The band rocked the house just like being on an actual college football field, and those dancers were bad AF! After I was finished with my lady hard on, I had to go and read the comments from the angry people who didn’t understand what the fuss was or that they didn’t really get how being the first woman of color to headline the Coachella music festival was all that important. I get that. Not everyone will have the same love for Bey as some of us, and I’ve come to peace with it. I expect to see people downplay her performances and it is what it is. Until I saw this comment:
I've always found it odd that Beyoncé is suddenly a flag bearer for racial equality and progress. Maybe I'm way off base here, but I've always seen her and Jay-Z as capitalists, not racial progressives. I make that distinction because I tend to see their activities, such as this one at Coachella, as an attempt to monetize liberal and racial justice movements by doing these sort of lip service concerts. Maybe I'm just cynical, but Beyoncé just seems like a genius marketer to me, not a social justice warrior. Say what you will about the Colin Kaepernick's of the world, he donated his own income and lost his career for his political stances, Beyoncé is selling albums...
One, Beyoncé has donated millions of dollars to charity, building housing for lower income communities, and bailing out many people during the Ferguson riots. Regardless if you agree with that last point, it still counts as donating income to political stances. Secondly, I find it hard to believe that just because you are rich doesn’t mean you can’t stand up against social injustice. But this comment is not the first of its kind. When Beyoncé headlined the Super Bowl with her pro black stance, many people had the same criticism, “All of sudden Beyoncé is pro black.” Why hasn’t she always been pro black? Why hasn’t she been a solid card carrying member of Public Enemy and fight the powers that be from jump?
It could be that it’s more profitable to do it now than it was prior. I’m a realist and I recognize that right now being Black/African is being embraced by mainstream entertainment on a grander scale than it has been in the past. Just look at Black Panther. This movie is now the highest grossing movie ever in the United States. There have been rises in ticket sales to Africa and more people trying to learn African languages such as Xhosa, because of the positive portrayal in the movie.(All the more reason why imagery is important, but that’s another post for another day) People are selling shirts, jewelry, and all other Black/African inspired creations because people are excited to support a culture that for years has been viewed as full of destructiveness and miseducation.
On the other hand, the issue is that we have to manage our blackness. (Thanks Deon Cole for this phrase!) I work in corporate America and on a daily basis I have to pick and choose where I will take my stance against ignorance and prejudice. In my business I have to play the game, specifically if I want to make more money which often requires me to move up in rank. The higher I move up, the more likely I’m the only black woman in the group, which leads to many non-black people being comfortable with making assumptions about black people based on stereotypical rhetoric. When I was younger, I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t want to stay making 35K a year for the rest of my life. I have plans. I have goals. I also saw what happens when you are too black and too proud. You are immediately labeled as that “angry black woman” or that “too black” person who makes everything about race, when in fact, there was ignorant racial comments made and you are expected to just sit back and “play ball”. When I finally had a black mentor, the feedback wasn’t “stand your ground”, the feedback was to not let those things bother you and stay focused on the goal.
I wanted to stay focused on my goal, but how many “Why do you guys always sag your pants” or “How is it in the hood?” questions can you ask before saying, “N*GGA! YOU HAVE WORKED WITH SEVERAL BLACK MEN IN THIS DEPARTMENT, NONE OF THEM ARE FROM THE HOOD NOR HAVE SAGGING PANTS!” But you can’t say that, you have goals to make it to the top. You have to play the game to make it to where you want, in order to make the money that you want, so that your children can have a better, more comfortable life. At some point, I came to the realization, that this isn’t for me. I’m not about the corporate life. I can’t keep my mouth shut when tons of ignorance was running rampantly and no one took note of it. I wanted to still be in a position to create change, but realized it may be better for me to start a business and try it another way.
One day a woman was talking about Ariana Grande and how beautiful she was, but she keeps dating thugs like The Weeknd and Big Sean. Big Sean? The Weeknd? Thugs? How Sway? What was “thuggish” about these two artist? Cause their pants sagged and the jewelry they wore? As I struggled to understand how these guys where thugs, all the other non-black women around me laughed and nodded in agreement. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut for the sake of climbing to the top. I moved pretty far up the latter, but I had enough.
If Beyoncé came out pro black in the beginning she wouldn’t have gotten far. Look at many of our pro black, "I love being black" artists. They have been able to play the music or create the projects that they wanted to make but they do not reach much popularity because being too black scares people. You have to treat American’s like frogs, place them in water and slowly turn the heat up so that they don’t know that they are being cooked.
Beyoncé had to play the game in the beginning. Sure, she probably wasn’t super pro black initially but many of us weren’t. It wasn’t until we started interacting with others and learning more than what was taught to us in school that we started opening our eyes to what was really happening in front of us. The subtleties of racism, the hidden messages behind our cartoons, and just the blatant disrespect towards the land of our ancestors.
But now Beyoncé is at a point where she and her husband are Billionaires. They have multiple businesses and investments, and no longer have to play the game, because they run the game. Now she can be the pro black entertainer that many of us wanted to see because even if people aren’t receptive to it, it won’t matter at that point. She’s good until the end of time.
I longed for the day when I could walk into work and wear my bushy fro without people saying “that’s not VP material.” I couldn’t wait for the day when I could say the word “Axe” without people blowing a gasket because I meant “Ask” but for some reason people pretend they don’t understand the main point of the question. Some of us are front line warriors, we can say our political and social views from the get go because we don’t care about what will happen, we just need to get our point across. We need those people. Some of us are strategists, we play chess because we want to be in a position where we can not only get our point across but pull more people in with the message on a larger scale. We need those people as well.
Social change requires the actions of all persons on all different levels. What works for some, may not work for others, but what it comes down to, is our desire for a common goal of unity and pride.
What do you think of Beyoncé’s performance? Is Black/African culture a new fad? Sound off!
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