Beychella, Respectability, and Power
This week after Beychella (Coachella fondly renamed to honor Beyonce's slay-age) took over the world, The New York Times published an opinion piece titled "Beyoncé and the End of Respectability Politics." Respectability Politics. If you're black (or any person of color) in America you likely know this all too well. Shirking who you are to make yourself more palatable. It's a way of life most of us suffer through in our own ways - it's different for everyone. I hadn't watched her performance yet, so I was a bit irritated when I read the title. I thought to myself, well duh, after Beyonce has placated to mainstream culture for years, so she could make hundreds of millions of dollars, NOW of course she can step aside from respectability politics. What about normal folk who don't have the luxury of being and doing what we want? Working, living, existing in spaces tragically lacking in and sometimes even hostile to diversity and what that actually means. But as I continued to read the article, I GOT IT. When Beyonce's mom tried to warn her that the Coachella performance might be a little black given the audience, this was Beyonce's response:
“I have worked very hard to get to the point where I have a true voice,” ... “And at this point in my life and my career, I have a responsibility to do what’s best for the world and not what is most popular.”
AND THEN I WATCHED HER PERFORMANCE. When I tell you I cried through the whole thing, I am not kidding. I cried and laughed, and yelled, and cheered, and whooped the whole time. THIS WOMAN. The way she paid homage to historically back colleges and sororities/fraternities, drumlines, singing the black anthem ("Lift Every Voice" - I remember standing in my auntie's kitchen as a kid singing the anthem with her, trying to get my voice to carry as beautifully as hers did). Just, WOW. The whole set was set to the backdrop of embracing the beauty, power, and pride of black culture. Which is beyond shocking, and very rarely put on display by someone in her position.
The New York Times article spoke about other prominent black people, and how they have been accused of distancing themselves from black culture, the more success they gained. Beyonce is doing the exact opposite. The more success she garners, the more she chooses to step into owning her sexuality, her womanness, her blackness, her success, her power.
The article finishes with a call to arms of sorts: "Beyoncé’s Coachella performance suggests that, as black people’s power grows, we should intentionally amplify the culture that nurtured us."
Whether or not you are a person of color, you can not only respect this, but I think you can relate in your own ways - finding ways to own a voice that's been silenced, oppressed, stolen by the world. All hail the Queen. Let's all be Queens.
#beyonce #beychella #blackgirlmagic #girlpower #melaninmagic