Award-winning singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter has delivered a powerful speech that borders on the future of graduating students, Black Lives Matter movement and sexism in the music industry during YouTube’s ‘Dear Class of 2020’ virtual graduation on Saturday.
The singer started by congratulating the university graduates who persevered through an unprecedented time in the country.
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 are so proud of you.
Beyoncé highlighted the Black Lives Matter protests that is ongoing in and around the United States, 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 have 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.
She encouraged the graduating class to invest in themselves and understand the value of education, just like her parents taught her, though she did not experience the university life.
I did not get to experience university life like some of you, or the campus parties that left you the next day struggling in class, although that could have been fun. But my parents did teach me the value of education, how to be authentic in my actions, and how to celebrate individuality, and the importance of investing in myself.
Dear graduates, please remember to take a little bit of time to give thanks to your family members, and the community who has been such a big support system for you. You are achieving things your parents and grandparents never could imagine for themselves. You are the answer to a generation of prayers.
The singer spoke about how ‘terrifying’ the process of building her own company was and how the decision to start was a major turning point in her life.
Now some of you might be the first in your family to graduate from university. Maybe you did not follow the path that was expected of 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. There was a pivotal turning point in my life when I chose to build my own company many years ago. I had to trust that I was ready, and that my parents and mentors provided me with the tools I needed to be successful. But that was terrifying.
Beyonce went ahead to discuss about how sexism is still prevalent in the music industry and how she had to carve her own path to success.
The entertainment business is still very sexist. It is still very male-dominated. And as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to do what I knew I had to do. To run my label and manage my 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. 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 overlooked and waiting to be seen.
The singer touched on how race and gender played a part in music corporations overlooking some talented candidates, saying;
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 have tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence.
Wrapping up her speech, she cheered on young women and men, advising them to remain confident and stay true to their path.
To the young women, our future leaders, know that you are 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 is 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.
Beyonce concluded by saying;
To all those who feel different. If you are part of a group that is 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 is your time now, make them see you.
YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020 is one of many virtual graduation ceremonies that have taken place to celebrate university graduating students.
The event streamed on June 7, 2020 to honor graduating university students in the United States who were unable to have an in-person commencement ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Originally scheduled for June 6, ‘Dear Class of 2020’ was rescheduled and pushed back a day to honor the memorial service of George Floyd, who died on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police.
It featured words of encouragement from Barack and Michelle Obama, BTS and Lady Gaga, Zendaya, Yara Shahidi, Billy Porter, Jennifer Lopez, Kerry Washington as well as musical performances from Chloe x Halle, Lizzo and the New York Philharmonic and Katy Perry.
Watch Beyoncé’s speech below;