On Friday night (April 13), it was revealed that our government had launched millions of dollars worth of tomahawk missiles at Syria. In a move that seemed callous and maddeningly voyeuristic by Trump, it has been made clear in the days following that the attack was merely a show of force in 45’s never-ending pissing contest with Russia. Immediately, Americans speculated whether or not this was Trump’s way of entering an arms race, a sign of impending war for the United States. Once again, we revisited what has become an all-too familiar state of being under this administration: casual anxiety.
On Saturday (April 14), a video of two black men being arrested in a Starbucks went viral. Posted on Twitter by a white person a few chairs away, it was later explained that the two men were simply waiting for a friend to arrive at the Starbucks. They were perceived by employees as loitering — and somehow, dangerous — and were callously escorted out by police officers after a one-sided confrontation. In this instance, we were reminded of the everyday racism that lurks around the corner for every black American.
But just as it seemed once again that the world was falling apart before us, something gave us reprieve.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning (April 15), the loyalest of the Beyhive stayed up to watch the performance that may one day define a generation of black youth. With her record-breaking performance at Coachella (confidently proclaimed as Beychella by the artist herself mid-performance), Beyonce served a reckoning. Black exaltation washed over the masses, and for a day or two, the bliss was enough to make you forget all of the menacing things threatening our livelihoods.
After changing out of her glitzy Cleopatra garb, Beyonce changed into a gold, cropped sorority sweatshirt with her crest embroidered on the front. Her dancers, as well, donned yellow and gold attire. A sea of yellow and gold, like the sun. A joyous color for a joyous occasion.
Watching the performance on Coachella’s YouTube on Sunday afternoon, while twisting my hair up for the work week, I found myself smiling unconsciously, singing the words to Bey’s songs mindlessly. Her music has a way of seeping into your soul, the lyrics lying dormant, waiting for the right moment to assert themselves through your lips. She sashayed her way through her discography, with various dance breaks and other fun intermissions in between — and I hung on every moment waiting to see what the next song would bring.
Her black cultural references throughout the performance are almost too numerous to name, but her use of an HBCU band, stepping, and survey of various black dance phenomena of the last decade were obvious conveyors of black identity. It was carefree black men and women having a party that we were mere witnesses to. Of course, Beyonce was performing; but her two-hour set was as much celebration as entertainment. A salute to the power of black history and culture.
In reading about all of the tributes that Bey had made with her costumes, dance routines, and sampling during the concert, I was made to feel simultaneously baffled and proud. We are rarely taught the depth of black culture. We are not made to believe black people are interesting in a non-Othering way. It was radical for her to explore not only as many references as she did, but display them in a meaningful way, rather than merely parading them as trends or as paltry evidence of wokeness.
Outside of the culture cues, the performances and featured guests brought a special kind of glee to the crowd. Jay-Z popped in to provide bars from the pair’s mid-aughts jam “Deja Vu,” while Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams joined Bey for a short set of Destiny’s Child’s greatest hits and harmonies. I was instantly warmed inside by the reunion, being transported back to my own private concerts to my mirror in my childhood bedroom.
Perhaps the most carefree moments in the show were those Beyonce shared with her sister, Solange. The two danced side by side — in perfect sync, but with their own respective sass. They played patty cake like schoolgirls and struck poses for the crowd. Watching them, you saw their journeys within them. Once two Houston girls with a dream, now two grown women with a message. You knew that the two of them felt full in their hearts to share their passion for music, black culture, and their shared history as sisters with their fans. It was a nice touch, too, that Solange’s wig was a bubbly platinum blonde. Because don’t blondes have more fun?
What Beyonce gave us on the Coachella stage is something black people are rarely afforded: joy. Sheer, uncompromising joy. Of marriage. Of sisterhood. Of motherhood. Of being black. And when you’re living in a world where tragedies compound one another in a vicious cycle of trauma, it is a shock to our systems to feel that same sensation with a positive emotion. Especially when the good vibes are originating from something so inherent to your identity.
Punctuating her set at Coachella was her announcement on Monday (April 16) that she will be providing $100,000 in scholarships to four HBCU institutions. Beyonce’s mother, Mrs. Tina Lawson, revealed on Instagram that she feared white audiences at Coachella and around the world would not understand the blackness of her lengthy set. Beyonce responded tenaciously that she had a responsibility to give to the world what is “best” over what is popular. Her intent was to inspire us all, particularly black youth, to explore the richness of black culture for ourselves. Its beauty, its pain, its radical rejoicing. For Mrs. Carter, the bottom line is always shining a light on the brilliance of black people in the face of society’s greatest tribulations. In doing so, she ironically asserts herself as part of the very legacy she commemorates.