Last weekend, Beyoncé stepped out on the Coachella stage and completely redefined what it means to be a headliner. Coachella has gained a reputation as one of the most well-known music festivals over its nineteen years. Every year, thousands flock to Indio, California, the home of the festival, to watch a plethora of musical guests and headliners, ranging from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, The Cure, Kanye West, to Lady Gaga.
Despite the range of musical genres displayed by past headliners, Beyoncé is the first black woman to ever headlined Coachella. In the words of the Queen, “Aint that a ’bout a bitch?” This fact made her performance historical by default. But, being the first is never enough when you can be the best, and that is exactly what Beyoncé did. Her stunning two-hour performance started with a young woman in a yellow and black marching band uniform killing a drop solo and signaling just how black this performance was going to be. Members of the fictional fraternity that we all wish we could pledge, Beta Delta Kappa, waved flags and spun to the side of the stage to reveal Beyonce herself shrouded in a black and gold cape. From the dancers who mixed traditional HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) stepping with dance choreography, to the marching band version of Jay-Z’s "Family Feud," the performance is built with a black audience in mind.
Even though the Coachella audience’s lack of diversity naturally reflects the festival's past headliners, that didn't deter Beyoncé from making this performance a beacon of blackness. In fact, that performance catered to those who were unable attend, with precision filming making watching from a screen give you a better view than standing in amongst thousands of screaming, sweaty people. Her guests included Michelle and Kelly performing some of our favorite Destiny's Child songs, Jay-Z, and, of course, Solange. If that isn’t enough unadulterated blackness for you, how about the incorporation of an excerpt of Martin Luther Kings Jr.’s "I Have A Dream" speech before her performance of "Freedom." Dr. King can be heard saying, “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,’” as dancers covered in black and white markings walked out onto a stage covered in water. Oh, and Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar came out of nowhere to perform his verse!
If this was not enough to make you want to petition to rename "Coachella" to "Beychella" and have nothing but black women headliners, maybe the “Homecoming Scholars Award Program” will be. Right after her performance, Beyoncé announced that she will be giving $25,000 to four HBCUs for the 2018-2019 school year: Xavier University of Louisiana, Wilberforce University, Tuskegee University, and Bethune-Cookman University, reports Huffington Post. This is Beyoncé's second academic award, following the Formation Scholars Awards Program.
What else is there to say? Beyoncé is always pushing boundaries, giving back, and reminding those who try to forget that she is black. Hopefully, with the success of this performance, the festival will have more black women headliners. We are still shaken from Beyoncé’s stomping a hole in the Coachella stage, and we don't want to wait for what next weekend will bring.
Top photo via Instagram/Beyoncé
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Byshera Williams is an English Major at Drexel University. She is an associate editor at The Smart Set. You can email her at email@example.com