It’s 4 am and I’m rocked to my core. I just witnessed Beyoncé’s Coachella performance and, wow. As a member of the Bey Hive, it’s no secret that she can do no wrong in my eyes. It’s also no secret that Bey always delivers a killer performance. But this show was particularly special and awe-inspiring, not because of the stage design, or costumes that she’s known for (although those were great) but because of the theme which can be described as nothing short of Black Excellence.
Around 2:10 am as the lights went dark, the taps of a snare drum and whistle rang out introducing a full marching band playing New Orleans jazz as if this were Marci Gras on Bourbon Street. Bey strutted out in a studded leotard and cape leading like a drum major with her mace. As she channeled Queen Nefertiti, behind her marched a troupe of dancers clad in bodysuits covered with the image of King Tut and from that point on I knew it was no ordinary show.
If you have any knowledge of the culture of HBCUs, then it’s obvious the inspiration for this show came from the high stepping culture of black college bands. When I saw the risers on the stage set up like bleachers at a football stadium and all the musicians and dancers sharing that space I was transported back to my high school marching band and college days at NC A&T. From the drumline to the majorette and baton routines and even the classic band songs that were mixed in, every detail was on point. Bey definitely did her research on this one and it was only a matter of time before this type of show was to happen. After all, she was raised in this culture and it’s always been a part of her. Her father Mathew is a graduate of Fisk University in Tennessee, and her home state of Texas is home to 6 HBCUs. It’s not a stretch to think of a young Beyoncé attending homecomings, parades and band battles just like many of us where she saw energetic performances of the bands and soaked in all that energy.
The majorettes and dancers bring the visuals creating sultry, precise moves to complement the musical score. Bey’s dancers channeled this perfectly, bringing aesthetics reminiscent of the Jsettes of JSU, Dancing Dolls of SU and Golden Delight from A&T. Scrolling through the IG pages of the confirmed dancers most if not all of them have performed on the field and in stands at one point.
Beta Delta Kappa. It’s what the three Greek letters “ΒΔΚ” on Beyoncé’s sweatshirt stand for, and it might be the best new coed fraternity that you’ve never heard of. That's cause Beyonce created it. Anybody who’s familiar with black Greek culture would’ve noticed the different elements she incorporated into her show. There was an unmasking, stepping, chants and all of that. How much blacker can you get?! As a member of the D9 (Yo Yo!), I was filled with joy seeing her do a full probate show onstage in front of the mostly white crowd at Coachella and for the millions of people who watched the live stream. Members of Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma and Kappa Alpha Psi were among the dancers and musicians who incorporated their traditional steps into the dance routine. Regardless of your org, seeing black Greek culture being represented onstage in front of millions of people should be enough to swell your chest with pride.
Beyoncé’s performance was dripping from top to bottom in pure black pride from the singing of OUR national anthem Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, to the entire stage erupting in the Swag Surf which made my heart soar. The moments of sisterhood she shared while dancing with Solange, reuniting with Kelly and Michelle and having her husband join her on stage visibly brought joy to her audience and herself. Even the costuming was symbolic and done by Olivier Rousteing of Balmain; the only black man running one of the most successful international brands ever I might add.
There was a joke portrayed in an SNL sketch a few years ago when she released Lemonade called "The Day Beyoncé Turned Black". While the sketch was satirical, it spoke some not so shocking truths about how the predominant culture has viewed her over the years. After all, she made popping your booty fun and made very women feel empowered by telling their non-committing men to "put a ring on it". People were so shocked that she would do such a performance where she openly created a commentary on social justice and held people accountable for injustice against black people. How could somebody so cherished and beloved be this ethnic talking about Negro noses and hot sauce? Well the fact is she has always been political and spoken and out for the communities that support her: women, the LGBT community and especially black and brown people. This isn’t new, people just haven’t been paying attention. Now with this last performance, there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind where Beyoncé stands and who she does this for. This was for the culture. OUR culture. And if you don’t understand it…well, I guess it’s just not for you.
Catch her full performance here in case you missed it!