Beyoncé’s Coachella set was not like any other Coachella set, it was a full-blown production. There was a set, a marching band, at least 40 dancers, skits, light designs, and even a reunion. To get straight to the point Beyoncé’s set at Coachella late Saturday night depending on what coast you live on was very black. The opening alone was very reminiscent to a HBCU football game. As the show continued on it was evident to see how the culture at HBCU’s was influential to Beyoncé’s set. There was the actual drum line, the dancers with their heavily choreographed dance line, there was even a probate very reminiscent to a Divine Nine probate. As one of those people that were up by two a.m. on the east coast just to watch Beyoncé’s stream via YouTube immediately I felt like I had been transported back to my time in college.
There is a part during her set where Beyoncé recognizes that she is the first black woman to headline the festival, which she pauses and lowly says into her mic “aint that about a b***h?” This festival has been around for a very long time, starting in 1999. Just think about how many other black women have been making music in 1999 or where at the peak of their career between 1999 and 2001. It should have not taken almost two decades to have a black woman as a headliner for the festival especially since black woman are always making contributions to music. In an industry much like others black woman are either overlooked or simply seen as muses for their counterparts. There fore Beyoncé’s sarcasm is very much understood and appreciated.
Over on Twitter there has been a theory of how Beyoncé used Coachella a white platform to give a show geared towards her black audience watching at home. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this theory doesn’t sound too off. Also to confirm this theory Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles-Lawson said in an instagram post “I told Beyoncé that I was afraid that the predominately white audience at Coachella would be confused by all the black culture and Black college culture because it might be something they may not get.” The demographic that makes up Coachella is white and privileged enough to afford tickets to the three-day weekend music festival. Let’s be realistic what does the white and privileged know about the Black National Anthem, chopped and screwed versions of Beyoncé songs, swag surf, the pledging process of a D9 organization, or the dance style of a marching band? To make matters worse the crowd wasn’t as engaging as they should have been. For example there were a few times when Beyoncé held her mic out for the crowd to sing a long but it was quiet. As someone that has been to Beyoncé concert before not singing along or enjoying yourself at a Beyoncé concert is almost like a sin.
As much as we all loathe the PWI vs. HBCU debate due to technicalities, and the overlook of racism, which is why we have HBCU it, is obvious to see how impactful the culture of HBCU’s are. It is often duplicated and imitated but it quite doesn’t have the same significance. In my opinion I think Beyoncé did a great job of highlighting that significance with her performance this past Sunday, in the words of her sister Solange “this s**t is for us, this s***is by us.” Now Beyonce’s performance at Coachella was more than a statement, it is a testament to what she believes in. Majority of the dancers, singers, musicians, and actors in her set are black. The musicians in her marching band come from a number of HBCU’s, and plenty of her dancers are actual members of Divine Nine organizations. In more recent news Beyoncé will donate $25,000 in a scholarship to a total of four HBCU that includes Tuskegee University, Xavier University, Wilberforce University, and Bethune-Cookman University.
At a time where HBCU’s are plagued by underfunding and scandals it feels good to know that we have a believer in Beyoncé. Beyoncé’s set a Coachella is being called historic but we should also question if it’ll take another two decades before another black woman can accomplish a historic moment at Coachella. What was your favorite part about Beyoncé’s performance at Coachella?