Beyoncé Knowles-Carter made a powerful statement on the 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 high school seniors 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’re so proud of you,” she said.
Beyoncé highlighted the Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place around the country.
“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’ve 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 said.
She also touched on the sexism that is still prevalent in the music industry and how she had to carve her own path to success. Although the process was “terrifying” in her own words, building her own company was a major turning point in her life, “I know how hard it is to step out and bet on yourself.”
“The entertainment business is still very sexist. It’s still very male-dominated and as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to what I knew I had to do — to run my label, and management 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 overlook and waiting to be seen,” she said.
She touched on how race and gender played a part in music corporations overlooking some talented candidates.
“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’ve tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence,” she said.
“To the young women, our future leaders, know that you’re 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’s 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.”
“To all those who feel different. If you’re part of a group that’s 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’s your time now, make them see you.”
The all-day celebration honored graduating seniors who were unable to have an in-person commencement ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic. It also features words of encouragement from Barack and Michelle Obama, BTS and Lady Gaga, as well as musical performances from Chloe x Halle, Lizzo and the New York Philharmonic and Katy Perry.
“Dear Class of 2020” is just one of many virtual graduation ceremonies that have taken place to celebrate the class of 2020. Originally scheduled for June 6, “Dear Class of 2020” was rescheduled pushed back a day to honor the memorial service of George Floyd, who died on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Watch the livestream here.