What Beyoncé’s Coachella Performance Meant to Me
I wasn’t at Beychella (sadly), but I am still feeling so inspired by Beyoncé’s two performances at Coachella over the past two weekends. I am still listening to the Beychella2018 playlist on Spotify and imagining that I am there, dancing along with her (with a lot fewer of the steps memorized and a LOT more winded— actually, if it’s just dreaming, maybe I can do all the steps).
I have been to multiple Beyoncé concerts. A few years ago, I had the good fortune to be in a small area in the stage called the “Beyhive” during her Lemonade Tour. It was a life-changing evening. Watching from close by as Beyonce danced for hours at a break-neck pace, sang beautifully, and put her increasingly personal lyrics on display threw me for a loop. It wasn’t until two days later that I felt that I had fully come back to Earth (and it was, frankly, a bit of a letdown, because life in Beyoncé’s orbit seems much, much better than regular life).
Beyoncé owns her power in a way that is incredibly inspiring. I once heard a choreographer who works with Beyonce say that every dance move she makes is meant to convey women’s power, and I think you can feel that (although I would not have been able to put it to words until hearing that statement).
In this performance Beyoncé owned and celebrated her Blackness in a way that seemed even more complete than in her previous incarnations. All the musicians and dancers were Black, her costumes were derived from Egyptian inspiration as well as inspiration from the marching bands and stepping troupes of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. As Jenna Wortham said on the Still Processing podcast episode about Beychella, it was like she was saying in the most obvious terms “our [Black] lives matter.”
In the context of so much terror reigning down on people of color in the United States right now (in the form of unnecessary arrests of Black people waiting at Starbucks for a friend, in the form of the highest number of deaths of unarmed Black people at the hands of police in our country’s history, in the form of our President going out of his way to never utter the names of Black people killed by mass shootings. . . ) Beyoncé’s celebration of Blackness was both timely and especially evocative.
Beyoncé’s own mother, Tina Lawson, took to social media to say that she had been nervous about this overt display of Blackness that she thought the Coachella audience (largely comprised of young white people) might not understand. She said that Beyoncé’s response humbled her. Beyoncé responded that she had worked long and hard to be able to have a “true voice,” and that she had “a responsibility to do what’s best for the world and not what is most popular.”
I am so inspired by how Beyoncé is unapologetically herself. I think that is what so many respond to, beyond her incredible talent and artistry. Beyoncé shows us what she is capable of, which leads us to feel like we might be capable of more, ourselves.
So much of her performance is filled with joy and exuberance as well, that it reminded me of the saying by Toi Dericottethat “joy is an act of resistance.”
And by using her voice to show what she truly cares about she exposes us (her non-African American fans), educates us, elevates us, celebrates where she is from and who she is, and shows us what a world looks like where the power and culture of historically denigrated groups rises to prominence.
Beyoncé is a seemingly bottomless source of inspiration.