Beyoncé: Artist and Activist

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Through the duration of my Queen B infatuation, Beyoncé has never failed to impress me with her new music. Her latest song, Formation was no exception. The video is a political statement in itself and furthers her involvement in the nation’s social justice dialogue. As she becomes increasingly engaged in these discussions with each passing year, Beyoncé is targeted and analyzed, just as many other celebrity advocates are. There is no denying her power and effectiveness as an artist; she’s sold over a hundred million records between Destiny’s Child and her solo career, and her popularity hasn’t faltered since the debut of her solo album in 2003. I would probably triple my 1000 word limit if I listed all of her professional achievements and accolades, so I’ll spare you. But with political statements comes blind criticism and commentary, which oftentimes seeks to destroy the validity of the artist’s efforts as an activist. In Beyoncé’s case, the attempted destruction of her credibility is not only unjustified, but a perpetuation of the unsettling racial attitudes and gender norms that plague our country.

Empowering girls all over the world with her song “Run the World (Girls)” and her Sasha Fierce alter ego, Beyoncé outdid herself with her self-titled album in December of 2013 and became a feminist idol. With songs like “Pretty Hurts” and “Flawless”, she reminded women that confidence and persistence are essential and the negative judgment of others is irrelevant. When someone tells me Beyoncé is not a real proponent for feminism because of her skimpy clothing or suggestive lyrics, I’m thoroughly confused. Has someone revisited the definition of feminism and twisted it? The last time I checked, Beyoncé is the embodiment of advocating equal political, social, and economic rights for women. Known as a musician more so than an activist, she could sing about any topic she wanted. The fact that she has dedicated so many songs to the empowerment of women is incredibly impressive, especially for such a mainstream artist. Bey dresses to her liking and says whatever she feels, encouraging from her fans the utmost respect and support towards her feminist values.

When Beyoncé released her self-titled album in 2013, it was criticized for not addressing intersectionality the same year that #BlackLivesMatter became a national movement. In her “Formation” music video, it’s clear that she had been working to find an appropriate way to engage in the effort. In addition to showing pride in her African and Creole ancestry by praising black features like natural hair (yasss!) and “Jackson 5 nostrils”, Beyoncé addresses #BlackLivesMatter head on with moving visuals. She incorporates chilling graffiti that reads “Stop Shooting Us” along with a young African-American boy in a black hoodie, standing in front of a line of armed police officers. This video was released one day after Tidal, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s music streaming company, announced their donation of $ 1.5 million to #BlackLivesMatter Organizations on what would be Trayvon Martin’s 21st birthday. Furthermore, she took the messages of “Formation” to the next level by performing the song at Sunday’s politically charged Superbowl Halftime show. By introducing the subjects of police brutality and black culture to such a wide-reaching platform, along with giving nods to Malcolm X and the black panthers, Beyoncé sparked tension with many conservative politicians. However, she also showed her support of a major movement, making huge strides in publicizing #BlackLivesMatter to an audience who may have previously opposed an open discussion about race or had not been given the platform to have one.

I’m saddened that some people think Beyoncé’s support for the feminist and racial movements is “just for show”. The most unfortunate part is that much of the critique towards her ineffectual leadership as an activist for race comes from white Americans and that of gender often comes from men. In the good-spirited effort of trying to be loyal allies to these movements, they often forget it’s about making the voice of the oppressed heard by any means necessary, not putting down someone trying to do just that. Beyoncé’s track record as a social justice warrior has admittedly been somewhat problematic – her cultural appropriation in Coldplay’s Hymn for the Weekend had me cringing for days and some of lyrics, like her duet verse with Jay-Z in drunk in love, have been criticized for condoning violent behavior. Despite the occasional slip-up, she’s still an influential and valuable partisan in our intersectional fight for equality. As an African-American woman, it has been eye-opening to watch someone with the same skin color and hair texture as me, top Forbes’ list of America’s Top Self-Made Women and transcend race and gender to become one of the most successful people in the world. To say Bey hasn’t encouraged me to get where I am today– and where I’m going in the future– would be a lie.

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One thought on “Beyoncé: Artist and Activist

  1. If Huey Newton would have seen Beyoncé’s performance at the super bowl he would of turned in his grave. Especially after she plugged her concert after the performance. She used an issue sure to stir up controversy to gain media attention. Go listen to Gil Scott Heron’s “The revolution will not be televised” Beyoncé uses sexualization and the number one watched program in America to “support” the black lives matter movement. While on the side plugging her tour. My actually Creol African American History professor who is by title a African American Rights Activist explained to me how she was appalled and pissed off at Beyoncé’s performance. Please look into Black Panther history before you blindly support her because she slaps #BlackLivesMatter all over it.

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