Appearing at the top of a pyramid made out of bleachers, Beyonce embarked on a “black college performance”, which comprised a marching band, steppers and majorettes. Beyonce used this aspect of black culture to disrupt Coachella’s usual indie and bohemian look and feel. For so long, white performers and festivalgoers have co-opted minority cultures, from hip hop music and style to Native American headwear, all in the name of “looking cool” for a weekend festival. Beyonce taught us all a lesson: that when it comes to performing black culture, black performers do it best.
Halfway through Beyonce’s set, she poignantly addressed her own position in history with the words: “Thank you for allowing me to be the first black woman
to headline Coachella.” It was a nod to the present that heavily acknowledged the past. It is why she sang the gospel song Lift Every Voice and Sing, otherwise known as the African American anthem, and it is why she intertwined Nina Simone’s jazz classic Lilac Wine into her set. Beyonce knows the importance of acknowledging historical black musical success and those who laid the foundations for her to be the first black female performer to headline Coachella. Her gratitude was directed firmly towards those giants of the industry.
While we can applaud Beyonce’s musical choices and visuals for paying tribute to blackness, even her guests were a statement. Yes, she was joined on stage by her husband, but reuniting Destiny’s Child and having Solange, her sister, onstage was a powerful ode to black sisterhood. Black women make no secret that we are each other’s biggest champions when navigating a world of misogynoir (the specific sort of sexism and misogyny that is directed at black women). Beyonce reminded black women of the support we give each other in our biggest and most defining life moments.
When Beyonce stepped onto the Coachella stage, she seemingly had three intentions: to cement her position as the greatest entertainer of this generation, to bring black culture to the fore and to deliver a masterclass in black female empowerment. I think anyone who watched her set can agree that those intentions were transferred seamlessly into reality.