Beyoncé celebrates ‘beautiful queerness’ and pays tribute to Black Lives Matter protesters in inspirational commencement speech
Beyoncé spoke directly to queer Black youths during a powerful commencement address at YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” virtual graduation ceremony.
In a stirring 10-minute address, Beyoncé discussed racism, sexism, masculinity, and celebrating Blackness and queerness.
She began by congratulating this year’s graduates for “arriving in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing at yet another unarmed black human being”.
“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black Lives Matter,” she said.
“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.”
Beyoncé: ‘Your queerness is beautiful.’
Beyoncé singled out “all those who feel different” for particular encouragement.
“If you’re part of a group that’s called ‘other’, a group that does not get the chance to be centre stage – build your own stage, and make them see you.
“Your queerness is beautiful. Your Blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your understandingly, 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.”
Speaking to the young women graduating this year, “our future leaders”, she added: “Know that you’re about to make the world turn. I see you, you are everything the world needs.”
“To the young kings,” she continued, “lean in to your vulnerability and redefine masculinity.”
Beyoncé also discussed her own experiences of failure and overcoming adversity – specifically sexism in the entertainment business.
“Not enough Black women had a seat at the table,” she said. “So I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table.”
Michelle Obama urges people to ‘go further’ than hashtag activism.
Beyoncé spoke after Michelle and Barack Obama, who gave separate speeches from their home.
The former First Lady urged young people to go beyond social media activism.
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“Sometimes it’s easier to stand with strangers at a protest than it is to challenge someone in your own backyard,” she said.
“So if you hear people express bigoted views or talking down to ‘those people,’ it is up to you to call them out. Because we won’t solve anything if we’re only willing to do what’s easiest.
“You’ve got to make hard choices and sacrifice. If you’re spending a lot of time just hash tagging and posting, that’s useful, especially during a pandemic, but it’s only a beginning. Go further. Send all your friends a link to register to vote. Text everybody you know to join you to exercising their constitutional right to protest.”
Lady Gaga also dedicated much of her speech to amplifying the Black Lives Matter movement.
“You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this country’s evolution,” she said.
“Change will happen and it will be for the better.”