Grab a cap and gown, because we’re all 2020 graduates after Beyoncé’s stirring commencement speech.
The singer joined YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020, which was headlined by Barack and Michelle Obama, alongside other famous faces including Lady Gaga, BTS, Taylor Swift and Alicia Keys, to impart some wisdom to the next generation.
For nearly 10 uninterrupted minutes (truly, what did we do to deserve?), Beyoncé highlighted the unique struggles facing graduates today and charted a path forward with special emphasis on the power of community action, especially as it relates to racial injustice.
“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black lives matter,” Beyoncé said at the beginning of the speech.
“The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have left us all broken,” she continued. “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 went onto jokingly lament not having a traditional college experience herself to highlight how special the day is for the students and for the many who came before them.
“You are the answer to a generation of prayers,” she said.
Beyoncé gave special mention to those who’ve felt othered, imploring them to keep going in spite of the obstacles.
“Your queerness is beautiful, your Blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you, is beautiful,” she said. “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.”
Being counted out is something the singer said she can relate to, as she’s struggled for self-determination in her work during her decades-long career.
“The entertainment business is still very sexist,” she explained. “It’s still very male-dominated, and as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to do 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,” she added.
Beyoncé ended her speech by encouraging young people to “put in that work” in the spirit of togetherness to shift the balances of power, referencing the ongoing global protests against police brutality.
“Please, continue to be a voice for the voiceless,” she said. “Never forget: We can disagree in a way that is productive to arrive at decisions that foster real change. And if you make a mistake, that’s okay, too. But we all have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and change. Whatever the world looks like in 10 years and 20 years, part of that is up to you. I urge you to let this current moment push you to improve yourself in all areas of your life.”
Beyoncé has certainly been practicing what she preached, speaking out to her legions of fans about the coronavirus pandemic and the police killings of Black Americans.
In addition to donating $6 million to communities of colour impacted by the global health crisis, she urged followers to take action after the death of George Floyd by signing petitions on her website, which have now amassed millions of signatures.