On April 23, Beyoncé dropped her highly anticipated visual album “Lemonade,” causing the internet to officially go insane. The album contains a number of songs about infidelity, feminism, black culture and personal strength. The Queen features a number of black women throughout her video in various settings: young women draped over the bared arms of trees in a Southern setting, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner holding up pictures of their dead sons, and a line of girls tied together with cord at the waist as a powerful embodiment of black, female lineage.
Her message here is loud and clear: #BlackLivesMatter. Granted, this is not the first time Queen Bey has addressed the movement or civil rights equality in general — her performance of “Formation” at the Super Bowl made references to the Black Panthers and the Black Power Movement. But she could’ve used her power to effect change years ago, yet is only choosing to speak up now when it’s convenient. It doesn’t make much of a difference when you are capable of wielding all the power but hesitate to use it.
Beyoncé had ample opportunity to take a stand when the “#Blacklivesmatter” tag was first coined and started gaining visibility in 2014. Neither album focused on black rights despite being released in the midst of increasing racial tension in the country. Instead, like a smart business woman, Beyonce waited until she could capitalize on the movement with an album like “Lemonade” that’s steeped thoroughly in black empowerment. But her decision to speak up through her music is ultimately based on opportune timing and the ability to make a profit on current events, not the weight of the message.
Yet now, the grassroots nature and sheer emotional fervor that characterized the height of the Black Lives Matter movement have moved beyond passionate large-scale protest, focusing more on smaller acts of political subversion. Beyoncé could have made a much more powerful statement had she participated in the midst of the 2012 passion, but that would not have been the profitable thing to do; so instead she “surfboard-ed” right over black rights wave.
Clearly, Beyoncé is still incredibly influential. Her music has always stood behind female empowerment, but she uses her capital — in this case, musical talent — like she’s a stockholder waiting for the right moment to sell. And when you have a “Beyhive” full of impassioned black, millennial men and women it is both a duty and a responsibility to speak up while you can. Not many black people have the kind of platform that Beyonce has to voice their opinion and make a difference. In light of the visibility and genuine support black rights have gained, Beyoncé’s pleas come off as an insincere ploy.
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