Apr 25th, 2019, 03:41 PM

Homecoming: An Empowering Tribute by Beyoncé

By Jacinda Carlisle
Beyoncé and dancers in custom Balmain, Coachella, 2018. Image Credit:  Instagram @beyonce and Parkwood Entertainment
Beyoncé and dancers in custom Balmain, Coachella, 2018. Image Credit: Instagram @beyonce and Parkwood Entertainment
When Queen Bey speaks, the world listens.

The much-anticipated documentary, Homecoming:  A Film By Beyoncé, recently made its Netflix debut and the world was watching in awe, as Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, the first African American woman to headline the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in its 19-year run, commanded the stage. The spirited film showcases live footage of the entertainer's iconic 2018 two-weekend, three-day Indio, California festival performances (affectionately-termed "Beychella") and takes viewers on a creative, historical journey to explore the true meaning of "homecoming."     

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A year ago already 🖤 #coachella2018

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Beyoncé in custom Balmain, Coachella headlining performance, 2018. Image Credit:  @olivier_rousteing

Cambridge Dictionary defines homecoming as an "arrival" and a "celebration." In the United States, "homecoming" for the African American community, boasts an arrival and celebration of sorts, ripe with historical significance rooted in tradition. As per the U.S. Department of Education, "Historically black colleges and universities ("HBCUs") were established to serve the educational needs of black Americans. Prior to the time of their establishment, and for many years afterwards, blacks were generally denied admission to traditionally white institutions. As a result, HBCUs became the principal means for providing postsecondary education to black Americans." 

Beyoncé's documentary celebrates a diverse culture of heritage, largely synonymous with, and centered in, the historically black colleges and universities experience. In an Instagram post, Beyonce's mother, Tina Knowles, reveals she worried the message might be lost on the Coachella audience. Beyoncé, staying true to her convictions, responded, "I have worked very hard to get to the point where I have a true voice, and at this point in my life and my career, I have a responsibility to do what's best for the world and not what is most popular." 

During her opening set, in a show of respect and admiration to the African American community, Beyoncé poignantly belts poet James Weldon Johnson's  "Lift Every Voice and Sing," commonly referred to as the "Black national anthem." Further, she pays homage to the nine Black Greek Letter organizations (sororities and fraternities) comprising the National Pan-Hellenic Council, who represent a symbol of sisterhood, brotherhood, friendship and family, within African American culture.  

One HBCU, Howard University, describes homecoming as "that feeling of intense excitement and happiness you get when you come home and reconnect. It’s Black love. It’s steeped in excellence, truth and service." “So many people who are culturally aware and intellectually sound are graduates of historically black colleges and universities, including my father" (Mathew Knowles, Fisk University, Nashville Tennessee), Beyoncé says. "There is something incredibly important about the HBCU experience that must be celebrated and protected.” 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Beyoncé, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland in custom Balmain, Destiny's Child Reunion, Coachella, 2018. Image Credit:  @beyonce 

In Beyoncé's film, the colorful costumes depicting Greek life and the pomp and circumstance surrounding the marching bands and reunion celebrations are a direct tribute to the nature of homecoming, black culture and tradition. As reported by Vogue,  the talented French fashion designer Olivier Rousteing of Balmain embraced Beyoncé's vision, and designed haute couture pieces for the artistic icon. He  dressed the over 200 dancers accompanying her, her sister, singer Solange and performers Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, who joined Beyoncé for a Destiny's Child reunion

Throughout the film, quotes and voices of black thought leaders are displayed on screen, many of whom are distinguished graduates of HBCUs. Beyoncé pays tribute to those who serve as powerful examples of the unlimited potential of African American communities, a few of whom include activist  W.E.B. Du Bois, singer Nina Simone, author Toni Morrison and businessman Reginald Lewis.  

Former First Lady of The United States, Michelle Obama, praised Beyoncé's efforts on Twitter, saying, “I also love that your new Netflix film, Homecoming, is informed by the Black leaders, thinkers, and poets who paved the way for folks like us. I love that it’s both a celebration and a call to action. And I love that you’re using this film to inspire the next generation of history makers and record breakers who’ll run the world in the years ahead." 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

COACHELLA 2018 Can't believe it. Time goes by so fast🖤

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Beyoncé and dancers in custom Balmain, Coachella headlining performance, 2018. Image Credit:  @olivier_rousteing

One might also say the film acts as a personal homecoming for Beyoncé. The documentary, which extends a behind-the-scenes look into her personal life, marks the renewal of an empowered woman, who while raising daughter Blue Ivy Carter, faced complications during pregnancy and birth to twins, Rumi and Sir Carter (with husband, American musician, producer and entrepreneur Jay-Z).  She endured a disciplined postnatal regime of recovery, strength and rigorous training, all while running a successful enterprise. She delivered  a monumental show and made history. In the film, she encourages everyone to "dream big," saying, "If I can do it, you can."    

Furthering her commitment to HBCU's, as part of her #BEYGood Initiative, Beyoncé established a Homecoming Scholars Award Program, awarding four students a $25,000 scholarship to attend historically black colleges and universities. May we be inspired by Beyoncé's philanthropy and the late, great writer and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Maya Angelou, whose wise words beautifully tailor the film's message:  “What I really want to do is be a representative of my race, of the human race. I have a chance to show how kind we can be, how intelligent and generous we can be."  

This history-making event is an arrival, a celebration and a homecoming which builds upon black pride traditions and shares centuries of African American customs with the world. Its global viewership and continued prevalence prove that when the consummate artist Beyoncé speaks - serving lessons in African American history, defying cultural diffusion  and issuing calls to action, the world listens. It celebrates together and stands at attention. All hail, Queen Bey. 

Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé is now available on Netflix, in conjunction with a surprise live 40-track album, including two new bonus tracks.