Culture

Beyonce’s Homecoming is a Masterclass on Black Excellence and Black Pride

Beyonce’s Homecoming is a Masterclass on Black Excellence and Black Pride

In Beyonce’s documentary appropriately entitled, Homecoming, she amplified the significance of the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) experience. Taking us behind the scenes of her historic performance at Coachella revealed a level of intention that confirmed what many thought - it was about more than entertainment. It was an opportunity to use her platform to educate and empower.

In the documentary, when Beyonce spoke about her decision to perform at Coachella, she said that rather than pulling out her flower crown, it was more important to bring her culture. Within the first twenty minutes of the documentary she used a voiceover from Nina Simone to make her goal clear.

“I think what you’re trying to ask is why am I so insistent upon giving out to them that Blackness, that Black power, that Black…pushing them to identify with Black culture, I think that’s what you’re asking. I have no choice over it in the first place. To me we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world—Black people. My job is to somehow make them curious enough, persuade them by hook or crook, to get more aware of themselves and where they came from and what they are into and what is already there, just to bring it out. This is what compels me to compel them, and I will do it by whatever means necessary.”

And she did just that.

One of the best ways to experience Black culture is to attend an HBCU homecoming. 

From the outside looking in, homecoming is a grand gathering of dope and diverse Black folks anchored around a spirited game, a uniquely entertaining half-time performance and lots of food, fellowship and fun. But for the people who attended an HBCU, the meaning and importance of homecoming is layered.

At HBCUs homecoming is bigger than returning to cheer on your school’s football team as they face a rival school. Homecoming presents an opportunity to return to the place that indoctrinated its students with what it means to have Black pride, to see that Black is beautiful, to know that you are twice as good with less, and to remember what it feels like to exist in a space where you are welcomed, affirmed, challenged and enhanced. 

It is a return to the place that broke you and built you back up, stronger, wiser and more prepared than ever before. It is a return to the ultimate incubator of Black genius whether expressed through the arts or a mathematical equation. 

It is a return to the ones who came before us and paved the way, a return to brotherhood, a return to sisterhood, a return to family.

Beyonce’s Homecoming did more than simply invite people to experience Black culture. It was a call to the folks who saw a mirror of themselves reflected on that stage to embrace everything within and around them that makes them unique.

Just a few months after delivering her twins via an emergency c-section Beyonce set out on an eight month journey to show the world what Black excellence looks like.

In doing so, she channeled her desire to attend an HBCU and allowed it to help her recreate the energy that permeates on yards around the country. In her words, it was “a free, safe space where none of us were marginalized.” 

In the same way that professors urge and impress upon their students to give their all, because they know what’s at stake, is the same way Beyonce empowered over 200 people to show up as their best selves. To give their all and "work to their limit.” Because there is no limit to what we can do as a unit when we are given the space to show up and show out as our full and authentic selves.

Throughout the documentary, words and voiceovers from our ancestors and our guides remind us of the opportunity we have when we are present.

I won’t list the quotes here, because I think you should see and hear them for yourself. They are intentional as they usher us through each stage of the film and remind us that it is more than a performance. 

The documentary highlights what excellence in action looks like. The process. The struggle and the reward. It also humanizes Beyonce. She didn’t wake up like this. She sacrificed and worked for it. And she did it with more than just herself in mind.

One can only hope that the impact of Beyonce’s decision to delve deeper into this story will do for HBCUs the same thing A Different World did — raise awareness and increase both enrollment and funding.

It doesn’t matter if you love Beyonce or not (if you don’t love her we don’t want to know about it), the Homecoming documentary should be required viewing. Not to critique, but to see yourself, to learn and to feel proud.

Over twenty years of experience and preparation allowed Beyonce and her team to thrive on a stage and in a space that was never built with a Black woman in mind.

Although the stages are different, this too is our story. Thank you, Beyonce, for the reminder.