During YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” virtual graduation on Sunday (June 7), Beyoncé stood as one of the event’s more notable speakers.
The global icon not only gave words of encouragement to graduates who endured an unprecedented time in the country due to the global pandemic, she also gave support to the Black Lives Matter movement and condemned sexism in the music industry.
“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the worlds know that Black lives matter,” the Houston icon told viewers. “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.”
In regards to rampant sexism and her own “terrifying” process in regards to success, Beyoncé stated she had to build “her own table” when it came to controlling her story.
“The entertainment business is still very sexist,” she said. “It’s still very male-dominated and as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to 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,” she said. “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. That meant hiring women, men outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlook and waiting to be seen.” Her sister Solange named her 2016 album, A Seat At The Table, which spoke out about the very same issue. The album spawned a Grammy-award winning single, “Cranes In The Sky.”
Championing “blackness,” “queerness,” and more, the legendary artist told students to “be excellent” and asked for young men to “lean into [their] vulnerability” and “redefine masculinity.”
“I hope you continue to go into the world and show them that you will never stop being yourself,” Beyoncé said. “That it’s your time now, make them see you.”
The speech was part of an all-day celebration to honor graduating seniors who were unable to have physical commencement ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Dear Class of 2020” featured words from the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama, Megan Thee Stallion and more.