Beyoncé thanked Black Lives Matter protesters and called out sexism and racism in the music industry in her powerful commencement speech. The mega-star was virtually joined by Barack and Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga and more, as celebrities offered their wisdom and congratulations to the 2020 high school and college graduating classes.
“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black lives matter,” Bey began her speech. “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.”
The Lemonade crafter went on to detail her own fight against racism and sexism in the music industry.
“The entertainment business is still very sexist,” Beyoncé 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. 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,” she continued. “Many of the best creatives and business people, who although supremely qualified and talented, were turned down over and over as executives at major corporations because they were female or because of racial disparity. And I’ve been very proud to provide them with a place at my table.”
To close out her speech, the Grammy winner encouraged graduating classes to embrace their “excellence.”
“One of the main purposes of my art for many years has been dedicated to showing the beauty of Black people to the world, our history, our profundity and the value of Black lives,” she said. “... Your queerness is beautiful. Your blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you is beautiful.”
Last month, Beyoncé responded to the deaths of Floyd, Taylor and Arbery in a moving call-to-action video. She previously used her platform to remind protesters to stay “focused” in the pursuit of legislative change.
Watch Beyoncé’s full commencement speech below.