Beyoncé helped lead the Class of 2020 into life’s next chapter with a moving virtual commencement address that touched on racial injustice, the coronavirus pandemic, and the will to persevere.
The 24-time Grammy winner, 38, addressed graduating seniors to offer words of inspiration and hope as part of YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” event on Sunday.
"You have arrived here in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed black human being. And you still made it. We’re so proud of you," she said.
“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that black lives matter," she continued. "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 can start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you."
Addressing some of the struggles she faced in the music industry, Beyoncé also spoke about how difficult it can be to step outside of what’s expected of you.
“There was a pivotal turning point in my life where I chose to build my own company many years ago,” she said, referring to Parkwood Entertainment, her management and entertainment company. “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 overlooked and waiting to be seen.”
“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 continued. I've tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence.”
The “Formation” singer went on to encourage all of her young queens and kings of the world to be authentically themselves.
“To all those who feel different if you’re a part of a group that’s called other, a group that does not get the chance to be center stage, build your own stage and make them see you. Your queerness is beautiful, your blackness is beautiful,” she said.
“If you’ve ever been called dumb, unattractive, overweight, unworthy, untalented, well so have I,” she said. Yes, I’ve been blessed to have 24 Grammys, but I’ve lost 46 times. That meant rejection 46 times. Please don’t ever feel entitled to win, just keep working harder.”
As her speech came to a close, Beyoncé reminded the class of 2020 to remember that "every word you speak is powerful…look what you've been able to do in the last 14 days."
“Whatever the world looks like in 10 years, in 20 years, part of that is up to you. I urge you to let this current moment push you to improve yourself in all areas of your life," she said.
The singer has been outspoken since Floyd’s death while in police custody on May 25, and recently encouraged fans to stay focused on making change amid protests across the country.
“The world came together for George Floyd. We know there is a long road ahead,” she wrote on Instagram Wednesday. “Let’s remain aligned and focused in our call for real justice.”
She previously directed fans toward multiple petitions on her website all aimed at fighting police brutality and system racism.
Beyoncé’s commencement address was one of many; former First Lady Michelle Obama also gave an address, and hosted the special’s first hour through her Reach Higher Initiative (which included a special welcome message from President Barack Obama).
Other speakers for the virtual commencement include Lady Gaga, BTS, Malala Yousafzai, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
The event also featured appearances from more than 70 famous faces, from music and movie stars like Taylor Swift and Michael B. Jordan, to celebrity power couples like Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
“Dear Class of 2020” is available for streaming on the YouTube Originals channel and the [email protected] site.
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