Beyoncé’s historic Coachella performance earlier this year alone merits a celebration. As the festival’s first Black female headliner, Beyoncé, er, schooled the audiences with a set inspired by Homecoming celebrations at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) featuring step, the Black National Anthem, Greek-letter organizations, and an on-point marching band. And then donated $100,000 to HBCUs.
In 2018, Beyoncé is arguably the world’s greatest pop icon. For, not only did she deliver a truly stunning set at Coachella in April, but also she started a world tour with her husband Jay-Z in June, and with him released a long-rumoured joint album Everything Is Love in the middle of that month with no prior promotion–this was in tandem with a video for the lead single shot in the Louvre. And late last month, the Carters donated over $1,000,000 for college scholarships through their respective charitable organizations.
2016 was a watershed year for Beyoncé’s audiences. Early in the year the pop icon gave a Black Power-inspired Superbowl halftime performance and released “Formation,” the first single from her album Lemonade, a text that was the testimony of her difficult relationship with her husband; in April, the album itself was released. Its accompanying videos refer to, among other things, Julie Dash’s film Daughters of the Dust, the Deep South, New Orleans, and African spiritual traditions; the videos also featured Black American female figures including tennis legend Serena Williams and the mothers of young Black men who had been murdered by police and included the words of Kenyan-born Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. (On her previous album Beyoncé, the words of feminist Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are sampled.) This even more open embrace of Black identity at the height of her fame and power engendered a sense of gratitude, pride, and identification in African-descended people worldwide, especially women.
Beyoncé continues to break new ground as a performer and role model, aweing audiences around the world with her legendary work ethic and commitment to excellence.
Happy birthday, Beyoncé, and many happy returns!