by Onakoya Toluwanimi
It is no surprise to learn that women, especially Black women, struggle and are exploited in the music industry. Even Queen B herself admitted to the hurdles that she faced as she climbed her way to success. In a YouTube commencement speech, she gave an opinionated direction to women on how they can manoeuvre their way to the top as well.
Following the unfortunate consequences of the worldwide pandemic which included the cancellation of events and social gatherings, students are being forced to graduate online. The video-sharing platform, YouTube, in a heart-touching gesture, sponsored the incentive of “Dear Class of 2020;” a virtual commencement celebration for the graduates of 2020.
The virtual event was set to bring together inspirational leaders and artists to celebrate graduates, their families, and their communities. The line up of people to speak was hand-curated by Michelle Obama and former President of the United States, Barack Obama. It included performances and speeches from personalities like Lizzo, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, BTS alongside Michelle and Barack Obama and many more.
Beyonce, looking gorgeous in a nude ensemble gave an inspirational speech that had powerful themes that touched on issues such as police brutality, the recent killings in the United States, queerness and she also brushed on her struggles as a Black American woman in a male-dominated industry.
The singer gave a beautiful note on how, despite the absence of opportunities presented to her, she was able to pave a path for herself in the music industry. She called out the music industry as a sexist one, showcasing that the industry makes it infuriatingly hard for women to get ahead. She also pinpointed that she didn’t have enough female role models in the industry. “Not enough Black women had a seat at the table so I had to chop down that wood and build my own table then I had to hire best there was to have a seat,” she declared.
She stressed that this was important for her to control her narrative, make her films and direct the tours she envisioned, which is why she felt the need to set up her label, management company and fight to own her masters. She pointedly praised Black women amongst the graduates, saying she sees them and encourages them to make “those power moves.”
The world has been and still continues to be unfair to women when it comes to granting them equal opportunities. This is why women must take up the challenge of making an opportunity for themselves even if it’s not handed to you. There are very little provisions made to accommodate women and their dreams, and so women must break down those barriers and take matters into their own hands.
While easier said than done, Beyonce gives invaluable advice. Women shouldn’t wait for permission or access to get ahead but should powerfully and sometimes forcefully make these moves themselves.
Her speech, in part, highlighted the need for women to take control of their own story, own their art and control their narrative. To do this, it’s important women create their own space. In other words, build their own table.
Toluwanimi Onakoya is a spirited writer, creative and videographer. Her biggest drive is to connect with people and depict tales using various forms of media.
Toluwanimi is available on Instagram and Twitter @nimi_onaks