Dear White America, Beyoncé’s Blackest moments at Coachella explained

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella media)

Beyoncé’s awe-inspiring performance at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival will be remembered as one of the greatest moments in the history of American music. As the first Black woman to headline in the festival’s 19-year run, she did more than put on a show before 120K fans in attendance and the millions who watched on YouTube; she was able to give a cultural-shifting performance.

The Black themes presented during Beyoncé’s Coachella performance were anchored by Black cultural moments that may have a puzzled some viewers. Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Lawson, also feared that some of the references would confuse the mostly-White audience at Coachella.

However, Beyoncé proved that great art can inspire all races and cultures. Here is a break down of Beyoncé’s Blackest moments at Coachella.

HBCU Culture

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were mostly established in the South, post-Civil War; although, Cheney University of Pennsylvania was the first HBCU established in 1837 by Richard Humphreys. The colleges provided higher education for Blacks during times when all-White colleges and universities practiced segregation. Today, there are currently 106 HBCUs. Following the performance, Beyoncé’s announced that she will gift a total of $100K in scholarships to four HBCUs – Xavier, Wilberforce, Tuskegee and Bethune-Cookman Universities – through her BeyGOOD initiative.

Bands- The bands at HBCUs carry a tradition of musical excellence. They are often the stars during homecoming season, as they battle it out during halftime of football games. Top bands, to name a few, include FAMU’s Marching 100, Southern University’s Human Jukebox, and Grambling University’s Tiger Marching Band. Beyoncé’s Coachella set was highly inspired by the Tiger Marching Band and Human Jukebox.

The Divine Nine– Fraternities and sororities on HBCU campuses are known as the Divine Nine. Beyoncé created her own version and named it BΔK. At one point during her performance, she does a mock probate (new member coming out show) and she tells her male pledges to make her laugh. Of course, they all failed.

Step Teams– Members of fraternities and sororities often form step teams and participate in competitions on campus and nationwide. Beyoncé and her dancers performed step routines while on stage.

Malcolm X

Beyoncé played an excerpt from Malcolm X’s “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?” In the speech, X said, “Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the color of your skin?” The speech was given on May 5, 1962, at the funeral service of Ronald Stokes in Los Angeles, who was killed by the LAPD.

Negro National Anthem– Beyoncé sung “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which was written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 in what started as a poem. It eventually became known as the Negro National Anthem and is often sung at majority Black schools and religious centers.

Nina Simone– Beyoncé also paid tribute to Nina Simone by playing “Lilac Wine” as two praise dancers performed. The song appears on Simone’s 1966 album, Wild is the Wind.

Fela Kuti- Beyoncé paid homage to the Nigerian creator of Afrobeat by doing a rendition of the 1976 song “Zombie.”


Beyoncé’s band took a moment to play the horns from OutKast’s song “Spottieottiedopaliscious.” The song appeared on their classic 1998 album, Aquemini.

DJ Screw- Beyoncé did a chopped and screwed version of “Crazy In Love.” Chopped and screwed is a sound created by Houston native DJ Screw. DJ Screw would slow down rap records to the point where an artist’s vocals would sound as if it where deeper than baritone. DJ Screw, who was the leader of the Screwed Up Click, died in 2000.

Pastor Troy– Beyoncé’s band also gave a nod to another Atlanta native, Pastor Troy, by chanting “We Ready!” The chant comes from Pastor Troy’s 1999 hit, “No Mo Play in GA.”

No Limit- The band played a snippet of C-Murder’s “Down for my N’s” from C-Murder’s 1999 album, Trapped in Crime.

Cash Money Records- Beyoncé incorporated Juvenile’s 1999 hit, “Back That Azz Up,” from the album 400 Degreez.

A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.

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