Beyoncé issued a moving and powerful address to the graduating class of 2020, as part of Barack and Michelle Obama’s YouTube commencement ceremony.
The Grammy-winning artist used her speech to address the killings of unarmed black men by police in the US, including George Floyd’s death last month.
“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that black lives matter,” she said. “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.”
Among the many issues she addressed, Beyoncé highlighted her experiences of misogyny in the music industry and how it made her more determined to own her art.
“The entertainment business is still very sexist,” she 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 encouraged graduating students to embrace their differences. “Your queerness is beautiful. Your blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you, is beautiful,” she said.She concluded: “My prayer for you, is that you invest in yourself and see the value of giving back and building your community the best way you can. I pray that you continue to celebrate and value lives that appear different from your own.