As the nation continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, Beyonce Knowles-Carter delivered a powerful commencement speech for graduating students during YouTube Originals’ Dear Class of 2020 virtual ceremony Sunday.
The singer was quick to applaud the graduating students who are finding themselves “in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed black human being.” “And you still made it. We’re so proud of you. Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black Lives Matter,” she shared.
She went on to address the recent killings of unarmed Black men and women by police, including Floyd, which 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.”
Knowles-Carter encouraged students to remember that “stepping out is the best thing you can do for self discovery.” “I know how hard it is to step up and bet on yourself.” She went on to explain that a “pivotal turning point” in her life was when she chose to build her own company years ago. “I had to trust that I was ready… That was terrifying.”
She went on to criticize the industry for continuing to be “very sexist.” “The entertainment business is still very sexist. It’s still very male dominated and as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to do what I knew I had to do: to run my label and management company, to direct my films and produce my tools. That meant ownership, owning my masters, owning my art, owning my future and writing my own story.”
She continued: “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, outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlooked and waiting to be seen many of the best creatives in business.”
Knowles-Carter explained that the main purpose for her art “has been dedicated to showing the beauty of Black people to the world, our history, our profundity and the value of black lives.” “I’ve tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement, to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence,” she explained. “To the young women, our future leaders know that you’re about to make the world turn. I see you. You are everything the world needs. Make those power moves. Be excellent. And so the young kings lean into your vulnerability and redefine masculinity lead with heart.”
She urged the younger generation to prevent the world from making them feel like they have to “look a certain way” and make sure they only “spread your gift around the planet in a way that is authentically you.”
“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. Your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you is beautiful. I hope you continue to go into the world and show them that you will never stop being yourself. That it’s your time now. Make them see you.”
As many graduates could be voicing their opinion amid the ongoing protests, the singer applauded their push for change and being a “voice for the voiceless.” “Never forget, we can disagree in a way that is productive to arrive at decisions that foster real change. And if you make a mistake, that’s okay too. But we all have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and change. Whatever the world looks like in 10 years and 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.”
Knowles-Carter was part of the star-studded lineup for YouTube’s virtual commencement Dear Class of 2020 headlined by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
During the multi-hour livestream event, inspirational leaders, stars and creators joined the celebration including Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Shonda Rhimes, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Rowland, Kevin Durant, Lady Gaga, Finneas, Bill and Melinda Gates, Alicia Keys, Zendaya and more.
Watch the singer’s full speech below.