commencement speeches

Beyoncé Thanks Black Lives Matter Protesters, Talks Music-Industry Sexism in Commencement Speech

This year’s seniors are leaving academia amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a global uprising against police brutality toward black people, and through it all, Beyoncé wants you to know: You’re already doing great. “Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that black lives matter,” the singer tells students during YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020 streaming special, headlined by the Obamas, on Sunday.

“The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have left us all broken,” she explains. “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.”

In addition to a viral epidemic and racism, Beyoncé also warns students that they — much as she did — may grapple with sexism in their chosen field. Still, she asks, they must keep going. “The entertainment business is still very sexist,” she explains. “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 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.”

“Please, continue to be a voice for the voiceless,” says Beyoncé. “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 ten 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.”

Beyoncé Thanks Protesters, Talks Sexism in Graduation Speech