*Disclaimer: I don’t speak for all Black folks, but if you aren’t rocking with Beyoncé’s “Black is King” then please exit stage left.
Beyoncé has saved us all once again.
We can all agree that 2020 has been heavy. Kobe Bryant and Pop Smoke’s deaths shook us the first two months. The coronavirus pandemic, still ravaging on, is disproportionately affecting Black communities. Black Lives Matter protests have been in full swing since Ahmaud Arbery’s and George Floyd’s deaths. The world continues to remind us about the perceived insignificance of Black women as 27-year-old Breonna Taylor and 19-year-old activist Oluwatoyin Salau were killed while sleeping and seeking refuge respectively.
But for an hour and 25 minutes Beyoncé’s “Black is King” made us forget we were 2020-ing.
The visual companion piece to “The Lion King: The Gift” soundtrack, which Beyoncé produced after starring as Nala in the 2019 Disney remake, served as an ode to and celebration of Pan-African culture while reminding Black people to hold our heads up high.
“Black is King” kicks off with the 38-year-old artist saying “let Black be synonymous with glory” and serenading a newborn cradled in her arm with the iconic lines from “Bigger”: “If you think you are insignificant, you better think again.”
A whole word!
The film starts off by setting us up to see the greatness in being Black… which if we’d forgotten, Beyoncé would soon remind us off with the visuals and songs to come.
If 2020 was beating us down with visuals of Black death and injustice, Beyoncé showed us depictions of Black royalty in “FIND YOUR WAY BACK” with the young prince walking with his king and queen parents donned in opulent costumes. “Black is King” would show us the effortless rhythmic movement of Black performers rooted in a rich culture and it would show us the unity with visuals of a Pan-African flag and voice-overs that tell us to “remember who you are.”
‘Mood 4 Eva’
Onto “Mood 4 Eva,” which showed our prince chauffeured up to a villa in a black car I’m too poor to know the make of and Queen Bey dripped in the finest thread counts while Jay-Z raps: “At the Saxon Madiba suite, like Mandela (yeah, yeah), Bumpin’ Fela on the Puma jet, like we from Lagos, Mansa Musa reincarnated, we on our levels (he ’bout business), That’s a billi’, a thousand milli’.”
It’s no secret that there are major racial disparities when it comes to wealth, but the visuals in “Black is King” reinforce the idea that it is OK for Black people to be extra. During a time of collective Black trauma, we tend to feel guilty for feeling joy, but seeing Bey and Jay relish in that luxury reminds us that to be joyful is an act of resistance. Enjoy the finer things in life and treat yo’ self!
These reminders to love and appreciate ourselves in all our Blackness are sprinkled throughout “Black is King” with voice-overs of mantras like “You can’t wear a crown with your head down,” “We have always been wonderful,” “We were beauty before they knew what beauty was.”
And possibly the most important of them all: “Black men especially we’re told not to love ourselves, we’re told that I’m supposed to hate you because the world will always tell you that you’re something else. You’re too dark, you’re too short, whatever. We need to show black men and women are emotional, are strong, are smart, intuitive.”
These words are always important to hear and see reflected in media all the time, but in 2020 especially when Black love and joyful moments are seemingly far and few between.
‘Brown Skin Girl’
And what a seamless transition to a Black girl’s anthem: “Brown Skin Girl.”
Malcolm X once said “the most neglected person in America is the black woman” and that never rang truer than learning of Taylor’s and Salau’s deaths and Megan Thee Stallion’s testimony after being shot.
In 2020, when we are still having Black “firsts,” and representation of darker skinned Black women is still lacking across all industries, Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl” celebrated the beauty of all Black women from Lupita Nyong’o’s “pretty dark skin” to Kelly Rowland’s striking looks causing the levees to break from all that drip.
The star of “Brown Skin Girl” though was Bey’s 8-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy. “Black is King” isn’t just for Black folks now, but it’s a legacy that little Black girls years later will be able to look back on and see themselves reflected.
Beyoncé reminded us that we are worthy, beautiful and important all while employing different elements of Black culture to jog our memories. From the Gospel choir donned in purple for “Spirit,” to Namibia’s Himba tribe in “MY POWER,” putting the spotlight on African pop stars Tiwa Savage and Busiswa and putting dance moves like the gbese and gwara gwara on display throughout the visual.
2020 has been rough, but despite everything weighing us down right now we can find some joy in “Black is King.”