In the midst of her Coachella-headlining performance, Beyonce stated, “Thank you for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline Coachella.”
The words sounded rife with ferocity, not humility.
She performed surrounded by drummers, majorettes, and sousaphones, and in one evening managed to perform with her husband Jay-Z onstage and celebrated black sisterhood by reuniting Destiny’s Child and dancing to “Get Me Bodied” with her sister Solange. And the best part of all? She did all this with a historically black college theme in the middle of Coachella—a majorly white music festival in terms of both performers and audience.
Viewers from all over the world and those who were unable to attend caught the livestream on Sunday, and the majority agreed that #Beychella blew her spectacular 2016 Super Bowl halftime performance out of the water.
Despite being known for its hipster and boho outfits, Coachella has become riddled with controversies regarding the cultural appropriation of Native American headdresses by some attendees—a sign that the music festival may not be as welcoming as it seems for people of color. American rapper Vince Staples even referred to the Coachella main stage as “the white people stage.”
This made Beyonce’s decision to champion black female empowerment and her use of a historically black college as the backdrop for her performance even more culturally significant.
Beyonce previously used elaborate sets and décor for her Lemonade tour, but it didn’t make her stage full of musicians and dancers dressed in yellow any less magnificent.
She went all out with her historically black college motif. She and fraternity brothers wore yellow hoodies with Greek letters “BΔK” which mean Beta Delta Kappa on the front—the B and K most likely stand for Beyonce Knowles while delta stands for four which is said to be her favorite number.
Aside from performing a few of her hits with a marching band, Beyonce also sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” which is popularly recognized as the black national anthem. The crowd heard slain black political activist Malcolm X say, “The most disrespected, unprotected and neglected person in America is the black woman.” She also included Nina Simone’s “Lilac Wine” in her set, most likely as a tribute to the black singer who was belatedly inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 15 years after her death.
In the latter part of the show, Beyonce transitioned out of her yellow hoodie and into the sparkly outfit she favors for her performances. Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, Beyonce’s co-members in the now-defunct Destiny’s Child, performed “Say My Name” and “Soldier” with her.
Despite being the first black female performer to headline Coachella, Beyonce made a cameo during husband Jay-Z’s headlining set in 2010. She was scheduled to perform back in 2017 but had to back out due to her pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir Carter.
“I am so happy to be here. I was supposed to perform at Coachella before, but I ended up getting pregnant, thank God. This is a very important performance for me tonight. I’m happy to be back on stage,” she said to the audience on Saturday night.
Without a doubt, Beyonce wasn’t there to just perform. She was there to make a statement about black American history and its role and representation in the present—in the most unexpected of venues.