Beyoncé’s 2020 Recap Shows the Power of Black Joy
Beyoncé walks the walk when it comes to showing up for the Black Community
In the background of Beyoncé's 2020 recap video on Instagram plays her song "Bigger" from the Lion King soundtrack, The Gift, and later, her visual album Black is King.
The song is an ode to community, a meditation on our collective belonging to a larger whole. The lyrics point specifically to Blackness — Black belonging, Black community. Beyoncé sings: "Bigger than you / Bigger than we / Bigger than the picture they framed us to see," acknowledging the limited scope of Blackness acknowledged by larger American society.
But the song expresses a confidence in our agency, an affirmation of our wholeness. That wholeness depends on the wholeness of each other, it says, culminating in a commitment to community.
"I'm not just preachin', I'm takin' my own advice," Beyoncé sings — and so she does.
Beyoncé captioned her "Bey-Cap" with a similar message: "Celebrate that you are an important individual who contributes to our beautiful collective."
A year full of "celebrating joy, chasing happiness, and living in love," the video highlights both Beyoncé's personal happiness and her efforts engaged in the Black community.
Beyoncé is notoriously a master of balancing her public and private life. The video, with never-before-seen glimpses at her life alongside familiar pictures and projects creates a sense of intimacy with her fans. And with footage of her activism and community service, which features more clips of the people participating in each event than of Beyonce herself, allows us to enfold ourselves into the narrative.
Unlike many trite celebrity recaps that express how hard a year it has been while sharing clips from their mansions and vacations, the scenes Beyoncé shares of her life are focused on her family and her work and are balanced by the focus on her identity as part of a collective.
Thematically, it's masterful. The individual and the communal come together in a medley of celebration and love that does not shy away from how hard 2020 hit the Black community, but instead acknowledges it with a lens of hope.
Beyonce in her speech for the Class of 2020
The video starts in an unrecognizable world: at a New Year's Party filled with hopeful people in a big crowd holding each other close. Didn't we all cringe at the sight of our January to March selves when we looked back at 2020, touching and embracing and gathering in groups?
The video moves to the dawn of Covid without drama, instead focusing on a shot of a man in a mask celebrating the launch of BeyGood Covid testing sites in Black communities. The section acknowledges the disproportionate effects of Covid on Black people's physical and mental health, then highlights the communal efforts from events and donations that were pulled together to address them.
Beyoncé's messages to healthcare workers came alongside massive donations and recognition of the sacrifices they were making for the community by "being away from their families to take care of ours." She shared a similar message as she highlighted the launch of "Black Parade," her platform to support Black owned businesses, which launched alongside her visual album.
Overall, the video ties together the year as an acknowledgment of the efforts by Beyoncé and others in the community (including us, we feel as we watch it) to take care of each other. Instead of a generic middle finger to 2020, Beyoncé chose to celebrate how, last year, "we were united by our humanity."
From Covid-Testing sites early in the pandemic sponsored by Beyonce's Beygood foundation
The message comes across as more than overly sentimental because it appears alongside the proof. And Beyoncé avoids seeming like a self-indulgent celebrity because her focus is always on the collective Black community — even in her clips of herself, she is always framing herself as part of something bigger.
From her clothing collaborations, philanthropic projects, to her album, Beyoncé walks the walk when it comes to engaging in the Black community.
For Beyoncé, empty representation is not enough. She is not satisfied occupying the space she does without giving back, and she has never been one to rest on her laurels as one of the most successful artists of our time without using her platform to mentor and connect with other Black artists.
Everything is intentional: her scholarship program in HBCUs; her record label, under which she mentors the Grammy-nominated duo Chloe x Halle; and even her remix of the viral hit "Savage" with Megan Thee Stallion, from which the profits were donated to charity.
"Give yourself permission to experience joy" says the closing message of the video. For Black people, the year was filled with so much grief and so many reminders of how the system works against us. Beyoncé's celebration of Blackness, community, and love makes finding joy seem possible.
And it starts with engaging in the community, participating in a collective, and being part of something way bigger.
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