Beyoncé's badass Coachella performance honored HBCUs in a really dope way.

Do you want a college experience filled with dope music, black culture, and Beyoncé as the dean of all that is black excellence?

You should sign up for Beyoncé University.  

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella.


We got to take a class during this year's Coachella festival. The incredible singer and performer, also known as "Queen Bey," became the first black woman to headline a Coachella music festival. Naturally, her life performance oozed with pure, unparalleled black excellence. And the internet audience? Well, they were pretty damn floored.  

Between the incredible vocals, remarkable costumes, and dance moves that would've made the King of Pop jealous, her performance illustrates the epitome of hard work and perfection that she is. But even beyond the theatrics, the entire root of Beyoncé’s performance was based in a powerful central part of black culture.      

Beyoncé used her concert performance to pay homage to historically black colleges and universities, a staple of black culture and education.

Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella.

We knew Beyoncé wasn’t playing around when she kicked off her performance with "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the black national anthem written by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson. But audiences were in awe at an entire set and musical foundation dedicated to the music and culture of HBCUs.

In theory, HBCUs were really one of the first "safe spaces" for black people to be educated. Established after the Civil War, HBCUs began popping up largely in the South when predominantly white institutions impeded black students from enrolling in their institutions. Black academics and scholars like Booker T. Washington and Mary McLeod Bethune helped establish these institutions so black students could safely pursue higher education and obtain the resulting possible opportunities.    

In these HBCUs, black culture continued to develop and flourish. Sororities and fraternities like Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Phi Alpha were developed to support black women and men, and marching bands, dancing crews, and Greek life step shows became a core cultural staple at football games, dances, and other recreational events.    

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella.

With budget cuts and systematic racism, HBCUs have struggled with funding, enrollment, and other challenges to keep the institution and culture alive. But, HBCUs still matter. As black students look toward educational communities that are both safe and empowering, the HBCU structure is more culturally relevant than ever. Beyoncé's visible used of black women dancers, HBCU marching bands, and an adorable play of (safe) Greek hazing was heartwarming and empowering for black communities around the country.

My parents were educated at an HBCU, and marching bands were as much a part of my life as American football. But, it was always in the confines of predominantly black spaces. Beyoncé’s performance — in front of a largely white crowd — was about as rich and authentic as it gets. The fact that it was broadcast for the world to see was awesome, and a great example of how important cultural pride can be.

If Bey University is anything like Beyoncé's show, where do we sign up?

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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