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Beyoncé opens the Netflix portrait of her Coachella performance with a telling statement in voiceover: “When I decided to do Coachella, it was more important that I brought our history and culture to Coachella,” she says at the beginning of her Netflix special, “Homecoming,” which was released Wednesday alongside a 40-track live album. The ensuing documentary works overtime to reflect that claim, and helps elucidate her profound mission.
The 137-minute concert film weaves in quotes — both written and spoken — that function almost like chapter headings. Each of them comes from a black cultural luminary, some living, and others dead; many of them are alumni of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). For Beyoncé — who rarely tells the world what she thinks in any medium beyond her music — these citations likely serve as lessons from, and reverence for, African American elders, as she takes steps to ensure the preservation of African American cultural heritage on a platform that she knows will engage millions. It recalls the West African custom of the griot, a repository of oral tradition passed on in a communal setting that provides validity, direction, and reassurance.
Woman - Coachella - Founding - Represent - Culture
As the first African-American woman to headline Coachella since its founding in 1999, it was important for her to appropriately “represent” the culture, its past and present. It’s an obvious theme the superstar symbolically highlights in her performance by incorporating quintessential artifacts of black cultural legacy and pride, including Black Panther-inspired outfits and dance routines. Additionally, it’s a love letter to more than 150 years of HBCUs, and pays tribute to iconic 20th century African-American writers and musicians with their own words.
The film opens with a quote from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison: “If you can surrender to the air, you can ride it.” That’s an especially savvy quote to...
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