Beyoncé was among the speakers chosen for Barack and Michelle Obama’s “Dear Class of 2020” virtual graduation ceremony on YouTube.
Near the start of her 10-minute speech, she directly addressed the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Brianna Taylor before speaking on the graduating class’ potential as a force for positive change. Watch the full video below.
“The killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others have left us all broken,” Beyoncé said. “It has left the entire country searching for answers. We’ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, can start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you. This new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today.”
She went on to discuss her experience in the music industry and the embedded sexism that is still affecting so many careers.
“The entertainment business is still very sexist,” Beyoncé said. “It’s still very male-dominated, and as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to do what I knew I had to do: to run my label and management company, to direct my films and produce my tours. That meant ownership, owning my masters, owning my art, owning my future, and writing my own story. Not enough black women had a seat at the table, so I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table. Then I had to invite the best there was to have a seat. That meant hiring women, men, outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlooked and waiting to be seen.”
Her speech went on to, among other things, encourage women to become leaders, men to redefine masculinity and anyone belonging to a group considered “other” to embrace that otherness.
BTS, Lady Gaga, Chloe x Halle, Lizzo and Katy Perry were also among those included in the Obamas’ graduation ceremony.