REVIEW: Beyonce’s ‘Homecoming’ is a Celebration of Blackness & Her Craft

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Homecoming. While traditionally homecomings are events that are celebrated by most if not all high schools and universities with a football game and dance, they also hold a special meaning in Black culture. For Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) specifically, homecomings were a tradition to welcome back the Black alumni, showcase the talents and accomplishments of the current students, and celebrate an organization’s existence. This holds such a special place in Black culture because HBCUs were founded because African Americans couldn’t attend higher education due to segregation. So their homecomings didn’t only allow them the space to celebrate their alumni but to also showcase and celebrate themselves too. 

Earlier this month Netflix released Homecoming A Film by Beyonce, that doesn’t only allow the audience to relive her live Beychella performances at Coachella 2018, but we also get the opportunity to have an in-depth look at all of the work, process, and dedication it took to get there. For Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter her Homecoming documentary isn’t just a celebration of her return to live performances at last year’s Coachella, Beychella as it was named after her performance, after giving birth to her twins Rumi and Sir Carter, it is also a celebration of blackness and her dedication to her craft. 

Beyoncé, while being one of the most famous musical artists and performers of our time, is also famously private and careful of what and how much she shares with the public. So it was a treat that Beyoncé’s Homecoming gives an intimate behind the scenes look at how dedicated she is to her craft. Saying in the documentary, “I respect things that take work. I respect things that are built from the ground up. I’m super specific about every detail. Every tiny detail had an intention.” 

When it comes to Beyonce, settling isn’t an option and when she puts intention behind her performances she wants to be sure it comes through. Throughout Beyoncé’s Homecoming we get more insight into how and why she did the things she did. We see her involved from several planning phases of the project from the lighting, sound and especially the costuming.  For example, we learn that she chose the colors yellow and pinks for her performances because they resemble the colors worn by members of the Black Greek organizations. By doing this represented a large segment of American culture isn’t usually seen in popular media. 

After Homecoming, there’s no questioning Beyoncé’s work ethic when it comes to bringing her visions to life. She puts in the work to get it done, willing to do whatever it takes even pushing herself to new limits, even when others would stop. Here, it is revealed that rehearsal started shortly after she gave birth to the twins. Sharing that she had concerns about her return to rehearsals and the stage after giving birth. 

Some of these concerns included the fear that she wouldn’t be able to get back to herself, specifically have the same stamina that she’s used to having when she performs. Which, for those of you have seen any of her performances and especially Homecoming, the stamina needed to perform at her level is immense. She was left with this fear because her unexpected pregnancy put her body through a lot more than her previous one had. Having to have an emergency c-section due to one of the baby’s heartbeats pausing, she also suffered from preeclampsia and high blood pressure.

Detailing the road to her performance she explained that her body went through more than she thought it was capable, “I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth…I had to rebuild my body from cut muscles…What people don’t see is the sacrifice.”

And sacrifice she did. To meet her goal, she limited her diet and cut out all carbs, sugar, dairy, meat, fish, and alcohol. She also balanced being a mother to a then 6-year-old, two newborns, a wife, and managing daily rehearsals for a performance that was only four months away. There were many times she would run from rehearsals to her trailer to breastfeed and then going right back to rehearsing.

Another thing that Beyoncé is well known for is being the boss, not to be confused with bossy; there’s a difference. She knows the results that she wants and she refuses to settle for anything less. If she’s pushing others to be their best, then that means she’s pushing herself just as hard if not harder.

Queen Bey was involved at every touchpoint of the project. From the scripting and hand-picking each dancer to the costuming and directing rehearsals, she was in charge of it all. As she says in the feature, “You want to make sure you see everything and I was adamant that we were well-rehearsed, and that we knew the show front to back.”

One of my favorite scenes of the documentary is when Beyoncé is giving her notes, on one of the run-throughs of the show. She told her staff that it felt like the energy isn’t translating to the footage of the performance. Explaining to them, “Until I see some of my notes applied, it doesn’t make sense for me to make more.”

This is yet again another example of her dedication to her craft. This performance wasn’t just about putting on a great show, it was about making something that would be memorable and have an impact on those that saw it. It was something that they could be proud of for years to come.

In Beyoncé’s Homecoming, she explains, “I feel we made something that made my daughter proud. Made my mother proud, my father proud, and all of the people that are my brothers and sisters around the world, and that’s why I live.”

As we continue through the documentary, when she’s discussing her choice to celebrate blackness at Coachella instead of putting on a flower crown, she says “it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.” Not only does her comment call out the thousands of festival attendees accessory of choice to take selfies but it also speaks to the importance of showcasing and celebrating blackness on a stage that before, never had a Black woman headline.

Even during her performance, she rightfully comments, “Ain’t that ‘bout a bitch?” to criticize Coachella’s inexcusable lack of representation, specifically how the organizers choose not to have a Black woman perform since it started in 1999. That being said, I feel that this is a testament to how she uses her platform to not only celebrate blackness but to also speak up on issues such as this.

As the documentary goes on, we see other instances of Beyoncé’s Homecoming showcasing blackness. For example, the title and Beyonce’s performance itself is a reference to the homecomings put on by HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities that were founded by African Americans because they were not permitted to attend higher learning due to segregation.

These events were held when the alumni would return to their schools, sororities and fraternities perform step shows, band performances, and other activities. All of which are featured prominently throughout the performances. Having grown up with an admiration for HBCUs, even dreaming of attending one, Beyoncé set out to put on a homecoming of her own that would showcase these elements and be a Black celebration culture.

She says, “The amount of swag is just limitless, the things these young people can do with their bodies and the music they can play…it’s just not right. It’s just so much damn swag, it’s just gorgeous and makes me proud, and I wanted every person who’s ever been dismissed because of the way they look, to feel like they were on that stage killing it.”

One of my favorite things about the documentary is getting to see how much effort Beyoncé puts into selecting her performers and allowing them to showcase their talents and be a part of something as unique as this performance.

When it was all said, she had 200 Black performers. From musicians, vocalists, drumline, steppers, and dancers, they all joined her on stage. She recognized the importance of allowing people, who grew up with not seeing themselves reflected in certain spaces, to be a part of a history making performance and make a statement at Coachella.

“As a Black woman, I used to feel like the world wanted me to stay in my little box. And Black women often feel underestimated.”

In closing, whether you consider yourself a fan of Beyoncé or not, after watching Beyoncé’s Homecoming, there’s no denying her dedication to her craft while simultaneously uplifting and celebrating Black culture.

Homecoming is now streaming on Netflix.

Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce
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TL;DR

Whether you consider yourself a fan of Beyoncé or not, after watching Beyoncé’s Homecoming, there’s no denying her dedication to her craft while simultaneously uplifting and celebrating Black culture.