Beyoncé’s new documentary on Netflix, Homecoming, aired this week. The documentary takes a deeper look into Beyoncé’s Homecoming performance at Coachella last year, and why Queen Bey advocates for black excellence, and cultural representation using her world-renowned platform.
I’ve been a huge Beyoncé fan for as long as I can remember. Of course, her music and artistic performances are incredible, but I love her for a much bigger reason: she’s unafraid to use her platform, her voice, to make a difference.
In my recent season of 2050 TrailBlazers, I’ve been focusing on the intersection of money and culture. After speaking with individuals in the financial services industry who come from a wide range of backgrounds, it’s become so clear to me that cultural competency, and representation, is critical to our future success as an industry, our profession, and as individuals.
For me, Homecoming cemented these ideas - and I wanted to share some of the nuggets of wisdom I pulled from my first few watch-throughs.
“You can’t be what you can’t see.” - Marian Wright Edelman, Spelman College, 1959
This is a statement well-known in the financial services industry, and it transcends other professional spheres, as well. It also appeared in Homecoming. The truth is that representation is a powerful concept. We see the need for representation bubbling up as more and more thought leaders and organizations take a stand against the lack of diversity in the financial services industry.
In Homecoming, it is said:
“In each of us, another woman or a young girl might see a reflection of herself, of her worth, of her boundless potential. The youth need to see our greatness reflected in our eyes. Go forth, let them know we’re real.”
By creating representation in the financial services industry, or across all industries, for that matter, we’re showing the next generation what’s possible. Beyoncé was the first African American woman to headline Coachella in its almost 20-year history. She knew that this was a historical performance, and she chose to prioritize representation.
She wanted her performance at Coachella to be for everyone - especially the people who have felt dismissed because of the way they looked. She wanted to give them a reason to be proud, to feel represented. In her performance, she featured artists and performers from the black diaspora, and of all shapes and sizes. Beyoncé truly intended for Coachella to be a “Homecoming” for everyone.
“Without community, there is no liberation...but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.” - Audre Lorde
Let’s take a minute to unpack the meaning of homecoming in the African American community. I remember going to Norfolk State University’s homecoming celebrations as a child, and as an adult. The football team was okay (no shade), but that’s not who we were truly there to see. We were there to see the band! Homecoming performances were (and still are) a big deal. The performances are so much bigger than just a band show. They represent artistry, culture, and more.
More than that, there was something about coming together as a community that was really inspirational. Historically, underrepresented cultures, and marginalized minority groups have had to create our own communities.
I believe that this is still necessary and true because there’s something magic about being represented and supported in a community of people who understand your cultural roots. However, I’m also noticing that in our world today, there are individuals and organizations creating communities that celebrate diversity, inclusion, and equity, too.
Within my own professional world, I can think of a few organizations who are doing this well. One is The Association of African American Financial Advisors also known as Quad-A. Their mission is to develop and foster professional relationships among African American and other minority professionals working in the financial services industry. From a media platform standpoint, Investment News is leading the way. In my conversation with Suzanne Siracuse, CEO and Publisher of Investment News, she opened up about how she and her team have prioritized using their media platform to lift up and celebrate individuals who aren’t in the majority.
She also addressed the backlash they’ve received, calling it “heartbreaking.” However, despite backlash, Investment News has continued with their efforts to create a community that promotes representation, inclusion, and equity.
They have a multitude of different programs and awards, from Women Advisor Summit Series, to their Women to Watch Series, to their Diversity and Inclusion community (which includes their Rising Star award), to their 40 Under 40 award.
An increasing number of organizations in the financial services industry and beyond are prioritizing representation and equity in their business practices. This helps to build community, and encourage representation. People want to feel included, and creating an inclusive environment in the financial services industry (and any industry!) is imperative for its growth and success.
“Live in the present. Don't deny the past. Live in the present and know that the charge on you is to make this country more than it is today." - Maya Angelou
One of the biggest takeaways I pulled from Beyoncé’s Homecoming was that it’s critical to use your platform to make an impact. True leaders don’t want to become leaders, they’re driven by the desire to make a positive change in the world.
Beyoncé could have easily performed some of her hits from her decades of work, but she chose to dedicate almost a year to putting her Coachella experience together. She wanted to show the world the importance of celebrating and understanding the black culture. Beyoncé is beloved around the world. She doesn’t have to use her voice to lift up others, or to create a movement for equity and positive change - but she does.
The thing is, we all have a platform in one capacity or another. Whether you’re regularly quoted in the media, have kids who look up to you, are a leader at work, or have a close-knit group of friends - you have a platform.
You don’t have to be Beyoncé to use your platform for good! The reason I started 2050 TrailBlazers was because I wanted to create a safe space to have honest conversations about culture, money, and how we can move forward together to create a more inclusive world. You can do the same in your community! There’s a strong, inspirational Beyoncé-type figure in each of us. Be unafraid to be unapologetically yourself.