By Terrance Turner
June 19, 2020 (updated Nov. 24)
Beyonce has released new music.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Beyoncé surprised fans with a late-night release of her new single “Black Parade”. The song (a Tidal exclusive) is a celebration of Blackness and Black people. “We got rhythm, we got pride/We birth kings; we birth tribes,” Beyoncé sings. “I can’t forget my history is herstory. We black, baby. That’s the reason why they always mad.”
The song’s lyrics address African culture, reparations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and police brutality (the latter two issues disproportionately impact Black people). “Ankh charm on gold chains, with my Oshun energy,” she sings, “or the Dashiki print”. (According to an analysis in Elle, ‘Ankh’ is a symbol deriving from Ancient Egypt, and ‘Oshun’ is the Nigerian Yoruba goddess of femininity, love, sensuality and fertility.) According to the website for Black-owned clothing line D’Iyanu, the dashiki originated in West Africa and dates back as far as the 12th-13th century. It came into fashion in the United States during the 1960s as a symbol of Afrocentrism and Black pride.
“Need another march, lemme call Tamika (Woo). Need peace and reparation for my people,” Beyoncé continues. “Tamika” is likely a reference to Tamika Mallory, a Black female activist who helped organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. (She also served as co-president of the 2019 Women’s March, according to the New York Times.) Reparations for slavery have been a long-held but never-fulfilled request from many Black activists. The idea gained national traction this year amid mentions by Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer, who explained his position in a Yahoo! News interview in January.
“Black Parade” was released on the historic Black holiday of Juneteenth, which originated in Beyoncé’s home state of Texas. The holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in 1865, as the Civil War was ending. The song arrives just hours after Beyoncé unveiled a new “Black Parade” initiative for black-owned businesses.
“Happy Juneteenth,” Beyonce writes in a message on her website. “Being Black is your activism.
Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.” The message then informs the viewer that “Black Parade” benefits her foundation BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League, to support Black-owned small businesses in need. The next thing we see is a dizzying, dazzling directory of Black-owned businesses.
The categories encompass art and design, fashion and lifestyle, bars and restaurants. One featured restaurant, soul food café This Is It, is located in Beyonce’s hometown, in Houston’s Third Ward. The Lemond Kitchen, which caters gourmet Southern cuisine, is also based in Houston. (Its Heights location, on 612 Archer St, now offers home delivery and pickup!)
The products include everything from candles to cayenne to colored glass; the businesses have a wide stylistic range. The Lit Bar, in Brooklyn, is an independent bookstore/wine bar; another Brooklyn business listed is Dorsey’s Art Gallery (est. 1970). In L.A., Little Kingston’s serves authentic Jamaican cuisine; in Maryland, the Spice Suite offers balsamic vinegar, garlic olive oil, white pear, pure maple syrup, Jamaican jerk rub, and other delicacies.
In Minneapolis, Metro Behavioral Health offers group/individual therapy, crisis intervention, and psychiatric support. Areas of clinical expertise include anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and substance abuse, among other issues. Two of the doctors are bilingual, speaking in both English and Somali; one of them, Dr. Ahmed Karie, has worked with children from Laos, Somalia, Liberia, Eretria, Oromo, Ethiopia, Kenya. Another is fluent in both English and Vietnamese.
All of these businesses have their names and cover photos displayed in the directory. The “Black Parade” directory accompanies the single. The song is Beyonce’s first song since her appearance on the remix of “Savage”, with Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion. The song hit #1 on the Billboard charts last month, and Beyonce and Megan are donating the proceeds from this song to Houston nonprofit Bread of Life. Located at 2019 Crawford St, the charity aims to end homelessness and improve the quality of life for the needy. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus founded Bread of Life in December 1992, with the serving of hot meals to homeless men and women inside St. John’s United Methodist Church.
According to its website, Bread of Life began serving one hot meal weekly that eventually led to serving 500 meals per day to the homeless in the sanctuary at St. John’s. Years later, the Bread of Life works with HIV/AIDS prevention, providing solutions to food insufficiency, housing the homeless, and disaster relief.
UPDATE: “Black Parade” has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, including the prestigious prizes of Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The record is also nominated for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance. Those four nominations make it the most nominated song at the Grammys, and Beyoncé leads all the artists with nine nominations.