Intersectionality: Beyoncé Feminism

Beyoncé: Country activist, Southern belle, Black feminist, philanthropist, capitalist, historian, musician at the 2014 MTV Awards.

“When the Levee Breaks,” Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy (1929):

“When the Levee Breaks,” Led Zeppelin, 1971:

Beyoncé samples the Zeppelin version in “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” off Lemonade (2016):

She also samples a 1962 speech by Malcolm X:

In the official video for “Formation,” we see what happens when the levee actually breaks:

Beyoncé performing “Daddy Lessons” with fellow Texans The Chicks (then known as The Dixie Chicks) in 2016:

The backlash, remembered a few years later:

The official video for “Daddy Lessons,” which mixes footage of a New Orleans “jazz funeral” with grainy video that evokes country blues imagery of the early 20th century.

“Freedom,” also from Lemonade.

“Accountability,” from the visual album.

What is “Beyoncé Feminism”?

Black Woodstock and the Opposite of Woodstock

New York City Mayor John Lindsay, the “blue-eyed soul brother,” arriving at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) for a July 13, 1969 concert, escorted by Black Panthers.

As the media is flooded with reminiscences about Woodstock, the New York Times remembers “Black Woodstock,” 1969’s rolling Harlem block party.

The video for Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop” alludes to that time and place.

And Dave Chappelle’s Block Party is in some ways an attempt to recreate it.

Do you believe that it’s possible to re-create a moment of unprecedented community engagement like Black Woodstock?

“White” Woodstock, in the meantime, was perhaps the last gasp of optimism of the 1960s counterculture. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy had both been assassinated the previous year. Five hundred thousand U.S. troops were in Vietnam. Nixon was in the White House and had begun secretly bombing Cambodia.

Just a few months later, another massive music festival would try — and fail catastrophically — to carry on the spirit of Woodstock.

At the Altamont Speedway in northern California, the Hell’s Angels were contracted to provide security for $500 worth of beer (more than $3000 worth in today’s money). As the crowd got restless and the Angels got drunk, they began beating concertgoers with pool cues and motorcycle chains, and kicked and stabbed an eighteen-year-old black audience member, Meredith Hunter, to death during the Rolling Stones’ set.

As rock critic Greil Marcus, who was at the festival, succinctly put it:

A young black man [was] murdered in the midst of a white crowd by white thugs as white men played their version of black music.”

The murder was caught live on camera and included in the documentary Gimme Shelter as the Stones performed “Under My Thumb” (warning: this footage contains the actual murder of Meredith Hunter — watch at your own risk).

As gospel singer Merry Clayton famously sang on the studio version of “Gimme Shelter”: “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away.”