Although Lemonade had already racked up a few Grammys, even before Beyoncé took the stage for her Best Urban Contemporary Album honor, Beyoncé's 2017 Grammys acceptance speech for that category didn't acknowledge all those awards except tangentially. Instead, Bey used her acceptance speech as a platform to promote something much more important to her: representation. Speaking personally as someone who talks about representation a lot — just look through my articles — the importance of that subject has never resonated with me more than when the words came out of Beyoncé's mouth on the Grammys stage Sunday night.
I knew that something important was going to happen when Beyoncé held up what appeared to be a golden booklet. I mean, that basically screams I've Got A Lot To Say And This Is My Moment. I was well-prepared for the Record Academy to have to play her off the stage, but, when she started speaking, the last thing on my mind was when she was going to wrap up. In fact, when she finally did wrap up, all I wanted was for her to keep talking, to keep driving home the point that she made when all eyes were on her.
Sounding winded, but determined, Beyoncé said:
Thank you to the Grammy voters for this incredible honor, and thank you to everyone who worked so hard to beautifully capture the profundity of deep Southern culture. I thank god for my family, my wonderful husband, my beautiful daughter, my fans for bringing me so much happiness and support. We all experience pain and loss and often we become inaudible. My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness, and our history, to confront issues that make us uncomfortable. It's important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty, so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror, first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House, and the Grammys, and see themselves and have no doubt that they're beautiful, intelligent, and capable. This is something I want for every child of every race and I feel that it's vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes. Thank you again for honoring Lemonade. Have a beautiful evening. Thank you for tonight. This is incredible.
Guys, I'm shook. Beyoncé said in one succinct speech what I've been writing essay after essay about my whole life: representation is important. We need to show all children of all races media that portrays them as real, three-dimensional people, who are smart, intelligent, capable, and beautiful. We need to show them women like Beyoncé, like Constance Wu, like Priyanka Chopra, like Jennifer Lopez, succeeding and receiving recognition for their accomplishments. We need to show them future Hillary Clintons taking on the White House, we need to show them Super Bowl ads that speak to real issues instead of falling back on objectifying women, we need to show them the Simone Biles and Aly Raismans dominating the athletic fields, we need to show them TV shows and movies in which they were more than just background characters or the POC Friend.
And it is vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendency to repeat our mistakes — not just when it comes to representation but also when it comes to society as a whole. It's important that we recognize when black men are being murdered in droves via police brutality again and again — not just when #BlackLivesMatter is catching fire. It's important that we recognize when we are electing a man who built his platform on the kind of hate and prejudice against other races that the civil rights movement of the 1960s hoped to defeat. It's important that we recognize that people of color, and women, are still being closed out of the highest echelons of Hollywood and of political power in our country. It's important that we recognize that even the newest mistakes we make as a society can probably be traced back to our past; that we need to learn and move forward and do better for our children.
Let Beyoncé's speech be the inspiration that you need moving forward, to keep fighting, to keep building a better future for everyone. To keep learning from our past, to keep either fighting for our seats at the table or fighting for a seat for the person who has to fight harder than you do. And then listen to Lemonade again, because it really was a masterpiece of music, and it can totally be your soundtrack to equalizing the system.