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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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The timelessness of “Black is King”


Beyoncé’s album “The Gift” has come to life in a musical film and visual album entitled “Black is King,” which incorporates a similar storyline to that of Disney’s live-action film, “The Lion King.” “Black is King” follows the journey of a young boy who is finding his way back to his ancestry as he grows up in a society where, as highlighted in the movie, “Black men especially, we’re told not to love ourselves.” 

Beyoncé pushes back on that notion to show the empowerment of Black people from all over the world with the use of only Black actors, African traditions, music, and movement. This film is one of the most beautiful works of art to come out of 2020 as she allows the power of so many people to shine through. 

Throughout “Black is King,” the scenes transition from African wilderness to cities and back again in continuous cycles. Beyoncé does that in order to highlight the transition between the past and the present as she praises the idea of reaching back into the past to see how ancestors guide a person now. 

Beyoncé uses the power of nature to explain the impact that Black men and women have in their daily lives. Water signifies serenity, life, purity, hope, and the ability to be reborn. This connection dawns on the idea of the Circle of Life— being born from water and returning to it once the journey ends. The Circle of Life is also used to learn from the past in order to move forward. 

The use of the sky, space, water, and nature is excellent in moving Beyoncé’s purpose throughout the movie. She also uses ideas from African culture for the same purpose. Beyoncé has men and women in traditional African garb that spread the ideals of African ancestry in the film. One of the things that stood out most was Beyoncé’s use of the “African way,” which is to make oneself equal to another. The use of African traditions and nature is an excellent incorporation of Beyoncé’s own ancestry to show the power of her culture.

Beyoncé guides her film with the idea that everyone is a king or queen. What truly makes the album beautiful is the idea that Black men and women need to keep their heads up and crown on. The movie explains that Black people have their “crowns in their back pockets because of an environment of repression.” Beyoncé, in turn, does a perfect job of showing that, no matter what, Black individuals should take what is theirs and build a community that will support them.

This uplifting message is still complex and difficult, as the movie equally explores the past and how society continues to hide Black excellence today. In an article by Esquire, it is explained how “Uncle Sam / Uncle Scar have a common goal for the prince to forget himself and for his community to be divided….uncle Scar has come to symbolize: toxic masculinity, abuse of power, greed, lust, destruction, isolation.”  

It is said in the movie that, “to live without reflection for so long might make you wonder if you even truly exist.” This whole film prompts people to fight the past’s intrusion into the present. It is really important in today’s society, according to Beyoncé’s message, to fight hatred because, if not, generations to come will be forced to grapple with the injustices of today, leading to an unending cycle of pain and oppression.  

“Black is King” upends harmful stigmas at every turn and uplifts the power of the Black community. As said by Aniaya Jones ‘24,

“Black Power is resilient and that makes us shine.” 

The movie explores that idea in many ways. Beyoncé lays the groundwork by exclusively hiring Black actors and actresses in order to fulfill her vision. Beyoncé lets society know that, “life is your birthright.” By choosing all Black actors, she is demanding they be free and explore their birthright. In turn, it inspires the audience to fight for what is right for themselves. 

Beyoncé also includes her mom, Tina Knowles Lawson, her husband, Jay Z, her daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, and her two other children, Rumi and Sir. She also includes creatives like Kelly Rowland, Pharrell Williams, Wizkid, Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, and more, in addition to the voices of Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and Saint JHn. Finally, the movie pays homage to Prince, Biggie, Nas, Ali Bomaye, and more as Jay Z raps about his influences in music. 

Beyoncé’s use of color, music, and dancing in the movie is what made it feel even more special. In every scene, it is hard to miss the costume changes and varying color schemes. As the audience watches, they experience splashes of blue, green, black, red, pink, and more. What makes color so valuable in this movie is the idea that the world has so much more color in it than white and black. 

Beyoncé does not disappoint as she also draws attention to hairstyles and dances which are very important in African culture. They bring a sense of power and ownership. Another Loyola student, Alexis Faison ‘24, said:

“After watching ‘Black is King,’ the new live-action ‘Lion King,’ and listening to the ‘Black is King’ visual album once again, the music being produced by Beyoncé and her team tells a story like no other. Not only do songs such as ‘Bigger’ & ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ emphasize the overall power and influence that a black man or woman has, but also the importance of our origins as black individuals living in a divided society where our identity has been reduced to stereotypes and stigmas. Our birthright is of our ancestors and how we come back to them one day, whether that be through death or a personal journey of self-discovery. Black is King contains songs that not only inspire those of African descent, specifically men who have been reduced to a laborer status, but it also incorporates a story of our culture that is unlike no other in this world.” 

The use of music, movement, and style is very important in telling a story of the past. It brings forth culture. Beyoncé understood how much power these themes held and so, by incorporating them into the movie, she was able to show the experience of each aspect.

Not only is this movie a symbol of Black pride, but it is also a form of education for other races. It shows the beauty of melanin and the power a person holds when they are allowed to shine.

“Black is King” is available on Disney+.

Featured Image courtesy of Jordan Kines via Flickr Creative Commons

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The timelessness of “Black is King”