From Nina Simone to Maya Angelou: How Beyoncé Honors Nine Black Icons in Her Homecoming Documentary


“When I decided to do Coachella,” Beyoncé says within the voiceover for her new Netflix documentary Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, “instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.”

Beyoncé pays tribute to that tradition by honoring a myriad of excessive profile African-American thinkers, writers and activists of the 20th century in her documentary, which was launched Wednesday alongside a 40-track stay album.

The Netflix documentary is an in-depth take a look at Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella present, the place she was the primary African-American girl to headline the competition since its founding in 1999. It consists of appearances from contemporaries like Solange, Jay-Z, and former Future’s Little one bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, voiceovers from Tessa Thompson and Danai Gurira, and incorporates work from Malcolm X and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.

And in her references to figures Nina Simone to Audre Lorde, Homecoming can also be a homage to the heroes of black American tradition. Right here’s extra on the historic figures Beyoncé options within the documentary.

Toni Morrison

Homecoming opens with a citation from Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison, studying “If you can surrender to the air, you can ride it.” Morrison, who wrote critically acclaimed novels together with Beloved and Paradise, focuses on the themes of race and the African-American expertise within the U.S.; she appeared on the cover of TIME in January 1998.

Like many different well-known figures within the documentary, Morrison attended a traditionally black faculty (HBCU), having graduated from Howard College, Washington D.C., in 1953. Beyoncé consists of the title of Morrison’s alma mater and her graduating 12 months subsequent to her quote, a format that follows with different icons.

Nina Simone

An achieved pianist and legendary songstress, Nina Simone was a key voice of the civil rights motion and blended activism together with her music. “Politics was mixed in with so much of what went on…that I remember it now as two sides of the same coin, politics and jazz,” she mirrored in her autobiography.

In an audio interview performed close to the beginning of Homecoming, Simone speaks concerning the significance of black tradition and of her ambition to show others. It’s a theme Beyoncé highlights in her personal efficiency at Coachella by way of symbols resembling Black Panther-inspired berets and outfits. “To me, we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world, Black people,” Simone is heard saying.

Nina Simone showing on the David Frost TV present, London, 1968.
Michael Putland—Getty Photographs

W.E.B. DuBois

“Education must not simply teach work—it must teach life.” This citation flashes throughout the display, the phrases of outstanding black mental W.E.B. DuBois. Born in 1868, DuBois was an African-American civil rights activist revered for his philosophy, activism and advocacy. He graduated from the traditionally black Fisk College in Nashville, in 1888, and based the Nationwide Affiliation for the Development of Coloured Folks (NAACP) in 1909.

DuBois’ citation introduces a phase of the documentary showcasing younger black cheerleading squads at HBCUs throughout America, together with North Carolina A&T College, Jackson State College and Florida A&M College. Homecoming locations nice significance on HBCUs —Beyoncé says she wished she had attended one — and the documentary itself was additionally previewed a day earlier than its launch on Netflix at two HBCUs: Washington D.C.’s Howard College and Houston’s Texas Southern College.

Alice Walker

Acclaimed novelist and poet Alice Walker additionally seems in Homecoming by way of a citation: “Our mothers and grandmothers…moving to music not yet written.” A graduate of Spelman School in Atlanta, Walker is finest identified for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Shade Purple, depicting the relationships of African-American ladies in rural Georgia. The e book was later tailored right into a film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, the latter’s appearing debut.

Marian Wright Edelman

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” These phrases seem from Marian Wright Edelman, the primary girl admitted to the Mississippi State Bar. Now 79, Edelman has devoted her life to highlighting injustice and inequality, and based the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973 to guard youngsters and help households.

Edelman’s citation within the movie is echoed by actors Tessa Thompson and Danai Gurira, who communicate concerning the significance of illustration of their voiceovers. “The youth need to see their greatness reflected in our eyes,” Gurira says.

Reginald Lewis

“Keep going, no matter what” was the ethos of African-American businessman Reginald Lewis, who grew to become one among America’s richest black males in 1987 when he engineered the most important offshore buyout in American historical past on the time. His ferocious work ethic was legendary amongst his Wall Road friends. His life was lower quick after an sickness and he died on the age of 50.

Audre Lorde

Feminist Audre Lorde was a number one essayist and critic, whose work centered on race, gender, sexuality. One in all her most well-known essays, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” is a rallying cry for solidarity and motion within the face of racism, homophobia and oppression.

“Without community, there is no liberation” is a citation instantly from that essay included in Homecoming, introducing scenes following Beyoncé’s dancers on the highway to Coachella (or Beychella, because the 2018 competition grew to become affectionately identified). Lorde’s message is echoed by Beyoncé herself, who says “I know the importance of us feeling we’re a part of something, like we’re being spoken to, like it’s worth it.”

African-American writer, feminist, poet and civil-rights activist Audre Lorde (1934-1992) poses for a photograph during her 1983 residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
African-American author, feminist, poet and civil-rights activist Audre Lorde (1934-1992) poses for {a photograph} throughout her 1983 residency on the Atlantic Heart for the Arts in New Smyrna Seaside, Florida.
Robert Alexander—Getty Photographs

Cornel West

Provocative thinker and activist Cornel West makes a voiceover look in Homecoming, citing musicians Curtis Mayfield, John Coltrane and Nina Simone as examples of hope. He encourages listeners to be individuals of integrity. West is at the moment a professor of philosophy and African-American research at Harvard College, a number one commentator on racial injustice, and has produced three spoken phrase albums in collaboration with artists like Prince and Andre 3000.

Maya Angelou

“What I really want to do is be a representative of my race, of the human race,” says literary titan Maya Angelou in a voiceover in the direction of the top of Homecoming, delivered in her distinctly charming tone. “I have a chance to show how kind we can be, how intelligent and generous we can be.”

Born Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928, Angelou’s acclaimed 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings with its profound depictions of private trauma catapulted her to prominence. Over her lifetime, she wrote greater than 30 books and was the recipient of over 50 honorary levels. She was a starring visitor on the inauguration of President Invoice Clinton in 1993, the place she recited her poem ‘On the Pulse of Morning.’

The audio clip heard in Homecoming seems to be from one among Angelou’s final interviews earlier than her dying in 2014. The clip additionally featured within the trailer for the documentary, with Angelou delivering recommendation for “this” era to “tell the truth to yourself first, and to the children.”

American poet and author Maya Angelou gestures while speaking in a chair during an interview at her home.
American poet and writer Maya Angelou gestures whereas talking in a chair throughout an interview at her dwelling.
Jack Sotomayor—Getty Photographs

Write to Suyin Haynes at


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