‘Black is King’ will be released in July
This article was originally posted on Vocal.
In an Instagram video shared with her 149 million followers, Beyoncé dropped the news we’ve all been waiting for: she is releasing a new project. ‘Black is King’, a visual album which is written, directed and produced by the star, will drop exclusively on Disney+ on July 31st.
The film is based on the music from Beyoncé-curated ‘The Gift’ album, which provided an alternative soundtrack for Disney’s ‘Lion King’ remake, and will re-imagine ‘the lessons of The Lion King for today’s young kings and queens in search of their own crowns’ according to a press release.
Whilst the project remains shrouded in secrecy, we do know the album plans to reveal timeless life lessons through current Black voices, using their platforms to affirm a ‘grand purpose, with lush visuals that celebrate Black resilience and culture’ and to highlight ‘the beauty of tradition and Black excellence’. It will more than likely, if the teaser is anything to go by, do this through lush and lavish imagery, costume, music, vocals, dance and story-telling.
The release of this celebration of Black voices, art and heritage by Beyoncé feels particularly prescient and important when considering it will be released in a year which has seen expanding and continuing fights to end racial inequality and police brutality around the world through movements like Black Lives Matter.
As Knowles-Carter explains,‘Black is King’ is one of her contributions to the movement, which she hopes will bring about change and ‘shift the axis of the world’ by giving a voice to Black people to tell their own stories ‘not told in our history books’ and give Black people pride in their heritage and resilience that inspires them to ‘continue to build a legacy that impacts the world in an immeasurable way’.
This comes only a week after Beyoncé dropped her surprise new song ‘Black Parade’ on Juneteenth – the US holiday which marks the official end of slavery in America.
The song, as with ‘Black is King’, encourages Black people to be proud of their heritage and reminds them that ‘Black joy is their right’ in a time it may not always be easy to remember. It also makes reference to the riots occurring around the US in light of the murder of unarmed George Floyd by police in which police have fired rubber bullets at protesters with the line:
By referring to picket fences, which, as Ellepoints out are typically associated with middle class neighborhoods known for their lack of diversity, Beyoncé is offering a warning that the institutional racism and oppression which enable these injustices to happen will be dismantled, fence by fence if necessary.
This is not the first time Beyoncé’s music has featured these themes and been openly and inherently political. Much like ‘Black Parade’, 2016’s ‘Formation‘ also acts, as Syreeta McFadden describes, as ‘a protest and celebration, concerned with and in love with the very particular paradox of the black American identity and experience’. This is evident in both the lyrics, which reclaim insulting and derogatory insults, and the video, which commands viewers to take in the ‘beautiful complexity of [Black Southern] history, culture and customs’ then juxtaposes this with more obviously political images of ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ graffiti (in reference to the murder of Michael Brown by a police officer), a young Black child dancing defiantly in front of armed riot police and Beyoncé lying atop a sinking police car, signifying the current policing system is over, that a change will come.
Beyoncé has announced that the proceeds from ‘Black Parade’ will be donated to BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund to support small Black-owned businesses in need. She also took this one step further, releasing a directory of Black Owned Businesses, comprising of fashion, skincare, art, food and drink and health and lifestyle businesses for her followers to browse and support. The directory can be viewed here.