The second annual Bey Day will take place May 31 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the University Union room 220. Bey Day aims to showcase and celebrate work surrounding the politics of Beyoncé’s musical and visual collection of work. The event will consist of performances, student panels and opportunities to create art. It is a “learn by doing” culmination of Ethnic Studies 470: Beyoncé: Feminism, Race, & Politics: a class taught by Dr. Jenell Navarro and centered around Black Feminism.
In ES 470, students read a variety of Black feminist authors including Patricia Hill Collins, Maya Angelou, Christina Sharpe and Zandria Robinson. Throughout the course these readings are paired with Beyonce’s music and videos to evaluate the conjunctions between Beyoncé’s multifaceted political platform that encompasses women of color feminism, anti-racism and standing against police brutality. The class explores Beyoncé’s work over time, analyzing her work with Destiny’s Child’s to Lemonade.
Beyoncé has won 22 Grammys and has been nominated for 63. In addition to her musical prestige, she has been vocal about supporting Trans youth rights, hurricane victims, earthquake victims and young women of color in education. She has created a scholarship foundation that awards scholarships to female students pursuing a degree at Berklee College of Music, Howard University, Parsons School of Design and Spelman college.
“We didn’t develop this simply because we want to talk about Beyonce. As Ethnic Studies Scholars we place importance on offering a specific class on Black feminism,” Navarro said. “Beyoncé’s canon is a great springboard for us to do that work, and of course we do discuss Beyonce every class period, but we’re tending to scholars that have solidified BFT, Black Feminist Thought, for decades.”
In Patricia Hill Collin’s book “The Politics of Black Feminist Thought” she said there are many different mediums which serve as outlets of Black Feminist Thought such as music and poetry.
“As a historically oppressed group, U.S. Black women have produced social thought designed to oppose oppression,” Collins said in her book. “Not only does the form assumed by this thought diverge from standard academic theory — it can take the form of poetry, music, essays, and the like —but the purpose of Black women’s collective thought is distinctly different. Social theories emerging from and/or on behalf of U.S. Black women and other historically oppressed groups aim to find ways to escape from, survive in, and/or oppose prevailing social and economic injustice.”
Beyoncé’s afrocentric visual album Lemonade speaks to the multiplicity of ways Black women can use their individual platforms, while simultaneously celebrating Black womxnhood. In the Lemonade film, she cites Malcolm X and states “The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.”
In ES 470, students are also assigned to read “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women,” a report by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) that documents Black women that have been killed by the police.
“It is a report that asks us not only to know and have as household names, Black men and boys that have been killed by the police, like Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Grey — but, to also know the names of Black womxn stolen from Black families due to police violence,” Navarro said. “This is significant because people are hard pressed to know a single name of a black woman that has been killed by the police.”
According to the AAPF website, “The #SayHerName Movement responds to increasing calls for attention to police violence against Black women by offering a resource to ensure that Black women’s stories are integrated into demands for justice, policy responses to police violence and media representations of victims of police brutality.”
Sociology and ethnic studies junior Francisco Gaspar is in ES 470 and said the course allows students to reflect on the media they’ve been exposed to. Gaspar hopes that after attending Bey Day students will be able to reflect on the education they’ve received.
“Beyoncé specifically has tackled issues surrounding police brutality and the misogynoir that women of color experience, specifically black women, in her work and i think that’s really significant,” Gaspar said. “Because when you see artists like Donald Glover come out with “This is America” a lot of people regard this as groundbreaking, when we have to backtrack and recognize that black women have been doing this already and they’re not receiving the same recognition or they’re being held under more scrutiny.”
Misogynoir is a term coined by queer Black feminist scholar Moya Bailey, that refers to the anti-black, racist misogyny Black women experience.
Gaspar is a member and future president of the Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) club, that will be performing at Bey Day. According to Gaspar, using Beyoncé as the main source of their music has allowed them to examine the way femininity is performed while paying homage to Beyoncé as a Black artist.
“I think that’s gonna be really impactful because there’s often a lack of discussion surrounding queer and trans experiences and how dance has been historically a source of liberation in this group,” Gaspar said.
Gaspar as well as agriculture business senior Nimrah Aslam will be on the student panels at Bey Day, which consists of ES 470 students. The discussion topics for each panel are to be determined. At Bey Day Janelle Monae’s emotion picture “Dirty Computer” will be screened which celebrates her intersectional identity while living in a dystopia that tries to oppress her and serves as a political critique. Janelle Monae is a pansexual Black female R&B artist and activist who has been nominated for several Grammys.
“I think she is significant because she is a queer black artist,” Aslam said. “That’s it, that’s her significance. She holds so many different intersectionalities and she’s proud of them, and she’s vocal about them and I think a lot of times within our communities students of color who are queer don’t get that outlet, and I think that that’s really important.”
Navarro explained that Bey Day and ES 470 encompasses looking at Beyoncé’s musical influences, legacy and the artists that will come after Beyoncé, including Janelle Monae.
“One thing in the class that we’ve also been trying to highlight is that Beyoncé doesn’t just emerge as an individual, there are all these Black women who had incredible musical influence on her including Billie Holiday to Nina Simone, Etta James, on down to even more contemporary people like Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Prince and Erykah Badu,” Navarro said.
After racist incidents have occurred at Cal Poly, Bey Day serves as a place where students of color can come together and “speak their truth to power,” according to Dr. Navarro. She hopes that this event will give students of color a space to right some of the anti-Black wrongs that have taken place at Cal Poly.
“Everybody is welcome to attend but it’s really an event for students of color and queer students of color to feel at home,” Navarro said. “I design it for them to feel and know that Black epistemologies are vibrant and alive and well and they have as much of a place at this institution of higher education than any other form of knowledge.”