Beyoncé has marked ‘Juneteenth’ – the U.S. holiday that recalls the emancipation of slaves – by releasing a surprise new single Black Parade.
From the black square of the track’s imagery to the title, it’s clear this song is meant to be unashamedly political. But Queen Bey has also buried a number of other political references in her lyrics which Miss S feels deserve a bit more unpacking:
Beyoncé hails Mansa Musa in the song as a figure of black prosperity. The tenth emperor of the Mali empire was thought to have been the wealthiest man in modern history. When he and his entourage passed through Egypt, they purportedly handed out so much gold that his three-month stay caused the price of gold to plummet in Cairo for 10 years. The emperor allegedly kept around 12,000 slaves.
2. Tamika Mallory
The American activist who organised the Women’s March in 2017 gets a namecheck in the new song. Listed in the 2017 Time 100, she has been a vocal advocate of gun control and feminism as well as the Black Lives Matter movement. She drew controversy in 2018 for her association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan who made a series of antisemitic remarks at a Conference where Mallory was in attendance.
3. Rubber bullets
Beyoncé makes an obvious reference in verse two of Black Parade to the controversial actions of the U.S. police during the protests: ‘Trust me, they gon’ need an army. Rubber bullets bouncin’ off me.’
4. Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield, who is referenced in the song, sang openly about the civil rights movement in his music and was a favourite choice of Martin Luther King on his protest marches. Mayfield’s song ‘Keep on Pushing’ was sung so frequently during protests that it was actually banned from several radio stations, including WLS in Mayfield’s hometown of Chicago.
If there’s anyone who can don a hazmat suit during the pandemic and still look stylish, it’s Beyoncé: ‘put us any-damn-where, we gon’ make it look cute. Pandemic fly on the runway, in my hazmat.’ Miss S is already picturing the music video.