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Why Beyoncé dances to 'My Power' in a church in 'Black Is King'

Ashley Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Between the musical moments of Beyonce's "Black Is King" are snippets of spoken word, one of which was written and performed by Joshua Abah.

"When it's all said and done, I don't even know my own native tongue," he said in the piece, which went viral in 2013. "And if I can't speak myself, I can't think myself. And if I can't think myself, I can't be myself. And if I can't be myself, I will never know me. So Uncle Sam, tell me this: If I will never know me, how can you?"

These lines are heard as six pallbearers walk slowly through a quiet church. With the exception of the bed of flowers in their hands, the entire scene is white -- even their skin, covered in white paint.

It wasn't always that way. The sequence of the visual album, now streaming on Disney+, was filmed at a church in downtown Los Angeles that was thoroughly transformed by Hannah Beachler, the groundbreaking, Oscar-winning production designer of "Black Panther."

"That church was anything but white," she recalled. Beachler and her team of over 100 people worked 38 hours straight to complete the on-site overhaul -- a grueling effort that pays off in its message.

"In America, white is used for weddings, but often in other cultures, it is used in funerals because it is actually the absence of all color," she explained. So it's solemn, in a sense.

 

"Here's the whole thing about the Black community in this country," she continued. "We were told that our culture was ghetto and bastardized, and that's just who we were. And we believed that for a long time. But what we didn't know, and what we've lost from the ancestors, is that we're none of those things. We are joy and beauty and strength.

"So the way Simba is learning about who he is, we are collectively rediscovering who we have always been," Beachler added, echoing Abah's message. "And 'Black Is King' is about mourning what we were in order to celebrate what we are."

That same church becomes the site of that celebration in the sequence for the song "My Power," which was directed by Julian Klincewicz and represents the "Lion King" standoff between Scar and Simba. "They'll never take my power, my power, my power," goes the chorus of the beat-driven earworm, performed like an anthemic chant. "They feel a way, oh wow."

The location looks less solemn though, with brighter lighting and a large, flower-like shape on the floor that resembles the West African adinkra symbol Bese Saka, signifying affluence, abundance and unity.

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