Black is King


Parkwood Entertainment


At the end of July, Beyoncé’s second visual album, Black is King, was released on Disney Plus. This film was a visual representation of the album she made last year called The Lion King: The Gift, which was inspired by the live-action remake of The Lion King movie. Although the re-make of The Lion King wasn’t critically well-received, Beyoncé’s album was. Using dialogue from the movie, Beyoncé crafted her own story and took the narrative of the movie beyond Pride Rock. She released a music video for one of the songs, Spirit, and as she was doing it, she knew she wanted to do more: Black is King was born.

Black is King celebrates Black humanity, culture, and history in all its richness and glory. For Beyoncé, the phrase “Black is King” is meant to demonstrate that Blackness is royal, regal, and rich in history." [1] Through dance, storytelling, poetry, fashion, music, form, and landscapes, she seeks to show the dignity of Black people alongside the wealth of historical and cultural beauty that Black history and people bring to our world.


"Black is King" is meant to demonstrate that Blackness is royal, regal, and rich in history.

Engaging with this Film as Christians

On Christian Twitter alone, there have been numerous debates about whether or not Christians should engage or promote a film like this—let alone promote Beyoncé as an artist.

Maybe you are a Christian who views this film as threatening to what you think is appropriate for a Christian to watch. My hope for you would be to consider and look for the things you can learn from Beyoncé and the other artists involved in this project. You can practice looking for the ways that she can’t help but imitate God as one of his image-bearers. When we have eyes to see, there is much to affirm about how she honors the dignity and humanity of Black people.

Or, maybe (like me) you already love Beyoncé and are looking for ways to better understand and engage with Black is King. Either way, I think this film is worth our attention and worth talking about.

Dance, Sexuality, and a Woman’s Body

Africa is a huge continent with many countries, skin tones, customs, and cultures that we might be largely unaware of. I remember when I was in junior high and one of my pastors brought a documentary over for my family to watch. It was about a tribe in Africa—one where the women didn’t wear tops. This was their norm; this was not only acceptable in their context but expected. As a sensitive, follow-the-rules-junior-higher, I was embarrassed in seeing women’s breasts on the screen, but that was only because I had been taught by my culture and the church that any instance of seeing another person’s body uncovered was sinful.

But many African tribes and people groups historically wore little to no “traditional” or Westernized clothing up until the point when they were colonized by European countries. Even now in the church, we are reflecting and critiquing the ways in which missionaries would take our Western cultural dress and traditions into places like Africa and try to “correct” their way of living, worshipping, and dressing. We must not look to change things about other people groups and cultures because it is different or foreign to us. Instead, we should look for what we can celebrate and learn about other cultures and practices. This doesn’t mean that there is never room for correction or improvement, but it does mean that just because we don’t understand a culture or custom that it needs to look exactly like something that is familiar to us.

This is how I have approached watching films like Black is King. It is from this posture that we have the opportunity to learn. To learn about different cultures, practices, fashion, dancing, and more. It is from this lens that we can see ways in which other cultures honor skin color, body and form, and the art of dance.

Throughout her career, Beyoncé’s body has been a topic of discussion, disrespect, and disapproval. Never one to shy away from showing her natural curves and beauty—she is the queen of Bootylicious after all—Beyoncé has celebrated her body in many ways. While we can assume that sometimes the intention is to show off, seduce, or cause shock and awe—those are not the only reasons a woman chooses to show her body. In Christian circles, especially, it has become an unspoken rule that women who show their upper thigh, shoulders, cleavage, and even knees are leading men astray—no matter their intention. Women have often been made out to be temptresses, adulterers, and sinful—just for having features that were formed and molded by a good God—a God who calls wide hips and full breasts good; a God who became human and fell asleep in the full bosom of his mother; a God who doesn’t objectify women.

Here, we must acknowledge the error of seeing Beyoncé (and other women’s bodies and forms) as inherently inappropriate or sinful. Beyoncé is telling a story rich in African culture and history. And therefore, we are better served by observing the use of skin, dance, body, and form as it is understood in African culture—and not the oversexualized American version.



Black Richness, Regality, and Uplifting Power

Throughout Black is King, Beyoncé collaborates with many different artists, even some who were lesser-known (on a global scale) at the time of production. This amplification of lesser-known artists, filmmakers, and actors, gives us a picture of what the beauty of power can look like. Beyoncé, a woman who holds great power, uses her power to lift up other Black men and women. [2] As she states in the opening song, Bigger, “If you feel insignificant, you better think again, better wake up because you're part of something way bigger…”, Beyoncé is painting a picture for people that share her ethnicity, skin tone, or story—which is bigger than we can see or imagine.

This story is one that has been wrought with tragedy and pain—including the inhumane enslavement of Africans—not just in America, but in Europe, South America, and beyond. It is through this lens—and history—that we must see Black is King. Beyoncé’s lyrics carry weight, and sometimes that weight makes us uncomfortable. Is she really comparing Black people to Moses or to Jesus (“you are the living word”)? But the intention here is to fully emphasize what it means to be Black, what it means to have such a rich heritage. Because for so long, in many places, darker skin and African heritage have been seen as a threat or made into a stereotype, Beyoncé is trying to do the opposite. Black is Slave? No. Black is King. She is seeking to restore dignity. She is trying to restore power. She is aiming to restore worth. And this is what good art does. It causes us to wonder, “Is this okay? Have they gone too far?” But maybe these questions are just what we need to be asking. In a time when Black men and women do not feel worthy or honored—they have a right to wonder, am I worthy?


Because for so long, in many places, darker skin and African heritage have been seen as a threat or made into a stereotype, Beyoncé is trying to do the opposite. Black is Slave? No. Black is King. She is seeking to restore dignity. She is trying to restore power. She is aiming to restore worth. And this is what good art does.

Beyonce shared on GMA that the filming locations were just as diverse as the people involved in the making of the film, including her own backyard, Johannesburg, Ghana, London, Belgium, and the Grand Canyon. What, symbolically, began in her own backyard spread across the world to demonstrate the expansiveness of Black culture and people. Through it, we are reminded that Black history is broader than American history; and we know this because we see it in the Bible, like the story of Moses—which Beyoncé also references. If you are a Christian living in America or Europe, you most likely have Africans to thank for the spread of the gospel that reached your ancestors.

Art, like this film, can help us to see realities amplified, to see injustice more clearly or truths more deeply. Through this film, I saw Black people and culture celebrated and uplifted. I saw a powerful woman use her gifts, talents, and beauty to restore dignity and worth to a people who have often been forgotten, abused, and mistreated. And I saw the image of God in the artists involved, in how they sang, moved, and acted in ways that showed me more of God’s love and truth. I was reminded of how God celebrates our cultural diversities. I was reminded that Black is king—it is regal, royal, and rich in history—Black is worthy! While many people have fought to make the point that Black lives matter, Beyoncé doesn’t settle for simply mattering. With her skill as an artist, she proclaims that to be Black means that you have full dignity, beauty, power, and worth. Black lives are worthy of being lifted up, empowered, and celebrated. And Christians can be the first to agree with that!

While many people have fought to make the point that Black lives matter, Beyoncé doesn’t settle for simply mattering. With her skill as an artist, she proclaims that to be Black means that you have full dignity, beauty, power, and worth. Black lives are worthy of being lifted up, empowered, and celebrated. And Christians can be the first to agree with that!





[1] GMA Interview [2] https://www.vox.com/2020/7/31/21349602/beyonce-black-is-king-visual-album-review-disney-plus “More cynically, maybe it was because of the equal attention paid to artists not as well-known in the US, and because its lyrics were sung in multiple African languages. A year later, it’s clear that many of these artists featured were rising stars of their own—Burna Boy, Jessie Reyez, and Tierra Whack have all found great success since The Gift’s release.”

©2020 BY JESSICA FADEL