Music has never been culturally and politically more important, impactful or relevant than right now. Oh wait, yes it has. Every decade has a soundtrack. Everyone has their lifetime playlists – those songs that get played over and over in times of triumph, moments of pain or minutes before a big meeting.
You hear the first chords of Mahalia Jackson’s Amazing Grace, the call-to-action of Aretha Franklin’s Respect, or the sadness and pride of black womanhood in the notes of Solange’s album A Seat at the Table and it takes you somewhere. It musically frames and captures a moment in time, a feeling, a culture. Music lifts us out of the darkness and lights the way.
When Beyoncé’s recent album and Netflix special Homecoming premiered in April, an entire culture moved forward overnight with such perceived lightness and swag that many may have missed it. Her performance made a statement far beyond the lyrics she was singing, which included some of my favourite songs, such as Shining and Party.
Beyoncé used her Coachella performance to celebrate an underrepresented culture and give it a platform it had yet to have at a festival of that scale and audience. She decided to do away with flower crowns and instead honour a tradition that is highly regarded within the African-American community. Through her music, her dancers and costumes, her performance was meant to empower those who related to the tradition, and educate those who didn’t. As Vibe magazine recently noted: "Beyoncé is a music industry icon, not solely because of her artistry but also due to the influence she carries around the world." She literally stops the world every time she drops an album or documentary. For me, what she telegraphs is not only black excellence but black female excellence.
Absorbing the energy and #blackgirlmagic she so effortlessly emits in it, Homecoming gave me the passion and determination to continue implementing progress in my own life. Through my role at Omnicom and in my work at AdColor, I, too, have the unique opportunity to empower and educate.
Though it may not be at Coachella, I also have the privilege of shining a light on traditions and cultures that have yet to be given a platform, both in advertising and the workplace. It is something that constantly fuels the way I think and work. And in the words of Yoncé: "Don’t (don’t) try to (try to) slow me down."
Tiffany R Warren is senior vice-president and chief diversity officer at Omnicom, and founder and president at AdColor, New York