Beyoncé as Philanthropist: Where's the Superstar's Latest Gift Headed?

 Photo: JStone/shutterstock

Photo: JStone/shutterstock

Spring has sprung in Southern California, which means it's time for the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival due east of Los Angeles. Beyoncé headlined Coachella's week one Saturday night performance, and already the thinkpieces are flowing. One New York Times piece heralded Beyoncé's unapologetic "celebration of black people" in front of a majority-white audience who witnessed the festival's first black female headliner. At one point, Beyoncé performed alongside 10 black female violinists and also sported a casual hoodie of a fictional HBCU (no, not Hillman from A Different World).

Speaking of historically black colleges and universities, on the heels of her desert splash, Beyoncé recently revealed that she was giving $100,000 in scholarships to students attending several HBCUs. The funds come from her BeyGOOD initiative, establishing the Homecoming Scholars Award Program for the 2018-2019 academic year at Xavier, Wilberforce, Tuskegee and Bethune-Cookman—all historically black institutions. 

At just 36, Beyoncé already has an active track record of philanthropy. She's advocated for women and girls around the world through Chime for Change, an organization she founded with actress Selma Hayek. Her BeyGOOD initiative, meanwhile, has already worked to help the homeless, sick children, and the unemployed, including at a pediatric hospital in Haiti. And through her Survivor Foundation, she's supported organizations in her native Texas. 

This isn't the first time Beyoncé's giving has been tied to her music, either. On the one-year anniversary of her fiery track Formation, she announced the Formation Scholars awards to "encourage and support young women who are unafraid to think outside the box and are bold, creative, conscious and confident." Howard and Spelman, perhaps the two most well-known HBCUs, were among the participating schools.

Beyoncé's Coachella performance featured some 150 performers, the majority of whom were people of color. Many of these performers were part of a marching band, a staple of historically black colleges and universities. The scene was straight out of a homecoming. There were plenty of other gems from Beyoncé's performance, as well. What's important to note here, though, is that when Bey makes music, she's also plugging into culture and what she values. And her next performance just might again provide some clues about where her philanthropic support will go.

Part of the release announcing the new HBCU scholarships reads:

The show, with its homage to excellence in education, was a celebration of the homecoming weekend experience, the highest display of college pride. The energy-filled production put the spotlight on art and culture, mixing the ancient and the modern, which resonated masterfully through the marching band, performance art, choir and dance. It was the impetus to mark her second scholarship program.

Ivy McGregor, director of philanthropy and corporate relations at Parkwood Entertainment, which houses BeyGOOD, adds, “We salute the rich legacy of historically black colleges and universities... We honor all institutions of higher learning for maintaining culture and creating environments for optimal learning which expands dreams and the seas of possibilities for students.”

One winner from each school will receive $25,000 for for study in various fields. The disciplines will include literature, creative arts, African-American studies, science, education, business, communications, social sciences, computer science and engineering. All applicants must maintain a 3.5 GPA or above. Finalists and winners will be selected by the universities, announced in the summer.