I am currently living for the conversation surrounding Lemonade, and its visuals, which were expertly crafted to tell a story of heartbreak, anger, forgiveness, and hope in a way only a black woman could. Infidelity was the perfect vessel to deliver this message, because this abusive push-pull of betrayal and forgiveness manifest themselves into every aspect of our lives, not just relationships: brutality by the hands of people sworn to protect us, systematic oppression in a society that was promised to us all, society that takes everything from us culturally only to turn around and sell it back to us sans melanin, anti-blackness at every turn, double standards—it's a constant battle. It's complex. It's heartbreak day in and day out—but, there's hope. Us.
Amongst all of the amazing interpretations of the album and film, the thing I most appreciate from this project, is this sense of an even more intense bond of black sisterhood than I've ever felt before. I'm trying to drink up this moment, because when has one happened like this for us, at such a large magnitude, at one time? Of course these are conversations that always happen, but this one feels so different, and it's helping me feel so connected to my culture, and my sisters all across the diaspora, and it's an amazing feeling.
There's been so many times that I've been called an Oreo for my love of rock and country music when I was younger, but the joke's on you now. Hearing the roaring drums and primal yells on 'Don't Hurt Yourself' for the first time was like a trigger, beyond the marital stuff she's talking about, I flashed back to all those times I was jabbed by someone (usually a friend) for something like what was on my iPod. So, I'm totally here for Beyoncé throwing out the narrative that black girls can't rock out. Hearing her get in touch with her country roots on 'Daddy Lessons', or busting car windows out while singing a line from my favorite Yeah Yeah Yeahs song in 'Hold Up', just feels like a huge middle finger to every. single. person. who's ever questioned my blackness because of my music choices, or for any reason really—it felt really cathartic. Of course, there are many black people who've existed and paved the way in these musical spaces well before her, and even currently, but I think that her adding her voice to the others in those genres will help people see even more clearly: this music is for us too—especially since we helped create many of these genres that we so easily get erased from.
Black girls aren’t allowed to like different genres of music, you know. We aren’t allowed to speak eloquently or seem educated, because that’s for white people. We can’t wear weaves, because that means we hate ourselves. We can’t like or do anything that’s ‘not black’, else we are outcasts (who are trying to be white); we aren’t fitting the narrative, and thus, we must be destroyed. To step outside the tiny box created for us is an act of rebellion (hello, carefree black girl), but we aren’t rebelling, we’re just being who we are. On the flip side, all the stereotypical aspects of being black are equally picked apart, and attacked, so it's a lose-lose situation at the end of the day. Might as well just do what you want to do.
After years of being directly and indirectly told I’m not black enough while simultaneously being ‘too black’, it's no wonder I feel so disconnected from myself, especially when myself is black.
Not to mention, I have always felt a bit of a void from not knowing where I come from. I don’t have a lot of background on who my family is, beyond the immediate members who are still alive. So it's like a double punch, of not always feeling accepted, and having no where to fall back to when you're in need of feeling grounded. Random strangers always asked me where I was from—’New Jersey,’ I would say—’No, where are you from?’, and I knew what they were trying to get at, but I didn’t know how to answer them (sorry to disappoint you). My best friend swears I’m from the Ivory Coast like she is, but I’ve also heard I look Ghanian, or Nigerian, but honestly, who knows.
About a year ago, I thought I could start to find answers, so I took a DNA test, which revealed that I was in fact, West African (amongst other things), but with no particular country of origin designated, I’m in the same boat as millions of other African-Americans, who feel this longing to connect with their African roots, but who have absolutely no way of figuring out definitively where they come from, or where to even begin. Much of Lemonade’s imagery piqued my interest because it is steeped in West African, and black New Orleanian/Creole culture, both of which I know hardly anything about, but, felt very drawn to anyway, because they feel so familiar despite not knowing exactly what they are. During the following days since Lemonade’s release, social media has been a wealth of information that I could sink my teeth into—finally, a starting point, of sorts. Books I need to read, films I need to watch, musicians and artists who need support, culture I need to celebrate and consume, all right there, in one big accessible mass of information. Shit, even seeing other women open up about their own struggles so candidly has been an education in and of itself.
Lemonade not only echoes this black solidarity movement that’s been fueled by social media over the last several years, but it also serves as a huge exclamation point to Black Lives Matter, #blackgirlmagic, Black Girls Rock, and all other uplifting, and empowering social calls to action as of late created to uplift Blacks. Now the message has gone über-mainstream, via the most visible person in pop culture currently, and there’s nowhere to hide from it now.
Watching Lemonade was a bit of a spiritual awakening for me—it brought to the surface the years of pent-up hurt at the senseless murders and incarcerations of black bodies, the mining of our culture for its gold, while the very people who bring it to life are disposed of, systematic injustices we face daily, the children who will grow up to be just as impoverished and disenfranchised as the people around them, not to mention, how black women specifically are sexualized, dehumanized, and mistreated by all of society, including our own black men, sometimes.
"The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman." —Malcom X
Lemonade is like ripping off a million bandaids one at a time. It hurts, but exposing the wounds to air will help them heal.
There’s honestly so many more layers to get through, and many people, far more insightful than I, have already written some amazing pieces that help provide a little more insight and context as to what many of us are feeling right now. It’s a lot, but before I could get any deeper, I just had to stop and appreciate that a black woman in America is very publicly showing the sadness, anger, vulnerability, strength, and sisterhood that black women so often have to suppress or get vilified for; she took care to show how multifaceted we are, that we aren’t a monolith, but despite the differences, there are experiences unique only to black women, that we all share, which threads us together, and bonds us for life.
Lemonade is about taking the bitter and the sweet and marrying them together—you can't make lemonade without both, after all; much like you can't have black sisterhood without the struggle. It's bittersweet.
How do you guys feel about Lemonade, I'd love to hear your thoughts, as well as get any links to articles about it, or any of the cultural references from the film. Let's talk about it in the comments below!
Dress: Forever 21 // Shoes: Shoemint // Ring: (no clue) // Necklace: Luca Jewelry