OAKLAND, Calif., April 28, 2016 – In an attempt to retrieve the 11 locs Beyoncé snatched from my scalp Saturday night, I descended into a comatose level of deep thought.
After awaking and emerging from this state the next morning and reluctantly plugging back in to the world of social media, I discovered that Beyoncé’s HBO presentation of her new video album entitled “LEMONADE,” was still buzzing with tweets, lemon emojis, articles, analysis and hilarious Jay-Z memes.
I considered whether or not doing yet another article on Beyoncé in an already overly-saturated space was even necessary, given that writers black and white, male and female had, in a sense, already beat me to the punch.
A number of fake deep mainstream media articles wrapped in predictable self-promotion rode the wave of the #LEMONADE hashtag. But very few of these were able to scratch the surface of what this eccentrically artistic visual album was saying about the black woman’s experience in America.
We’re talking about an experience where you are blessed enough to witness your grandmother spin gold from nothing, be labeled as the great alchemist, and yes, even turn lemons in to lemonade.
“LEMONADE” is an ode to womanhood and the coming-of-age journey that all black woman either have gone through or will go through.
It is an ode to the woman who birthed you, and her mother, and her grandmother, and her great-grandmother.
Intuition. Denial. Anger. Apathy. Emptiness. Accountability. Reformation. Forgiveness. Resurrection. Hope. Redemption.
This, in all of its vivid detail, merely serves as the skeleton of our story in “LEMONADE,” which later plays out through the relationships we have with others but, most importantly, with ourselves as well.
Poetry, music, stunning visuals, and a hell of a production budget add flesh and muscle to the vision in order to complete the story of the black woman you see before you.
The thing that you probably still don’t get about “LEMONADE” is that it is much bigger than Beyoncé and Jay Z, or divorce and cheating, or side chicks and side dicks, or celebrity rumors and speculation. The story, my friends, is about the black woman’s journey to find salvation through love.
Now we could argue semantics over what visual inspirations came from which culture or religion or country Beyoncé has visited.
We can talk about what director shot what scene and who wrote what lyric, or even, as ridiculous as it sounds, argue over what European designer inspired her “looks” for the album.
We could argue about all these things and still come up empty without understanding that the black woman’s journey of self-love and love of other human beings is one of the most beautiful, daunting, humiliating, depressing, rewarding, fulfilling journeys that one could ever dare to take.
Few black women have completed this journey and even fewer realize that they are on it. For those of us who do, in fact, realize that we are on this incredible roller coaster, we realize that most often we are on it alone.
Another thing that you don’t yet get about “LEMONADE,” my friend, is that this album is not a personal treatise against Jay Z, but is instead a personal love letter to, well—love.
In the visual album, an excerpt taken from Malcolm X’s speech bellows, “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.”
Despite America’s twisted attempts to make black women feel unloved, we (as we’ve always been) must be the alchemists of our own doing, as our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers had to be in order for us to be here today.
Are you following me yet? Let’s continue…
The first track, “Pray You Catch Me,” begins our story with innocence, awareness, intuition and everything in between.
During this period, Beyoncé asks, “Why can’t you see me?” perhaps to a lover. But she receives no answer. The question hangs there uncomfortably in silence.
The story continues on with “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “Sorry,” both unapologetically dripping with black girl magic and gumption.
What is most telling, however, is the ending of “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” where Beyoncé boasts “When you hurt me, you hurt yourself/ When you diss me, you diss yourself/ When you play me, you play yourself/ When you lie to me, you lie to yourself/When you love me, you love yourself—LOVE GOD HERSELF.”
The themes of infidelity and betrayal undeniably course through the veins of this album and continue with “Daddy Lessons,” where we sharply inhale the hard truth that the sins of the father often get passed down to us daughters, too.
However, we take an interesting turn at “Love Drought,” where we find that healing must take place in order to move forward. We find that there is hope for reconciliation and that the beauty of what it could mean for the future outweighs any and everything that stood in its way. In fact, Beyoncé says, “If we’re going to heal, let it be glorious.” Here we discover that healing could move mountains and stop love droughts.
“Sandcastles” gives us forgiveness, so that we can move “Forward,” to “Freedom,” together as women and as a people.
Although commitment seems to be a recurring theme throughout this album, please don’t limit the topic only to Jay Z.
The black community is currently in a state of emergency both internally and externally. We as black women are the original alchemists capable of producing lemonade with the lemons that have been served to us.
Of course “LEMONADE” is left open to individual interpretation, as all great works of art should be. However, one thing that is undeniable is its call for black women to begin a mandatory healing process of self-love and reconciliation that only we can accomplish for ourselves.
“LEMONADE” is much more than a glossy, highly-stylized visual album. It is the latest installation of a large tapestry of the black woman’s narrative in America – one that helps breathe life into the black woman’s journey of finding love, strength, and freedom by any means necessary.