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The Meaning Of Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Matters To Me As A Black Woman For This One Reason

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Beyoncé released an album that has gotten the world talking. And I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s Beyoncé after all. She's proven time and time again that she not only has the undeniable talent to “wow” her fans, but that she understands them too. She has something that can only be described as somewhat of an “it” factor, something that commands your attention, evokes your admiration and respect. She’s likable, but also unreachable to some degree – a comfortable distance that keeps her fans intrigued. And her latest project, Lemonade, revealed a symbolic political truth that's no secret to black women, but a truth that deserves every bit of recognition. Because for me, like many other black women, its visuals and political exploration of how black women have had to make lemonade was all. too. real. I mean, how could it not be?

I didn’t watch Lemonade during its hour-long premiere on HBO last Saturday. Instead, I first read the awe-stricken reactions on every social media platform, on Black Twitter, every blog, every website – everywhere. I felt like everyone had formed an opinion on how relatable Lemonade was to black women and I almost feared that I would lose that opportunity to arrive at that conclusion, uninfluenced, myself.

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Being a black woman is both empowering and painful, and the more art that aims to tackle the truth of our existence, as the greats — Ms. Hill, Nina Simone, India Arie — have done, the more empowered we’ll be.

I remember being a child and hearing Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill for the first time. And even though, admittedly, I was too young to fully grasp its layered and political depth, I knew and felt even then that Ms. Hill was creating music that was meant to rock the soul of our black community. Ms. Hill was, and will always be, important to black culture. And when I watched Lemonade, with all of its visuals and black women of varying skin tones, hair textures, ages and body types, knowing that it premiered on HBO for wide audiences to see, I inadvertently uttered the words, “this… is… so… important.” Because it is. Seeing these black women, their stature, their pride, their confidence, their hair worn in various forms, and their vulnerability and hurt and pain was so important to me and it will always be.

Showing Serena Williams, a black aspirational, boundary-breaking woman confidently twerking like the queen she is, and then, in the scenes later, featuring the black mothers of slain black men and boys: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin encapsulates the joys and pains of being a black woman in America. These images matter, because being a black woman is both empowering and painful, and the more art that aims to tackle the truth of our existence, as the greats — Ms. Hill, Nina Simone, India Arie — have done, the more empowered we’ll be.

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Lemonade’s stunning visuals reveal and celebrate our blackness, heartache, love, injustice, empowerment, deceit, racism, sexism, feminism, black feminism, and black history in the South, both painful and prideful. The juxtaposition of each of those emotions was, to me, exactly the point. I am proud of our beauty, resilience, strength, and our black girl magic, but I still struggle daily with the very real marginalization of being a black woman, living through the harsh history (and reality) of racism and sexism in every systemic form.

Beyoncé’s Lemonade can be a lot of things to a lot of people. Some found comfort in its raw tale of the pains of infidelity. Others took her lyrics quite literally and speculated whether her husband, Jay Z, was unfaithful. The “Becky” theories alone caused a damn near firestorm on social media to uncover who “Becky with the good hair” was. And while I think most of the speculation is misdirected, I don’t knock that it’s happening. It’s art – Beyoncé’s art, and art is interpreted, appreciated, and dissected in different ways.

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But for many black women like myself, Lemonade’s stunning visuals reveal and celebrate our blackness, heartache, love, injustice, empowerment, deceit, racism, sexism, feminism, black feminism, black history in the south, both painful and prideful. The juxtaposition of each of those emotions was, to me, exactly the point. I am proud of our beauty, resilience, strength, and our black girl magic, but I still struggle daily with the very real marginalization of being a black woman, living through the harsh history (and reality) of racism and sexism in every systemic form. We've triumphed, paved paths through adversity, made lemonade from lemons — both literally and figuratively — while the deep-rooted racist and sexist system has simultaneously prevailed against us. The present-day oppressive injustices we bear, like a gender wage gap that disproportionately affects black women, a jarring lack of positive and uplifting representation in media, the fetishizing of our bodies and the disproportion of hate crimes for black women in the LGBTQ community, to name a few, are just some of the lemons we inherit.

I’ve never had an experience in my life where my blackness did not matter. It mattered on my predominately white soccer team in elementary school when I had to explain to the other little girls why my hair was different. My blackness mattered when I confronted discrimination against dark skin girls in high school. My blackness has mattered every moment of my life.
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But, the visuals in Lemonade address those juxtapositions we live with everyday – if, by nothing else, just admitting that they exist. You hear that world? They exist! But black women have always known that. It’s the reason why intersectional feminism is so important. Beyoncé was right to sample an excerpt from a speech Malcolm X gave in 1962:

This is our truth — my truth — and I’m proud that this, our lemons, have now made their way into the conversation. I’ve never had an experience in my life where my blackness did not matter. It mattered on my predominately white soccer team in elementary school when I had to explain to the other little girls why my hair was different. My blackness mattered when I confronted discrimination against dark skin girls in high school. My blackness has mattered every moment of my life.

Lemonade was a somber acknowledgement of our lemons, both figuratively and literally. Our lemons tell the story of our solidarity, strength, and black sisterhood — it's the recognition of our narrative to the world.
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My black woman identity means constantly balancing my consciousness, my anger, and my awareness with my desire to be a “carefree black girl.” It’s living without limits, but questioning and confronting every racist and sexist micro-aggression and injustice along the way. I, like many other black women, know how it feels to fight for black feminism in one breath, and joyfully celebrate our hair, skin tones, and culture in another. It all simultaneously exists. And as we live our lives, through heartache, rejection, happiness and sadness, we continue to make lemonade with each lemon we're given. That truth was the heart of Lemonade for me, and by celebrating black designers, actors, athletes, musicians, and poets, like Warsan Shire, Beyoncé's Lemonade was a somber acknowledgement of our lemons, both figuratively and literally. Our lemons tell the story of our solidarity, strength, and black sisterhood — it's the recognition of our narrative to the world.