The free world waited with baited breath Saturday night to watch Beyoncé's highly-anticipated Lemonade on HBO. The Lemonade teasers did nothing but fuel the anticipation, as her cryptic videos and short trailers kept her secret project an absolute mystery. It didn't take long, however, to appreciate Queen B's genius, as this one scene from Lemonade proved that Beyoncé's message is one we all need to hear.
In a scene towards the end of the special — eight or so minutes before it ends, to be exact — the camera pans to the mothers of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner, sitting on couches and holding pictures of their slain sons. Michael Brown's mother stares into the camera during a particularly gut-wrenching segment, blinking in order to let a single tear fall from her piercing eyes and down her solemn cheek. The images of each mother are raw and heartbreaking and meant to be uncomfortable. The make the viewer feel at once deeply saddened and outraged and helpless to protect these mothers against the heartache already inflicted on them. In this one scene, Beyoncé expands on the statement she first made with "Formation," that when the country is continually telling the African American community to "stop complaining," Beyoncé is whispering (and at times, yelling), No. Just no.
Beyoncé is no stranger to criticism, but she especially came under fire from (predominantly) right-winged media after her iconic performance of "Formation" at the Super Bowl. Many claimed that the most watched show in sports was an unsuitable time and place for Beyoncé to evoke images of the Black Panthers. Likewise, she was criticized for her "Formation" video, as some claimed it was anti-police and "inappropriate." However, another major theme of Lemonade is that Beyoncé — and only Beyoncé — is responsible for her emotions. That means, she and only she gets to decide whether or not they're appropriate, whether or not they're valid, whether or not they're worthy of being displayed for millions upon millions of people to see. And on Saturday night, Beyoncé reminded us all that black women are not only entitled to feel whatever it is their feeling, especially about social injustices and systemic racism, they're entitled to express those feelings, too.
Coupled with powerful images and thought-provoking lyrics, Beyoncé essentially forced viewers to look at the faces of ultimate pain: to actually stop and look and listen and respect the plights of all people, regardless of whether or not you can adequately understand. With an unbelievable platform, she used her hour-long special to take us all on a journey of real, valid emotions that deserve to be shared and expressed. Sharing that journey with Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner's mothers gave us all a quick kick in the shins, jolting viewers from wondering if Beyoncé was getting a divorce and making them think about the more important pain and anger and heartbreak that Black women experience all too often as a result of racially motivated violence. She stopped us all and said, "Look. Listen. Their voices matter. Their emotions matter. Their lives matter"
And whether or not you're dealing with an impending divorce, a painful infidelity, or you're burying your child, your emotions are yours and yours alone. No one should police them; no one should silence them; no one should decide when it is or isn't "appropriate" to express them, especially if they're stifled so that others can feel comfortable. To have a message so poignant, so powerful, spread by an unapologetic black woman, is to watch a black woman refuse to compromise her humanity. It's to witness someone turn the ridiculous "angry black woman" trope upside down, as Beyoncé not only refuses to hide her anger, she unapologetically proclaims it to be just as valid and necessary and worthy of expression, as anyone else's.
I can't imagine what the mothers of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner go through, day in and day out. I can't imagine what many black men and women in this country experience on a day-to-day basis and while others fight to silence them. But in one scene of Beyoncé's Lemonade special, I was forced to stop and think. I was forced to shut up and listen. I hope others were, too.