To the white man who called it a publicity stunt:
You won’t understand this, but LEMONADE overwhelmed me. Buried me. In fact, I find I’m still wrapped up in it – that, in the midst of a four-day Silent Retreat, I literally woke up this morning to Beyoncé running through my head. I’ve been overwhelmed. By my own blackness, by the idea that this entire work was created for me. For womyn like me. I was overwhelmed to the point of lost sleep. Because I’ve begun to lose sleep as I try to understand what it means, to me and for me, to be black. And the anxiety that I still do not feel worthy of it.
I’m sure it’s been written about in academic scholarship somewhere: this liminal space – a middle ground – between the devastating naïveté of a black person who has yet to recognize the implicit struggle of being a person with darkly complected skin, and a penetrating awareness of the ways in which you are oppressed as a black person. I moved into this liminal space at some point over the last year. And have been scratching and clawing at developing a raised consciousness, an awareness, a “wokeness” ever since. I want to be worthy of my black skin. Of being mentioned in the same breath as the black folks who inspire me in the way they carry their blackness.
Still, after all this, I didn’t intend to write about LEMONADE. I am, by no means, a member of the Beyhive. I was, at best, neutral about Beyoncé. Until now. Until her celebration of black womynhood overwhelmed me. At a time when – in my growing understanding of my blackness – I was able to recognize the celebration. The meditation. The reverence.
I downloaded Tidal. And watched the visual album. And have been unable to take her album off of repeat since.
But I didn’t intend to write about it. Because, as a womyn who is just learning to navigate her blackness, I guess I didn’t think it was my place. But perhaps, if LEMONADE says anything, it is that black womynhood is worthy of celebration – in all its forms. And that as I come to consciousness about my blackness, there are spaces being carved out for even my voice.
So I’ve been traipsing across the Interweb reading articles by other black womyn. About Beyoncé. And LEMONADE. And the space being carved out for us. About the intimacy of this album. And I’ve been reading the articles addressed to white folks: people of color willing to generously and patiently explain that this moment was not meant for them. And I’ve been reading the resistance, the frustration, the entitlement, the ignorance in response to these articles.
So, recently, I was reading the comment section on one of these articles. And you – a white man – called LEMONADE a “publicity stunt.”
At first, this was perhaps one of the most laughable responses to LEMONADE that I’ve read so far. I thought: We are talking about the same Beyoncé right? And we recognize that publicity stunts are designed, theoretically, to get someone [back] on the map? Because, again, I’m no member of the Beyhive; but here’s a tidbit from the world of popular culture: the womyn is the damn map. Which makes your suggestion that LEMONADE was a publicity stunt laughable. So, I categorize your comment as nothing more than an offhanded attempt to make sense of a piece of artwork that was not made for you. To dismiss it. To silence it.
Which, to me, is the part of this “publicity stunt” comment that is not laughable, but disgusting and disturbing. Because it suggests that, from where you stand, if a piece of art is not made for you, if it lies beyond your realm of comprehension, then it must be an elaborate (read: shallow) attempt to quickly obtain the public’s attention.
A publicity stunt is Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch. It is ridiculous. Maybe even nonsensical. It is not this moment. It is not LEMONADE. Because, despite your inability intimately engage with it (which is okay – as, again, it was not made for you), LEMONADE is a love letter to black womyn.
It has not been addressed to you. Which, perhaps, is earth-shattering for a white man in the United States. Because everything is fashioned with you and yours in mind, right? Meaning you don’t even think about it – until something is created that subverts that expectation. Then you get upset. Throw a tangential, if not entirely irrelevant, [social media] tantrum. Like a toddler realizing that not all of the toys at day care belong to him. Sorry, kid.
The devastating irony here is this: As a black womyn, I find myself apprehensive about stepping into the space that has been carved out for me. As a black womyn, I have become so accustomed to spaces not being created for me, that accepting the one that has been, takes conscious and deliberate work. But for you, as a white man, it seems that your discomfort lies in the fact that a space has been carved out for others, and you can’t find a place to sit.
So I’ll summarize the above. And maybe one day you will feel compelled to do the work to understand it: LEMONADE is a celebration of black womynhood, a celebration of me. And there is no room for you here: There is no room for you to weigh in on this portrayal of the black experience. There is no room for you to comment on the appropriateness of Beyoncé’s unapologetic black womynhood. And there is no room for your dismissiveness; or for the insecurities, and the entitlement, and the arrogance, that allow you to sit in the belief that something that was not made for you has no value in the larger cultural landscape that we share.
In Blackness. In celebration. In FORMATION.