There are many reflections that have been floating through media and conversations on the ground after we as a society fixated on media were drawn in to the global release of Lemonade, Beyoncé’s newest communal creation. My first feelings around the piece is this admonition, it is so powerful because it is a reflection of what it means to have a village raise up a child- that child being a one hour cinematic album that has converted many who were not Beyoncé fans to the #BeyHive. As I took in the words of Warsan Shire, the masterful imagery from a team of film makers, listened to the strongly produced music, vibed to the vivacious choreo, took every artistic choice from location to wardrobe and make-up, and bore witness to the countless divine Black Wom*n that filled the screen, I was in awe.
I am neither a Beyoncé fan nor am I a Beyoncé hater. I appreciate her way of creating art with so many surrounding her and lifting her vision and I appreciate her confidence and way of standing as a strong wom*n who has created herself in the eye of the public as an icon and admired artist figure. Lemonade reflected all the things that make me appreciate Beyoncé and then some, because this piece in particular showed how well she knows her community, how well connected she is, how she can use those relationships built and her stance as a iconic figure to create with a team around her own visions (Meet The All-Star Team Behind Beyonce’s Lemonade). And in this instance I am most moved by how much she allowed for a space where in particular other Black Wom*n and girls could be lifted as she rose up to her power in the center light of what I am recognizing is emerging so visibly- the elevation of Black Wom*n rooted in their path toward liberation after years of being oppressed in this country and globally. Lemonade is a call to Black Wom*n everywhere to rise up in the power that is inherently within them. In this moment in time Beyoncé took her role as the most visible Black Wom*n in media to make that call to her sistren around the world, and in particular here in the United States, where oppression of Black Wom*n has waged for centuries.
I sat there taking in the breathtaking imagery, filled with ancient symbolism and calling for healing and reconciliation, where Black Wom*n Magic was bursting through the screen. And in this admiration I found myself recognizing that although as a Pilipina, Brown Wom*n, a Wom*n of color I could find some connection to what this creation stood for I understood that this work was meant specifically of my Black Sisters.
After I watched the full hour, I sat with my realization of what Lemonade represented for me as a non-Black Wom*n of color and when my partner asked me how I felt about the piece, I could not help, but respond that I felt saddened. I celebrated the Black Wom*n rising as I have seen this truth of current happenings everywhere, this reclamation of power, not only in the media, but on the ground especially because the weekend after the release I joined the sacred sisters of Harriet’s Apothecary for their 19th Healing Village in Brooklyn, NY, where Black Sisterhood and Spirit was so alive and vibrant.
And I see it in the way so many neighborhoods in NY are filled with cultural, political, social and spiritual events that raise up Black Wom*n, and I know it’s because they have and continue to fight to be create and maintain and grow those spaces collectively. They re-member and re-envision themselves in a world that has told them they are the other and has created trauma to their spirits. Beyoncé in her visibility and placement as a iconic figure has stood up in leadership of that, whether folks always agree with how she does it, she has progressively stepped up to her role in being the most globally recognized Black Wom*n icon in today’s media.(Being visible does not inherently mean you are a leader, nor does it mean that others will lead you, but it means that you can lead). She is not the only one rising. I see it in other artists that I love and respect and I think on how it is not just today, but in the past we have seen those that have paved for Beyoncé to walk on. Then and even more in the present moment we live in, we can see that Black sisters have answered the call from their Ansisters to rise.
I admitted to myself how much more I longed for my ancestry to show up powerfully in this way particularly here in the United States, where we have and continue to experience the traumas of being a colonized peoples. In all this reflection, I fell deeper into what Lemonade represented for me- it was a call to action from her lineage in connection to my own.
I thought of all the Pinay who have influenced me, particularly in artistry and in leadership organizing our community and I envisioned a moment to be surrounded by all of them- powerful Pinay who were awaken to not just our oppressions here in the US, and as a colonized people, but that were also actively working to heal from it and create something greater more visibly, to touch our younger generations-together. I know that there are many groups and individuals who are doing this work, I look to the Center for Babaylan Studies who I have been called to create with on a daily basis and I am thankful for spaces like this that are working to connect to and remember our cultural, ancestral and indigenous stories, traditions, rituals and practices, but I wish it was not something that we had to dig for, because it took digging for me to create the path I am now walking on back to my ancestors and to my motherland. I wish we had more support uplifting our community to heal and to remember, I wish our community would find greater urgency to support our selves being uplifted in this same way we see so tremendously done by the our Black brothers and sisters in today’s society through a piece like Lemonade or a movement like Black Lives Matter. I have such a great respect for the Black community as I have seen how they have risen in all spheres of being in the past couple of years- the oppression still exists, but the community continues to let the world know that they will rise up stronger every time. Beyoncé has been criticized time and again, but she continues to create, she continues to show up and this time she called so clearly for Black brilliance to show up beside her. I long for this to happen for Pilipinos in the US in reflection of our own deep history here. All people of color carry a burden our past with this country, and we need to heal that.
I don’t think we need a Beyoncé to do that persay, but what I know is that there are many Pinay leaders who are doing the work to uplift and empower us from the ground, but I wonder what it would be like to have someone, in this world influenced by media, to look to with the resources like Beyoncé had for Lemonade who could gather so many masters of artistry in music, visuals, craftsmanship, movement, organizing, and community cultivation around one project, relevant to the present day and that utilized all the advancements of artistry and organizing that could make the world feel the rising of other communities.
I question what has stopped us from having that in my own community, when I am consistently surrounded by brilliant, prolific and masterful Pinay artists who are doing such beautiful work. Do we need a Beyoncé to make this happen? I don’t think anyone in this current day of celebrity and media could have pulled off the production of this communal masterpiece, but her. I know there is much critique around her artistry in relation to this piece, but also I know that she did it- all those people surrounded her vision and helped to bring it to fruition, to empower Black Wom*n everywhere. So I guess this is a call to all of us to begin seeing the truth of Beyoncé’s Lemonade that it is a communal created, supported and executed piece and it is our diverse communities that upholds it, praises it, brings it to our dinner table conversations. So, when will we all begin seeing the power of creating in this way for our own communities, to heal from our oppressions, to uplift and create for our future generations? No Beyoncé needed, just community gathering in their mastery to create with purpose- together.