By Ashley Nkadi
“Here lies the body of the love of my life, whose heart I broke without a gun to my head. Here lies the mother of my children both living and dead. Rest in peace, my true love, who I took for granted, most bomb pussy, who because of me, sleep evaded. Her shroud is loneliness. Her God is listening. Her heaven would be a love without betrayal. Ashes to ashes...dust to side chicks.”
As someone who has been betrayed most savagely by someone whom I loved very much, Lemonade was right on time. I remember being glued to the TV. I twirled on my haters right along with Bey. When she said, “ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks,” I almost collapsed. I was Beyoncé’s passenger as she rode over cars, her accomplice as she busted windows, her confidant as she unraveled her story, and her abettor as she dragged Becky With The Good Hair. It was a gift. It was medicine. However, after listening, I realized that this album could not be reduced to a tale of infidelity. It was more, so much more. It was a dedication to Black women, and our struggle: a testimony to our strength in the face of adversity. A montage of the obstacles we face daily – and how we make lemonade out of these lemons.
“I’m just too much for you”
We, as Black women, are just too much for society. The dip in our hip and the swing in our walk are just a little too confident, so we are branded as sexual and promiscuous. We are just a little bit too in love with the kink in our hair, so natural hair is banned in workplaces. We are just a little too comfortable in our chocolate skin, so our darkness is branded as ugliness. We are just a little too serious about not being disrespected by a badge, so we are killed in police custody. We laugh a little too loud for the comfort of others, so our book clubs are kicked off of wine trains (seriously). I mean why are we laughing any ways? We clearly have nothing to find funny. Our success intimidates, our self-sufficiency offends, and our self-love makes others doubt their selves. We are such a driving force and stick together with such a knit sisterhood, that society divides us and puts us in competition with one another. I mean… there can only be one beautiful, intelligent, and accomplished Black woman per space. Any more would just be… overwhelming, right?
“I tried to change, closed my mouth more. Tried to be soft, prettier. Less… awake”
So, we begin to bend our reflections. We learn to radiate just a little less sunshine as not to offend others. We learn to be a little less sure of ourselves, as not to seem cocky. To stand up and speak out less, for fear of coming off as aggressive. To tone down our talents so we do not usurp our men. To always give and to never get. To feed society from our own bosom, remaining un-thanked and unnoticed. To slowly, but surely become nothing and no one as we magnify those around us.
“When you hurt me, you hurt yourself. Try not to hurt yourself”
Though society gives Black women a tough pill to swallow, the worst lemon of all is the lemon from the Black man. Since the beginning of time, the Black man has been unable to protect the Black woman. He could not save us from the whips or savage rape from the white master. He could not save our children from being ripped away from us and sold as property. He could not save us from society’s Eurocentric beauty standards. He could not sustain our households under the strain of underemployment and mass incarceration. He could not save us from burying our sons and daughters at ages when they should be riding bikes or applying to college. So it would seem that at the very least, he would do everything in his power to save us from himself. That is why it is baffling that a leading cause of death of Black women is intimate partner violence. That is why it is frightening that molestation within the Black family is abnormally high. That is why it is astounding that Black women are the forefront of movements and protests concerning the murder of unarmed Black men, yet the murder of unarmed Black women frequently goes unnoticed and unaddressed. That is why infidelity is heartbreaking. Black women pour life force into supporting our families, communities, and men. So being spurned by our own is a pain from the blacks of hell.
“Why do you deny yourself heaven? Why do you consider yourself undeserving? Why are you afraid of love? You think it's not possible for someone like you.”
We forgive these things, because we know what America has done to Black men. It has beaten and brutalized and broken our male counterparts. It has made them believe they are worthless and incapable of being loved. So we love them harder and harder. So we support them with all of our might. But as Jesse Williams says “Just because we are magic, doesn’t mean we aren’t real”. And we need that love and support too.
“The past and the future merge to meet us here. What luck. What a fucking curse.”
The past of what our ancestors had to endure, and the future of what our children will have to endure, unite at the present. What should be beauty is a curse: a cyclic curse of the erasure of Black women’s worth, the dismissal of our beauty, the perpetuation that we are undesirable and unlovable, the sexualization of our bodies, and the minimizing of our accolades. Malcolm X said it best, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman.”
“Women like her cannot be contained”
“I’m sorry I’m so dark. I’m sorry I’m so light. I’m sorry I’m so strong. I’m sorry I’m so ugly. I’m sorry I’m so angry. I’m sorry I’m so loud. I’m sorry my hair curls at the nape of my neck. I’m sorry, so sorry for being both black and woman at the same time.” (Blue Telusma, thegrio.com) After making apology after apology, at some time we realize that we ain’t sorry. We have too much magic to sprinkle, money to make, accomplishments to earn, and too little damns to give to apologize for our overwhelming excellence.
“You spun gold out of this hard life. Conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kitchen. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter. Who then passed it down to her daughter.”
From all of these lemons given, we still make lemonade. We turn trash into treasure, and circumstance into opportunity.
“If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious.”
Lemonade is a love letter for Black Women. Lemonade took that bat labeled ‘Hot Sauce’ and swung it right in society’s face. Lemonade reached in its bag and said sorry I am fresh out of damns to give. Lemonade pulled up on the Black Girl Apology Bake Sale and said, “we are under new management”. Lemonade is all of the pain, hurt, anger, sadness, shame, happiness, pride, and joy it is to be a Black woman. “Beyoncé braided her hair into some cornrows (not boxer braids), slipped on her grandma’s vintage lace dress, looked every one of us square in the eyes and said, “Sister, I hear you. Sister, I see you. And YES you matter. WE matter.” (thegrio.com)