My daughter beams with pride when she talks about my strength. “You’re so strong,” she says, flexing her own arms in the shape of a “U”. “You can lift that mom!”
Sometimes she mimics my movements, stretching with me in the mornings as I flex my stiff body back into its upright position. She points to joggers on the street, “Look mama, you can do that. You win races.” I don’t win. I run, sometimes, but she would never look at my athletic mediocrity as anything other than trophy-winning excellence.
She must see me as a live oak or a maple tree, sturdy enough to climb all the way to the top. Strong enough to carry her weight, and possibly the weight of all others. Never a hesitation of whether I will catch her as she jumps into my arms. And when I show weakness, physical limitations, she is puzzled. “What’s wrong mommy? Are you ok?,” she’ll ask. “Yes, I just need to rest lovie…” In those moments, she learns to make lemonade.
I wanted to write a piece about my feelings and reactions to Beyoncé’s new visual album; I also wanted to give myself some space to sit with it, at least for a few days. By now, the internet and airways are filled with all the breakdowns and analysis of what Beyoncé really meant. What every shot indicated, all the hidden meanings, who directed what segments, and which lyrics implicated Jay Z (her husband). Some critics said she had finally proven her blackness, and had becoming radicalized. But these things are not what Lemonade meant to me.
It is a visually stunning, incredibly powerful, and intimate look into what it means to be a black woman. If you weren’t looking at sweeping shots of the south, you were admiring all types, shades, and age ranges of black women and girls. Different hair styles. Different facial features. Sitting. Standing. Dancing. It felt like a personal love letter from Beyoncé to black women. She used her vulnerability to remind me that even my vulnerability has strength.
My personal experience with racism is mild in comparison to others, but we, Black Women, are constantly in danger. Our lives have become politicized, and our actions have become radical. To stand up can sometimes cost us our lives, so why do we do it?
Love of myself created my children; it created my strong marriage and allows disagreements to never become disputes. Love of myself allows me to love someone so different, so much an “other”, that life without that love feels incomplete. And I can share that love because I am strong.
Because black women are STRONG.
Lemonade is my parent’s divorce, my divided family later becoming whole.
Lemonade is searching for God, and finding her when you look in the mirror.
Lemonade is watching your young daughter carry the burden of colorism.
Lemonade is feeling the weight of racism and misogyny, and still striving for excellence.
It’s walking hand in hand with your children, teaching them without saying a word. A celebration of cultural ancestries through which to view your own existence in conjunction with your mother and grandmother and great-grandmother. It’s standing in your own strength with such glory, such brilliance, that others can’t help but look on and be moved. It’s a recipe for life passed down from mother to daughter, in hopes to ignite the spark of strength held in the heart of those that come after us.
Beyoncé made Lemonade because almost every black woman has been handed lemons.