Beyoncé’s sixth album, “Lemonade,” serves as a powerful testament to the intricacies of Black women’s experiences. The visuals that accompany “Lemonade” are truly compelling because it strategically defends the humanity of Black women throughout.
While Beyoncé enlisted outspoken Black female celebrities — like Serena Williams, Zendaya, and Amandla Sternberg — to make a statement, she also movingly featured Sybrina Fulton, Lesley McSpadden, and Gwen Carr — the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner.
These Black women’s sons have become unwarranted martyrs in the Black Lives Matter movement, a sad reality that Beyoncé is more than just aware of: "Lemonade" offers brave commentary on how Black women uniquely suffer the consequences of police brutality.
announces her allegiance to the Black Lives Matter movement in "Lemonade," using her scope and influence to condemn state violence.
It started with "Formation," a video that addresses the senseless killings of Black people at the hands of police officers. The video even features a magical Black boy who's dancing so beautifully in front of a line of police officers that he forces them to put their hands up in surrender. "Formation" is a merely a sermon in the bible of "Lemonade" —an unapologetically brazen album.
Bey took the convictions in “Formation” even further with "Freedom," a Kendrick Lamar-assisted battle cry that stresses the importance of resilience and courage for Black folks in the face of systemic oppression.
Lyrically, the song addresses the history of
slavery, the aftermath of Jim Crow, and the visceral racism that is still
extremely prevalent. "Freedom" is visually heartbreaking as well: Fulton,
McSpadden, and Carr are all sitting and holding framed pictures of their slain
sons. Their faces speak volumes.
Lesley McSpadden, Mike Brown's mother, unleashes a heartbreaking tear that slowly rolls down her cheek. They, like many other Black women, are reeling as the police steal Black children from their communities.
Having these mothers in "Freedom" allows Beyoncé to put a face to the anguish and pain that we're collectively feeling — and most importantly, those faces belong to Black women.
Black women are often silenced. Our stories are untold. Despite the fact that queer Black women founded Black Lives Matter, and Black women are leading the movement, the narrative surrounding it often focuses on the oppression of Black men.
This is why Black activists created #SayHerName, so the experiences of Black women who are also victims of police profiling and brutality are more visible. Beyoncé bravely shifts the lens of state violence so we see how it affects Black women — and more specifically, how it affects Black mothers.
It is vital that she is cultivating this space for Black women. Not only is she acknowledging the pervasive sexism that has become embedded in BLM, but she is giving us a fuller picture of the exacting repercussions of state violence on the Black community as a whole.
“Lemonade” is an affirmation of Black women’s pain. Beyoncé sees us. She sees our sadness, our rage, our resilience, and our resistance. And she commanded an entire hour of premium cable television to hold up a mirror. It doesn’t get more powerful than that.
Bey’s fearlessness must rub off to remind us that we need to keep discussing and dissecting state violence’s impact on Black women. And the fact that Beyoncé has stirred up immense controversy just for addressing these issues only solidifies that we still have a long way to go.