Being black in America is stressful. James Baldwin summed it up perfectly when he said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage all the time.” There is no shortage of bad news or racial horror stories awaiting us in 2018. And now that news has nearly unfettered access to us, as it’s constantly streaming into our cellular devices where it waits for you to feel just relaxed enough about existing before bombarding you with grief. If you pay enough attention, the weight of it all can feel crushing at times. I could use this moment to talk about the tragedy of Devonte Hart and his siblings, a story that as more and more details come to light, becomes more and more infuriating. I could talk about the two black men who were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks just for being there. I could talk about 14-year old Brennan Walker who was shot at in broad daylight for knocking on someones door to ask for directions. All of these are recent stories my psyche has been accosted with in the past couple of weeks.
But I don’t want to talk about those occurrences, not right now at least. Right now, I want to talk about Beyoncé. I am not interested in studying the seemingly never ending buffet of black sadness this country seems hell bent on serving up regardless of how full you may be. Right now, I want to dive deep into the well of black joy Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter provides for me and my thirsty spirit.
An ex of mine used to like to troll me about my love for this woman. He would say things like, “I think you are more talented than her,” which he knew good and goddamn well wasn’t true. This among many other reasons is why he’s an ex. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
There is something indescribable about having had the privilege to watch this woman grow. To have grown up listening to and watching her become arguably the biggest living superstar on the planet has been nothing short of mind blowing. From the many iterations of Destiny’s Child, to her solo career, to her truly solo career in which she ditched her problematic manager/father. Beyoncé comes in seasons (usually in the spring, like bees tend to do), and each season has brought us a a new and evolved version of her. It has been a privilege to walk this journey with her as a fan, and watch her metamorphosis from the young, sexy, R&B diva of the early 2000’s into the force of nature we know her to be right now. Personally, I know that seeing her be so grounded in her identity as a black woman, and allowing that to inform her work has been inspiring. I have a deep respect for her refusal to shy away from having a strong political voice as such a public persona. That takes courage.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch her Coachella performance, I just knew it would be great. But I should have known better, because “great” is not capable enough language to encompass what she delivered. She gave us an HBCU homecoming. She gave us drumlines and stepping. She gave us an orchestra and vocals to match. She gave us a new sorority to pledge. She gave us New Orleans, Houston, and Brooklyn. She gave us Destiny’s Child and Solange. She gave us her underserving husband. She gave us Nina Simone, Fela Kuti, Sister Nancy, and Malcolm X. She gave us fat black women dancers. She gave us the Bug-a-boos and gave them the invitation to “SUCK ON MY BALLS”. She gave us a full on diasporic Black experience. She sang the black national anthem to an audience of predominantly confused white people. Her set was more than just a feature at a festival. She was the first black woman to headline that festival and she used that moment to pen us a two hour love letter to black culture, no explanatory comma needed. At the close of that two hours I was completely spent. And yet, I was full.
I can’t go to Starbucks right now, because I believe in the power of a boycott. I can’t get behind the wheel without thinking about Sandra Bland. I can’t visit home without being reminded that I come from the borough where they choked Eric Garner to death in the street. I just learned that the maternal death rate for black women is three times that of white women. Everyday that I engage with current events I am reminded that a disturbing amount of my fellow citizens found our current president’s embrace of white supremacy to be either a draw or not completely disqualifying. Not to mention the constant onslaught of micro-aggressions you are bound to face by just stepping outside of the safety of your home. The list goes on and on. Living in melanated skin is fucking stressful.
But Beyoncé showed up at Coachella and reminded us that it is also a joy and a blessing. Across the diaspora, our culture and our creations are some of the dopest things on the planet. And to know that it was all born of a people whose history has been rife with suffering and all kinds of abuse, is nothing short of a testament to how astonishing we truly are. What a gift it is to be able to stand here today in prideful ownership of that history and that lineage.
There are a lot of people who for what ever reasons don’t care for Beyoncé and that is none of my business. I know that in this current climate, I will be choosing Beyoncé whenever I can because to choose Beyoncé is to choose revelry. Raw, unfiltered, beautiful, black, ass-shaking revelry. I choose to spend beaucoup bucks to see her live because you can’t take money with you when you die, and while I am here I want to live. I want to live as joyfully and unapologetically as my beating heart will allow me to. I want to try to emulate a tenth of her work ethic. And I want to have fun with my living legend because it’s so dope to be alive at the same time as her.
There’s never been a better time to be in the BeyHive. B∆K till I die.