For once, I wanna talk about Beyoncé.
Because here we are, the black 90s kids, all grown up. There was Fresh Prince and Fat Albert and A Different World. There was the infamous Tip Drill video and the birth of twerking. There was our shared culture: grandmas doling out love and good cooking but god help you if you smudged their furniture; preachers and drug addicts and bibles and sinners and spades at every family gathering; summers roaming neighborhoods buying freeze cups from candy ladies, watching Gullah Gullah Island and singing Goo Punch. But there was something more there too. Our awakening.
The first generation to be free, at least on paper, from the lingering effects of Jim Crow. To be taught our history as if we have an equal place in this world. We listened with rapt attention when India Arie told us to love our curls and dark skins. We saw with young eyes the value of a black man in LA; his body beaten to lifelessness on screen. We watched, mournful, as a city drowned and one man had the audacity to say what we were all thinking: they don’t care. They don’t care about our pain or our poverty or our struggle and they damn sure don’t care about our blackness.
But we shocked them and grew up and voted for our president. And when that symbol exposed this country for what it’s always been, we fought. We marched. From the Jena Six to Sandra bland. We burned cities to the ground and went to jail and shouted our rage into the wind because despite everything we went through we still believed in our own value. We made it into our narrative. Our song. Our refrain. Not to exclude but to exalt. We placed our feet in the ground and refused to go backwards. We decided to assert our humanity and demanded that our country embrace it.
I say all this to say that Beyonce is an imperfect icon. She is not a scholar. Not at the forefront of black feminist thought. Not the leader in this movement. But put aside your preconceived notions for just a second. Do you realize that during black history month, at the halftime performance of one of the most controversial quarterbacks in some time, who is largely controversial because of his status as a successful black man, she dropped a blatantly black video and then actually performed the song live? with back up dancers dressed as Black Panthers? on the week of the 50th anniversary of the day Black Panther Party was founded? less than 50 miles away from where the group first got its start? Now all of this could be coincidence, but I like to believe that for once she is using her voice for us. To affirm what we’ve grown to believe. To put on equal pedestals our ratchet, our ghetto, our basic, our country, our beauty, our fashion, our bodies, our hair, our art, our skin tones, our anger. This is blackness. And we are done hiding it, or being ashamed of it, or apologizing for it. We are equal parts educated and hood. We are equal parts Malcolm and Martin. We are all grown up, and we are here to slay.
I just have one more question that no one else is asking. Ya’ll really for real think beyonce carry hot sauce in her bag? I really just want her to show me that Louisiana so I know it’s real.