My sister and I sat on the subway headed out of Brooklyn into Manhattan. We were in our own worlds, she reading and I writing. Then suddenly she holds out her earbud to me. I put it in and Beyonce's Lemonade fills my ear. We watch the video, tethered by headphones, dancing in our seats and laughing in unison while ignoring all those watching around us. It is Monday morning and we're headed to work, but you couldn't tell us otherwise.
The night before, we, like many women we know, congregated with friends on our couch to watch Beyonce's new visual album. We barely spoke, and when we did it was through whispers and meaningful side glances. Lemonade was sacred to us in that moment. It was our sisterhood playing out before our eyes in mainstream. It was a secret being shared not with the rest of the world, but with more of our sisters.
As I absorbed the art, swooned over the poetry and swayed to the rhythms, I was reminded of the sheer power of such a sisterhood. I wondered, for the women and girls in the video, who braided their hair, who painted their faces, who zipped or tied their dresses. I thought about what it meant to have sisters no matter where you were in the world or where you came from. Someone would always compliment your curls. Someone would always exclaim, "Yes, girl, yes." Someone would always keep it real with you with a nod of the head. This sisterly support, as shown in Lemonade, is intergenerational, where lessons like making lemons from lemonade are passed down through time. It's relevance still standing strong.
Why is Lemonade so powerful and poignant? Black women, as Malcom X put it, are the most disrespected, unprotected and neglected people in America and in the world. From misogynoir and micoraggressions against our bodies--especially our hair--to forced sterilization, net worth of $5, silencing by stereotypes, sexual assault before our 18th birthdays and being scientifically considered inherently unattractive, black women are continuously given lemons, while the rest of the world gets love.
So we make our own love, and if we're not too scarred, we share that with our sisters. We raise each other especially when we're forced to grow up faster, smarter, tougher in order to survive. We make lemonade. And still, we're not spiteful; we don't keep it all to ourselves. We give up the love--the magic--we create, even when at times it's taken from us without permission or credit or second thought.
But through Lemonade, through this beautifully haunting culmination of our joys, pains, jealousies, anger and freedom, the world gets to watch us have our "Black Girl Magic" all to ourselves, refusing to be someone else's teacher, protector, or lover-sister-friend responsible for assuaging someone else's guilt or catering to hurt feelings. There's no stressing over the outsider gaze for once. Watching Lemonade means being the beholder, and taking in our existence in all of its glory, its beauty and its wonder. It's doing so unapologetically because we ain't sorry.