April 24, 2016
By Sari Leigh
What happens to a woman’s emotional health after she surrenders to love, only to walk away feeling scorched and confused?
Beyonce’s latest creation, Lemonade, strips her soul bare by sharing the pain of infidelity, romantic expectations and repeating generational relationship patterns. Humbly acknowledging her feelings of self doubt, she says, “I’m not too perfect to ever feel this worthless.” Beyonce moves through the first scene as if the pain from infidelity will drive her to commit suicide and jumps off of a building only to dive in water to cleanse herself. In an attempt to heal, Beyonce names the ritualistic deep southern rites of healing; fasting, wearing white, abstaining from sex or self indulgence and even conjuring up voodoo-like images of revenge.
The visual album “Lemonade” revisits deep, ancestral Black memories of feminine pain. She uses a quote by Malcolm X, “The most disrespected woman in America is the Black woman.” to describe the pain at the hands of men who we thought would protect us, love us and care for us. Beyonce touts a tough exterior claiming that she is “stacking paper” and even without her partner “Me and my baby, we gonna be alright.”
Beyonce’s scenes brought back my own painful memories of hearing my mother cry over my father’s refusal to be active in my life. I remember her putting on a mask of courage. But deep down, I felt my mother’s disappointment in a man who with one breath could sweat with heat and give her a baby. Yet with another breath, huff away with a cold, icy distance at the new life taking shape in his likeness. Spirit meets sex. Sex meets worship. Worship turned into betrayal.
Now as an adult, I can still recall the pain of my mother’s lost loves, my grandmother’s solitude and my aunt’s tales of a violent husband. My current attempts at romantic love gone sour prompt me to ask my ancestors for answers. Beyonce taps into this shared dark and secret place that keeps lovers awake who hope to avoid the pain that often accompanies romantic love. She calls men wolves in describing the paradoxical thrill that our bodies yearn for when we know that there is a potential to be hurt, “The flush of blood for men who are also wolves.”
Even though Beyonce takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride with her beauty and art, underneath her glamour exists a pain that too many black woman can identify with. Is love attainable? “I don’t know when love became elusive.” We see flashes of Trayvon Martin’s mother, Michael Brown’s mother and vintage images of mothers in pain.
These women still wander in our collective memories searching for male love that they can depend on. These unknown women are not known but felt, “Unknown women wander the hallways at night.”
As dark and hopeless as it feels while watching the first half of Lemonade, there is healing and hope on the other side. Beyonce reminds us that our grandmothers hold the keys to our glorious, spiritual and earthly healing, “Mother dearest, let me inherit the earth.” The earth, water and sisterhood circles return as warm and safe spaces throughout every scene. Visually, we see women supporting each other, self-sufficient and holding faith in a second chance at love.
Lemonade was painful and unapologetic about how badly betrayal hurts and the depths that a woman will go to reclaim her emotional sense of self. Healing is not optional and often it is an inside job. Lemonade is a visual testimony to all the women who have made lemonade out of lemons after life’s deep painful experiences. Beyonce’s honesty is empowering and compelling. The authenticity in her choice of words, images and music makes this visual album a unique introduction into black women’s glorious and enduring ritual of healing after trauma. In this new space, love is permanent, safe, and dependable, “Her heaven would be love without betrayal.”