Switcha and Shadows: Part 1

a status update i made on my facebook page reads as follows:

here in the Bahamas we don’t make Lemonade, we make Switcha.

the difference between limes and lemons is minute enough that you could dismiss it as a matter of semantics- but it is there.

and yet the drinks are still so similar in theory and execution- and pretending otherwise does everyone a disservice.

so yes, if you haven’t guessed, this is Part 1 of a #LEMONADE think-piece.  it’s not going to be the most articulate or thought-provoking, as there are far more gifted writers who have already dissected Beyoncé’s newest offering to the media in the form of another surprise-album, with an hour-long narrative visual premiered on HBO.

but i did eagerly watch this newest offering because i liked what i was seeing in Beyoncé’s evolution as an artist and person as of late, and visual storytelling is my shit.  and i will be thinking about this video for a long time to come, so i wanted to write my thoughts down as i’m able to process them.

so first, a disclaimer: i am no member of the BeyHive, and while i quite enjoy a few Beyoncé songs on their own [and make no bones about enjoying Destiny’s Child], as an artist, i never really connected with her to the same extent i did with others.  [i was a rebel child, i didn’t like popular artists, sue me :P].  what i respected about Beyoncé tactic-wise, though, was her command of her own hustle and revealing information about herself through her art, when she deemed appropriate [the wedding ring ‘flash’ in her Single Ladies video remains one of my favorite ‘gotcha!’ moments in recent music video history].

bottom line, she was undeniably talented and media-savvy.  she just wasn’t my cup of tea.

now as a showgirl, and someone who’s had the benefit of age and maturity, i can better appreciate Beyoncé’s need for artifice- the carefully constructed and polished persona of the undisputed Queen Bey.  but if there is an similarity between someone like Beyoncé and someone like myself- is that eventually, artifice gets old, really damn quick.

it’s tiring to live up consistently to the labels society expects of you, without any recourse to actually express yourself honestly, without fear of backlash, ridicule- or worse, a lack of sympathy- for any ‘negative’ emotion.

[this is something i’m retraining my brain on, to remember that celebrities are still people and are allowed to have the veneer crack].

and even someone like Beyoncé is not untouchable.  she’s not leading a perfect life despite her celebrity status, and she didn’t come from a truly idyllic home.  and she is still- despite people suddenly being surprised by this fact- a Black Woman in America.

it basically means that the pedestal she’s been placed upon [and one can argue whether it was her own doing or not] is dangerously high.  and to me, Beyoncé has been leading up to her leap from that peak for a damn long time.  her self-titled album was your first *obvious* clue, but i would like to argue that it’s been happening from her time in Destiny’s Child back in ’99.

which brings me to seeing LEMONADE as a wake-up to herself, to her fans, to Black women all over- that the era of the Black Artifice is done with.

we’ve seen this cultural awakening for a while now.  the Glo-Up.  Black Girl Magic.  whatever way you want to dress it up.  where we as Black Women [no matter or origin, creed or circumstances] are now embracing ourselves and connecting with our Sisters.  but sometimes i feel like the movement is still sanitized and too pretty [it’s easier to consume in the media, for sure].  we are never allowed to be shown as capable of feeling rage, vengefulness, spite, cockiness, etc. for fear of falling into the Angry Black Woman trope.  and we know for a fact that this is rarely a side of Beyoncé we see in her music [she’s been rage-filled before, but it’s often again under that too-perfect veneer of the triumphant victor, not the in-the-moment searing hot fury], which is why i guess the film still remains divisive- or at most, as hot-button gossip tabloid fodder.

but regardless of how you choose to view the narrative of LEMONADE- as a chronicle of overcoming infidelity, a generational commentary of the state of Black Lives, or anything else, let me assure you of one thing: if you think you found the *definitive* synopsis, you’ve only found *one* interpretation.

but regardless, Beyoncé had some shit to work out [the artist is always present in the art].  i can only imagine how cathartic this process must have been for her.

one of the things that i have been studying as my magical journey progresses, is the concept of Shadow Work, or Shadow Integration.  the accepting of our shadows- the primal, dark, ‘not fit for society’ parts of ourselves, and wholly working it into the core of our being… instead of hiding it in a box and denying its existence and its effect in our lives.

essentially, in order to step into the light, you have to confront the darkness.

the pain, the rage, the lust, the pride, the despair.  all of it.

and then most importantly- you have to work through it and use the lessons acquired to grow and heal.  you take those experiences and you let them ride its course, sure- but you don’t allow them to imprison you any longer in fear.  instead, you choose to walk forward and live and love more fully in the live you have made for yourself.

you are, essentially, taking lemons and making them into lemonade.

so make no mistake- LEMONADE is about a lot of things, sure, but it’s absolutely imperative that you do not allow your own opinions about Beyoncé’s *worthiness* as a feminist icon or role model for your daughters stop you from actually sitting with yourself and hearing/seeing everything- i mean EVERYTHING- that the visual album presents to you.  this is not a project to listen to piecemeal and expect that to give you the answers you are seeking- the songs at the beginning are rough, angry, visceral but are NOT the summation of the project [and in fact, neither are the gentler, unifying songs at the end either].  but they are still important pieces of the equation.

you don’t get lemonade without the lemons or the sugar or the water.

you don’t foster acceptance of the self without embracing what makes you human as well as otherworldly.

LEMONADE is Shadow Integration in a deliciously raw yet engrossing visual display that i didn’t think i needed to see- but my thirsty soul is glad for it.

but i’m not done with this topic- part 2 is incoming 🙂

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