The Importance of The Black Female Voice in Pop Culture
Posted on 12 May 2016
“You can’t make homes out of human beings / Someone should have already told you that."
This is just one of the many lines from Beyonce’s infamous ‘Lemonade’ that she released with no prior warning on HBO, April 23rd. While the Internet was freaking out about Serena’s thighs and frantically trying to decipher who “Becky with the good hair is,” we were blown away by the poetry embedded in the interludes between each song. As a powerful ode to black women, Lemonade inevitably sparked dozens, if not hundreds of think-pieces unpacking the complexities of black love and black femininity. But what very few people were talking about was the importance of the black female voice in pop culture.
Warsan Shire, the 27 year old Somali-Brit poet was the voice behind the poetry that left us speechless. Words from her poem “the unbearable weight of staying - (the end of the relationship)” are recited by Beyonce as she visually describes her internal struggle to remain in her marriage. Whether or not you’re a member of the Beyhive, you have to admit, the power in this album extends far beyond the visuals and its potent #BlackGirlMagic. It lays in its relatability. The narrative surrounding the album validates the shared experiences and memories of black women everywhere, in a way that hits - almost uncomfortably - close to home.
In a culture where blackness is cast aside, Beyonce was unapologetic. Not only are black women the main proponent in this production, they are at the forefront. Not in the periphery of the narrative, they take center stage. They are liberated, they are joyful, but most importantly, they are three-dimensional. The imagery of the antebellum black woman juxtaposed with black female liberation through the generations, together with Warsan’s literary genius gave the world a rare glimpse into the complexities of blackness in a way that’s rarely consumed in mainstream media.
After featuring a snippet of Chimamande Ngozi’s TEDx Talk in her song ‘Flawless’, on her self-titled album in 2013, Beyonce started her reign as an advocate of literacy across the African diaspora. In the height of today’s visual culture, the importance of the black female voice in mainstream media is undeniable. It creates spaces where blackness can be communal, yet multidimensional - despite how uncomfortable it makes us. But that’s what Art is supposed to do - make us uncomfortable, evoke emotions and incite dialogue.
(Trailer) Let us know in the comment section below what you thought of Beyonce’s "Lemonade"!