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Love & Sisterhood makes Lemonade

Disclaimer: what I am writing is by no means the only thing to be taken away from what was a lifetime’s worth of generational pain and forgiveness that Beyonce managed to squeeze into an album. This ain’t that — rather its a reference to one of many themes woven into this work of art.

I am on day 8 of sipping, very slowly, the Lemonade served by Beyonce. Needless to say, I’ve been in tears dissecting with girlfriends and reading pieces penned by black women who find themselves navigating the very messy terrain this art confronts you with. I’ve been filing away my emotions, only to have to constantly revisit the files as more pain is unearthed through the reflections of others. The beauty of the best art, is that everyone sees something different; by this standard Lemonade is most certainly classified as such. We can assign a pain specific to our own experience while elevating the trauma of a collective group. With all of that said, I find myself reflecting in this moment on the theme of love. More specifically, the way in which the most intimate form of love affects us and the need for unwavering sisterhood.

I’m not too perfect to ever feel this worthless.
- Beyonce, Lemonade 2016

Those words haunt me — mostly because they truly illustrate the vulnerability of loving another person intimately. I remember one of the first female driven rap narratives I’d heard as a child was Eve’s Love is Blind. I remember hearing the verse “love is blind, and it will take over your mind, what you think is love is truly not you need to elevate and find.” This meant nothing to me. I loved the song. I knew all of the words. I did not understand a damn thing because I was 9 years old. However, I would become painfully acquainted with this song, it’s reflection on domestic violence and how it illustrated an almost fear induced love my freshman year of college.

Needless to say, almost seven years later my perspective on love and how it influences me and occupies space in my life has evolved significantly. So when I watched the Lemonade video one of the themes that struck me was that of betrayal and forgiveness in reference to love. And while the larger conversation has been fraught with speculation around code name Becky, I have also seen another criticism playing out; why did Beyonce stay with this man who has done all of these things to her? And by criticism I mean everything from character assassinations to the patently ridiculous assertions regarding how anti-womanist and faux feminist she is for staying with her man in spite of the facts in evidence. Foolery, I say. But, what I’m left with is wondering how women navigate and define love if we are not given space to do that which feels right to us and our own individual needs.

Personally, in having been cheated on, my forgiveness involves me closing the door behind me with the perpetrator on the other side of it. I cannot see myself continuing to build a life with someone who has severed our bond by violating my trust. Can I say definitively that there will never be a person that is an exception to that rule? Well, no. There’s always a possibility that I too will change my mind because as Beyonce so eloquently put it “although I promised that I couldn’t stay baby, every promise don’t work out that way.”

Love constantly evolves. And we should let it.

Beyonce facilitated a visual counseling session for every woman thats ever been betrayed by a man. What she did not do is formulate a conclusion for us all. She performed her outcome. She made the decision to work on her partnership and give the character in her musical reality another chance. And that is beautiful in its own way. That does not mean we have to follow suit, but it does illustrate an option. This idea that there is something anti-feminist about her conclusion is categorically ridiculous. The most empowering thing she illustrated was working through pain, leaning on sisterhood for support and making a decision based on her desire for her space; and this is where we fail one another.

Our sisterhoods are weak. We are too quick to assign our judgments to the situations of others without honoring the fact that each of us loves differently and there must be space for that. We are too quick to abandon one another without first attempting to simply be present as each of us navigates this evolving space. Far too often we are left alone in our exploration of a space that is in constant need of guidance and affirmation.

Personally, I lean often in navigating love. Even in residing in a space where I have never loved so authentically and so deeply, I lean on sisters. I lean out of fear. I lean out of insecurity. I lean as I seek to heal from the pain of my past so it does not taint the beauty of my present. But in capturing all of the pain, I also share my joy. I share all of these things because we need to be transparent about the good and the bad because the strength should live in our honesty, hopes and dreams.

What we teach our sisters and daughters in shielding them from our truths is that when it happens to them it is their problem and, most destructively, their fault. Whether Lemonade is autobiographical is irrelevant; this is someones truth. This visual exploration illustrated the necessity of storytelling at all times and the need to share our truths with women and girls we share space with. The true suffering is in never being equipped with the knowledge that your journey in exploring love is not the only messy journey — all of us have tripped over a few bricks along the way.

Life has a way of making us proficient at squeezing lemons in our water: our collective responsibility is being present with our stories of failure, pain, resilience, joy and hope — as the only way to make lemonade is by adding just enough sugar to prevent our tongues from holding onto the bitterness of life. Sisterhood holds the sugar jar at all times; that carries with it the responsibility to pass the sugar where needed and hold onto the bonds of sisterhood at all times.