Representation Matters: Solange’s A Seat At The Table Review
Slavery was decriminalization of hate and mass production and indoctrination of prejudice. This prejudice was taught and white people all over the world are still reeling from the after effects of this indoctrination. It’s been years and years. They had centuries of learning and coping and internalizing this prejudice and teaching it to the next generation and the next and the next. What we’re seeing now is a direct product of this prejudice. Racism is a result of that, the police brutality is a symptom of the distrust that has been sown in many white people. The white person’s inability to empathize and appreciate the Black person’s struggle is the result of slavery and the shield and divide it drew across racial lines. Slavery created broken men and women on both sides of the racial lines and the effects have never been apparent now with so All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter movements so heavily populated.
I watch from the comfort of my blanket of security in Botswana and can only imagine how it might be living in such tumultuous times. Slavery in America is not going to wash away in 50 years because civil rights have only been given to black Americans for that many years but compared to 400 years of slavery, it’s only a blimp. There is still a lot to be done. Black people are disenfranchised economically because they haven’t been given an opportunity to further themselves. The transition is slow and the road blocks are embedded in the constitution.
It’s not even a Black thing, it’s a class thing. This is a class war through and through. The war can be won or overcome in many ways but it doesn’t always have to be through physical force. In the past 2 years, we have seen towns and cities go into flames after Black lives got snuffed for no particular reason in the United States. It’s clear something has to change.
There are so many ways that people fight for Black culture or Black life. Not to take anything away from her, Solange represents a more, dare I say, deceptively whimsical fight. Solange isn’t militant but still is at her core she is pro-Black in every way. Living as a carefree black girl is her ultimate form of protest. She has created an album whose sole purpose is to speak on representation and primarily meant for Black consumption. That is powerful.
For those who can’t relate to the subject matter or are far removed, the album provides mood music. America greatest export unequivocally, is its culture. For decades the entire world has consumed its language, style of dress, and expression so much that even someone living in the so called Dark Continent can have his/her frame of reference so heavily intertwined with a US citizen that it can be difficult to tell them apart. Through television and other mediums a curious hybrid of global natives sprung up besotted with foreign aspirations and ideals moulded by the 24 hour media cycle that has, over the years, brought itself closer to the individual.
Social media — Twitter in particular — has become the catalyst that has brought the world closer and in realtime. It’s this proximity to the world’s stories that builds an empathy muscle that consciously or otherwise allows humans from far off places to connect and assimilate others’ life stories as their own. That ability to identify is why the world won’t crumble or implode under the weight of our own selfish desires. The ease at which a listener connects to the narrative of this album speaks to the artistry and storytelling Solange wields in her at times mousy and relaxed approach.
Solange represents the happiness and the resilience that assures the inner man that even though these injustices perpetuate around her, she’s still going to live her life free. And what is freedom? Freedom is the ability to express yourself. You’ve probably seen her dancing in her music videos or the reception dance with her son or DJing at a club somewhere in New York or being foolish. Through all of that she’s expressing herself and living her life carefree. That’s what freedom is, that’s what fighting for your own space is.
She is trying to get her seat at the table by being who she is. There are a lot of artists who are being who they are not or try to embody something that they aren’t just to suit a particular theme. It’s no secret that the Black Lives Matter movement can be easily exploited and monetized by a prepared marketing team.
Solange on the other hand did not necessarily change who she was but used it as a vehicle to express an idea. That idea is captured so well in Tina Taught Me interlude, a recording of her mother Tina Knowles; celebrating Blackness is all it is and does not negate or oppose any other race. A Seat At The Table as an album is incredibly pro-Black and captures and comments on the Black experience from the first second to the 53:33 mark. The cleverly placed Master P (Percy Miller) interludes drive and complement the album. It’s a protest by design that sees Master P touching on the family institution and its makeup throughout the years, economic empowerment and the lengths man will have to go through to gain true self-determination.
There’s so many ways to protest. Gaining attention on its own is protest. In the 1940s Black men wore Zoot suits which were multicolored and loud because they wanted to be seen. Their popularity spilled over to other minorities, Hispanics more famously who among other reasons sought them out as a way to get noticed. It’s the same way rappers wear gold and diamond necklaces, sometimes 10 at a time, and Flava Flav clocks etc. The point is to occupy space as if to say, “We’re here, you didn’t want to see us here but here we are. We’re occupying this space and you can’t do anything about it.” Showing up and being inconspicuous says, “We are here, we weren’t supposed to be moving freely, we’re invading and producing and influencing pop culture in a major way. We are the source and we want to be treated as such. We want decision-making powers and a stake in the establishments and the dividends. We want a seat at the table.”
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