A Seat At The Table

A Seat at the Table

    This month Solange Knowles released her fourth album. It came at a time I felt I needed it most. In one of the hardest years I’ve had since mourning the deaths of Black men slain by police, this album rescued me from a dark place. The cultural significance of this album explains why being Black is one of the most daring and unapologetic cultures to be a part of. I feel powerful and even broken when I listen to this album in its entirety, but I’m thankful. Despite the appropriation and disdain of Black culture from so many, Solange brought this album to us as a gift to assure Black people that we are unique and our journey is filled with joy as well as heartache. 

    When “Weary” plays, I can’t help but reflect on how tiring it is to be weighted with the sorrow of Black deaths. It seems as though at every turn I hear about how my community is being divided by the woes of white supremacy, colonialism, and patriarchy. I’m weary of the standards on Black men that contributes to their hypermasculinity, which in turn is destroying both them and Black women.When I step outside of my dorm, the weariness of the world burdens me. The weariness that accompanies the explicit racism reiterated by the presidential candidate of the Republican Party. The weariness that is paired with being associated with incompetence despite working twice as hard . Solange’s song reminds me of a quote by Fannie Lou Gilbert: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” 

    Whereas “Weary” can be not only be applied to the collective of Black people, I think “Cranes in the Sky” speaks to my individual experience as a Black woman. The lyrics to this ballad are so personal; it’s like Solange is writing a reflection of my soul. Each verse explains the many different ways she has tried to make “it” go away. By changing her hair, busying herself, buying things, and moving around, so many people, myself included, try to escape their inner struggles. It definitely helps me to have a song that captures that feeling of wanting to escape and admitting to myself this is how I feel. Quite honestly, in many Black spaces, emotion is a sign of being too vulnerable. I hate the stigma associated with emotion. Black women especially are taught to be strong but never  vulnerable. We are discouraged from showing any sign of weakness.  “Cranes in the Sky” reminds me that it’s okay to be broken sometimes. 

    And then there’s “For Us By Us.” Both the actual song and the interlude with the same title feature Master P. Now. Master P has not only done work to put southern hip hop on the map but also to accomplish unthinkable entrepreneurial feats as a Black man in the music industry. When he achieved those accomplishments, he made sure  that it was tied to his name and his Blackness. I admire that. The song  on Solange’s album itself is a celebratory declaration that this song is for Black people, and it’s okay for things to be exclusive to just us because for so long we’ve been excluded from gaining what should’ve been ours to begin with. From our freedom to our struggle for upward mobility, Black people have paid the price all of our lives, and this song exclaims that it’s our turn to win. 

Solange, thank you.

Thank you for being unapologetic. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for being magical.

Miriam Madison