Solange’s new album, A Seat at the Table, has resonated with listeners everywhere. She has always been a favorite artist of mine for her unapologetic authenticity. In today's world, as a black person, we are made to live in fear, hide ourselves, and be ashamed of the color of our skin. She is facing these issues head on and reminds us of the importance of being black.
We all have those moments or days where, enough is enough.
We are tired of always being the strong one.
We no longer want to be the token.
We don’t want to be overlooked for positions of advancement.
We no longer want to defend our Blackness.
Though the list doesn’t end there, there are times where the negativity of being a black person in this world turns positive. Cue, A Seat at the Table.
From her powerful words in Weary, Cranes in the Sky, and Don't Touch My Hair, and in each interlude, she is telling the story of being a black person and a black woman in the world today. She does so with grace, wisdom, and genuineness. She connects with her listeners to empower us as we move through each day as a black person in a predominantly white society. Addressing our quandaries of questioning our worth, not feeling beautiful, feeling inadequate, being put on display, and feeling isolated.
“I think that A Seat at the Table for me is an invitation to allow folks to pull up a chair, get very close and have these hard uncomfortable truths be shared. It’s not going to be pretty, it’s not going to be fun, you may not get to dance to it, you’re not going to breathe easily through it, but that is the state of the times that we’re in right now. It’s my invitation to actually open up those doors and to have that voice, get messy and lay out my truths and stand firm in them."
The challenge to find our voice and to speak our minds is immense. For those of us who are not outspoken, we tend to hide in our own thoughts. We feel that we cannot share our true feelings and that we are alone. But Solange is opening us up to have these difficult conversations with one another. Allowing her album to help be a starting point as we work through our struggles.
As I listen to this album, I focus on a different part each time. Picking out lyrics that I had not heard before. Feeling a new sense of resonance whenever I listen. This has become my album of the moment. The album that I can turn to when I need a gentle reminder that it’s okay to be a black woman.
I find myself struggling with this as I travel around South Dakota. I had an idea of what it would be like to be one of a few, but not completely. There are days where I do not pay attention to the stares and there are others when they make my little girl angry to my core. Standing in my blackness has never been so apparent. Living in diverse cities where I encountered a person of color or black person, on the daily, has spoiled me. Living in such a small town, I may not see either for a day or two. That does something to your psyche. There is an immediate sense of isolation, awareness of my blackness, and realization that I am the only one. When I am reunited with people of color, my heightened awareness falls by the wayside and I begin to feel at home again, within myself and the world.
This is the first time, in my adult life, where being a black person has weighed heavy on my spirit. Not only being constantly reminded daily but realizing I have very few people around me to converse with. Sure, I can call family or friends, but knowing that I can talk to someone immediately, helps me feel grounded. Having a supportive partner, who is not a person of color, who is aware of the injustices on black people and would stand by me in moments of inequality, is beautiful. However, talking to him about my daily frustrations or sentiments, is not the same as talking to a black person who has similar experiences. My awareness of this difference has caused me to seek out a black community that I can talk to about the issues we constantly face. This is an ongoing process that keeps me at peace. It is about finding our social balance in life to help keep us grounded, feeling whole, and always worthy.
These feelings and thoughts are not isolated to myself. I know that I am not alone in this process. There are millions of black Americans living in small towns, there are a few hundred living in my town alone. Where we are not numerically isolated, we still live on the margins, culturally isolated and marked as an other. In our feelings of isolation, we are connected. We are united. Artists, friends, families, and complete strangers coming together helps us to feel less estranged from the community at large. Even though people may not address the issue of #blacklivesmatter or know how to converse with us, we are not alone. Solange’s album helps us feel connected at a time where our world is so divided.