Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What You Say To Me? Solange's New Album and the Balance of FeminineAnger and Softness

In case you've missed it, Solange dropped her newest album on us like a soul laden tribute to the times hit us all almost as hard as the times themselves.

Her album, A Seat at the Table, is literally that, a handing out of seats for people who don't understand things about Black culture and

What I love especially about this album is that Solange takes the hard things she sings about, strewn them across vintage harmonies, and then accompanies them with very beautiful, monochrome and offbeat imagery of femininity and softness.

Harsh words lyrically woven together with pretty  vocals and elegant imagery creating a tapestry of Black womanhood, from love to anger to weariness to vibrancy, dashing previous stereotypes of Black women.

You know. The stereotype of Black Women that says that they are angry, mouthy, loud, and hard. We are called coarse and crass, often at the cost of diminishing our femininity.

I hear the words of Sojourner Truth echo from history proclaiming "A'int I a woman too?" From the annals of history and formed when Black people were still considered three-fifths of a human, the stereotype against Black womanhood being feminine shows ignorance and errors across the board.

What people do not understand is the multifaceted nature of femininity. Being female doesn't mean that you cannot be strong. Being female doesn't mean that you cannot be angry. Being female doesn't reduce your ability to speak up and speak out.

I would say the opposite. Traditional views of strength that often exclude feminine influences are incorrect and are the result of misgivings of an ill-informed misogynistic and small minded culture.

You cannot look at women giving birth and deny their strength. You cannot look at a woman who puts on a police or firefighter or military uniform everyday and deny their strength. You cannot look at many women leaders who stand before churches and boardrooms, before their countries, class rooms, and their families and deny their strength. To be a woman in this day and age requires a degree of strength that was not commanded of us (whether externally or from within) in decades prior.

Combine the experience of Blackness to femininity, you get a unique expression of femininity. To be Black is to often be angry, yes, due to systematic injustice and bigotry. But it is also endowed with the spirit to persevere no matter what the circumstances. It is bathed in an inspirational and aspirational freedom that, when combined with the strength and grace that comes with being a woman creates a blend of beautiful anger, loving passion, fiery resistance, and, yes, a sort of unbridled strength, that is often misunderstood as aggression, and, therefore, un-feminine.

And I believe that is the undercurrent of A Seat at the Table, the balance of Black and Female.

You cannot listen to "Don't Touch My Hair" and not hear an address of the proclamation of Black women when too much attention is placed on their attributes by those outside of the culture. You can't listen to "F.U.B.U" and deny love of Black people and Black culture. You can listen to "Cranes In The Sky" and "Borderline" and not hear the feminine concern for Black people. You can't listen to "Weary" or "Mad" and not hear the emotions of decades and centuries or injustices imbedded within the psyche of African American.

Solange swings cusses and praises, exhaustion and exhilaration around like a war banner on the battlefield of current culture, all while keeping a tight grip on her softness. This album is both visual and audio proof of the balance that is both needed and required of Black women today.

And we are grateful to have a seat at this table.

(Photos from We Heart It)