I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.
— Ms. Hattie
When Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange (Frankie, where ya at?) came out nearly two months after I graduated undergrad to the day, it was what I needed. I felt it. It felt familiar. Brand new, but like I had encountered it before. Maybe in another life, at a different time.
I couldn’t really write about it. There were no words or phrases, only memories and feelings to which I could compare to its sound. My best friend and I played that album from start to finish. And then we played it again. And again. And we talked about “what it was like”– what the sound felt like, what it reminded us of.
With its otherworldly combination of visual and sonic elements, Lemonade gave me somewhat of a proportional experience– it met me where I was, much like Channel Orange introduced itself to a 21-year-old me. Lemonade is, for some, a spiritual and ancestral experience given to us by way of very human subject matter– pain, loss, redemption, reunion, celebration. It explains through very personal experience, the politics of Black womanhood. It’s so layered that I can’t comprehensively write about it in a way that is critical or judgmental. All I can do is ramble unintelligibly about what the experience gave me.
Lemonade is like going to church again, for the first time in a long while. It’s like being a fresh 22 year-old, sitting at my mother’s kitchen table with her mother and her friends, drinking and soaking up life– what it is to be a Black woman/mother/wife. It’s like looking yourself in the mirror and seeing every Black woman that has ever come before you and every one that will come after you. Lemonade feels like being completely exposed to yourself –every wound long forgotten– and then healed. Lemonade feels like being seen and heard. It affirms me loving myself as a political action and method of resistance. It brought me eye to eye with Sybrina Fulton’s resolve and face to face with a tearful Lesley McSpadden. Those images exposed me to a pain I can only hope to never feel.
More than anything, Lemonade made me feel validated and connected, as a Black American woman. I am so glad and grateful that something like Lemonade can and does and exist in a world like this. How dope it is to have an album that allows you to explore every part of your womanhood, from stripper kick to sacred being.
So review it? Nah. There are so many elements present in the visual that, although they’re familiar to me, are impossible to dissect. In less than a week, I’ve come across various interpretations and symbolism rooted in folklore, religion and cultural traditions. How she managed to create an album that bops and knocks on its own with an accompanying film that takes the personal to break open ideas of Black love and strength, I’ll never know. What I do know is this: Lemonade is an undeniable journey and celebration of Black womanhood over time and tragedy. The visual serves as confirmation that, yes, this is a Black woman thing– you don’t have to wonder. There is no silence here surrounding it. For those of us who might’ve needed permission to break away from trying not to be so much this and too much that, here it is. Affirmation of the highest order.
So, Black women: see your sacred sovereignty here. Black men: share that sovereignty and learn something here. White men and women: mind your business.