Beyoncé did a great job of telling an all-too-familiar theme in story of the black woman. The “Lemonade Syllabus” finishes the job.

April 23, 2016 was the “shot heard ‘round the world” for cheaters and sidepieces alike. Beyoncé aired her creative masterpiece, Lemonade, on HBO, and a whole barrage of leftover emotion after she surprised us with “Formation” exploded on social media, in hair salons, and around water coolers at work in the coming days. Among the shock that Jay Z cheated, the confusion over whether it was Rachel Ray or Rachel Roy, and the sheer mind-blowing-ness that the “hot sauce” in her bag was actually the name she used for her bat, was the controversial line about “Becky with the good hair.”

As I wrote about earlier this month, “Becky” is a term black women have used to refer to white women since at least 1992, when Sir Mix-a-lot used the term in the intro to his song, “Baby Got Back.” If you’re not paying attention, you’ll mess the point Beyoncé makes in this album: the recurring theme of the struggle black women have had to make themselves stand out in a world that tells them European features are more desirable than theirs. You make think this is an ironic theme for a megastar like Beyoncé to write about, but it’s even more poignant that she is such a huge star. As she says in “Hold Up,” the second track on the Lemonade album, “I’m not too perfect to ever feel this worthless.” Yes, even Queen Bey was made to feel less-than-enough by someone with society’s version of “desirable” traits.

While the album is amazing, the narrative must be continued. Enter Candice Benbow and the “Lemonade Syllabus.” Officially launched May 6, 2016, less than a month after the HBO airing of Lemonade, Benbow used suggestions from social media, using the hashtag #lemonadesyllabus, to compile a list of works – primarily created by black women – that best accompany Lemonade tell the story of the black woman, both in a historical context and according to contemporary expressions. The syllabus is a collection of more than 200 resources, specifically tailored to the black female experience, from fiction, to historical accounts, to self-care guides and inspirational pieces.

Lyrics from "Lemonade"

Poignant lyrics from Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” album that describe the black woman.

The “Lemonade Syllabus” is free to download here, but if you are an avid reader who would like to see more works like this from Candice Benbow, you can contribute to her via PayPal.

What I personally like about the “Lemonade Syllabus” is that it is in no way a complaint, a collection of “bitter, broken woman” epithets, or the “diary of a mad black woman.” It is a celebration of black womanhood, a tribute to a heritage of strong women who overcame unfair circumstances and have gone on to thrive in their surroundings. There are quite a few books, plays, biographies, and studies that I am going to look into reading in order to better understand the story that I was born out of, and to better frame the story I have yet to create.

Happy reading. 🙂