Three years ago on Tumblr someone started a “Beyoncé Knowles Appreciation Month” so as a certified member of the BeyHive I joined. Each day we were told to share a picture or write something to celebrate a woman I’ve often referred to as my patron saint. It wasn’t until the last day that we were asked, “What Beyoncé has taught us”. I starting writing on my flimsy smartphone:
When I was younger, I hated my body – I used to feel so ashamed of who I was. I was in the closet and ashamed of being Queer. Oddly a heterosexual Black woman inspired me. She was a Christian, yet she loved and supported the LGBT community. She was called fat – so she wrote a song, Bootylicious, about how beautiful her body was…Listening to her music inspired me to love myself and my body and to see the good in others I otherwise wouldn’t have.
I’ve loved Beyoncé since I first heard the song “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” on Radio Disney in 1998. I was seven years old when that song was released, and eighteen years later I’m still riding hard for her. I’ve watched her grow as an artist, I’ve watched her be accused of being pregnant until she got pregnant then was accused of faking her pregnancy. I’ve watched people accuse her of promoting promiscuity, until she got married and people hated on her for marrying her husband, and “feminists” shamed her for taking her husband’s name. I’ve watched as time after time, scandal after scandal she came back, rose above it and walked away with handfuls of Grammys. I’ve seen Black people call her stupid for the way she talks, I’ve seen White people rip her apart when they realized she’s Black, I’ve watched as her fellow Christians accuse her of all sorts of things. And like dust she rises.
I also rise like dust. I too have been stepped on, put down, had lies spread about me everywhere from high school to church interviews. I’ve had people call me “nigger”, “faggot”, and everything in-between. But if my patron saint could keep going, I knew I could too.
I will not ask people’s opinions on Beyoncé or her work; because honestly I’m tired of listening to people rip her apart. Questioning her ability, her talent, her gift, and her importance is just something I’m over. When the Church wasn’t a place I could see someone who looked like me being successful, when it wasn’t a place where I felt safe, or loved, or included Beyoncé’s music was that for me. And when I’m tired from watching people that look like me murdered by the state and watching people in my faith celebrate it or excuse it for the umpteenth time, I can turn on her silly songs, or her ballads, or her visual albums and find refuge.
I don’t need music critics to tell me she’s great at what she does. Her 20 Grammy’s weren’t needed for me to know she’s great. Her millions of sales, her sold out tours, her Oscar nominations, her Emmy’s, her ASCAP writing awards, her broken records, etc. I don’t need to know anyone else’s opinions about her; I know what she means to me. And I’m not apologizing for it. I know some people get kicks out of popping up and crapping all over whatever’s popular and right now Beyoncé is that person after working since she was nine years old to get here. Now as a 34-year-old woman she’s popular enough to get as much attention as other artists who popped up in the game when she was on her 3rd solo album. She’s finally considered equal with artists who haven’t worked half as hard or half as long as she has. But truly that’s the story of Black people, especially Black women, we have to extra long and extra hard to get half of what others get. And when we finally claw our way near the top, we’re told we’re only there because of affirmative action or because we “played the race card” or our art, and the very stories of our lives are considered too vulgar or too messy to be good enough for the impossible to reach standards set by a society that only exists because our ancestors made it.
It is in this society, built on the land stolen from people of color and made wealthy off the slave labor of people known as Black that this particular Black woman has succeeded. A woman descended from rape victims; a woman who battled suicidal thoughts and depression; a woman who lost her baby; a woman well acquainted with hard work and struggle; this woman has managed to make her own fortune. I don’t need to ask what others think of her to feel validated. I don’t need to know what they thought about LEMONADE to know how it made me feel.
Feel free to critique her, to challenge her, to examine her art critically. You can even dare to share your opinions with me about her, but do so knowing that I didn’t and won’t ask you for them.