My homegirl Vikkie doesn’t allow guests to wear shoes in her house. So when I showed up with three other visitors in our Unfriendly Black Aunties friend group Sunday to prepare brunch for one another, we stood in the kitchen and, in the tradition of our ancestors, prepared the meal barefoot ― infusing love in each step, each dash of seasoning and each creak of the oven door.
We gathered to celebrate the anniversary of “Lemonade,” a short film by Beyoncé released on April 23, 2016, that highlights the trials, tribulations and inevitable triumphs of black womanhood. The film has won numerous honors, including the prestigious Peabody Award.
But my girls and I couldn’t care less about the awards the film has won. “Lemonade” signifies something bigger to us: Its release coincides with the first anniversary of our friendship.
It was April 23, 2016. A week before, Jonquilyn, another member of our soon-to-be Auntie collective, had reached out to a group of black women who work in media about watching “Lemonade” together at her home. Four of us ― Vikkie, LaNita, Aggi and I ― showed up. We ate Popeyes fried chicken and drank wine while chatting about our careers, hobbies and, of course, Beyoncé.
The chatter of five loud, happy, carefree black women was reduced to silence when Beyoncé, head down, hair cornrowed and shoulders covered in fur, graced the television screen. We eagerly consumed the scenes of black people who looked liked our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, brothers and cousins loving on their children and dancing through their neighborhoods, montages of black women standing, solemnly and firmly, and scenes of black children playing without a care in the world all while trying to dissect the visuals and figure out who Beyoncé was mad at. The film spoke to our anger at white supremacy, unfaithful black men and the traumas black women are forced to bear.
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And watching this black-as-hell film in a room full of black women was equivalent to a religious experience.
We waved our hands in praise when a clip from a Malcolm X speech declaring that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman” played along with cameos of real, dark-skinned, kinky-haired women.
We hollered when Beyoncé said, “Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks.” We wept tears of joy when Serena Williams strutted down the staircase in “Sorry” and began twerking as a way of reclaiming the sexuality stripped of her ― and many other black women ― by a society that sees us as unattractive.
And tears of empathy ran down our faces when Lesley McSpadden appeared in the film holding a photo of her son, 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a white police officer in 2014 and whose death sparked a nationwide fight against police violence.
A group chat was started after the party so we could all keep in touch. Our Beyoncé-spawned connection blossomed into a deep, meaningful friendship and expanded to include two more black women journalists. And, for the past year, we’ve been there to pick one another up when it has been too hard to get up on our own.
We take hikes and dance together at parties. We coordinate brunches and dinners. We speak every day about our lives, politics and memes. Whenever one of us needs a shoulder to cry on, everyone runs to her aid. We’ve held each down through breakups, deaths in the family and career frustrations. We’ve been there to celebrate every birthday, every career goal hit and every personal achievement reached.
In our own way, we mirror the fall and subsequent rise Beyoncé put forth in “Lemonade.” Every scene in this film boils down to something my friends and I know well: how race intersects with our womanhood, our relationships with our families and our interactions with men. And, somehow, we always manage to persevere when life beats us down via our sheer determination and the community we’ve built among ourselves.
This year, as we danced around Vikkie’s kitchen, barefoot and laughing, I realized that Beyoncé’s vision of black sisterhood and the message that black women persevere in numbers had become our reality.
And I’ll be forever thankful for that.