Notes on Pride

Black Queer Abundance: Beyoncé's Lemonade

June 9th, 2021

“So what are you gonna say at my funeral, now that you've killed me? Here lies the body of the love of my life, whose heart I broke without a gun to my head. Here lies the mother of my children, both living and dead. Rest in peace, my true love, who I took for granted. Most bomb p*ssy who, because of me, sleep evaded. Her god listening. Her heaven will be a love without betrayal. Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks" (Beyoncé, “Sorry,” Lemonade)
"When you hurt me, you hurt yourself / Don't hurt yourself…When you diss me, you diss yourself / Don't hurt yourself” (Beyoncé, “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” Lemonade)
"Uh, this is your final warning / You know I give you life / If you try this sh*t again / You gon lose your wife" (Beyoncé, “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” Lemonade)
“Born Freddie Ross, Jr., Freedia became Freedia by working like her mother: by always working more & differently than if she’d grown up to be a straight black caiman like Freddie Ross Sr. Listening to work histories like hers—histories of sissy work—pushes us outside concentric conversations about black women’s labor that assume (in Saidiya Hartman’s words) “the material relations of sexuality and reproduction [that] defined black women’s historical relationships as laborers” are always about common sexual/reproductive biology. Conversations that imagine pussy & vagina are always the same thing, or that “partus sequitr ventrum”* is a cute leveled only at black folks with a uterus." (Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, “Ezili’s Mirrors: Imagining Black Queer Genders,” (66)

BEYONCÉ! I just… How do you even begin to talk about the queen’s most brilliant and critically acclaimed body of work, Lemonade. From sadness, to cockiness, to rage, to nostalgia and regret, Lemonade speaks to us about complicated feelings and the messes of love. It’s also Beyoncé at her most outwardly political. The image of her submerging a NOLA police car with her body is a poetic and provocative engagement with Black death and policing. And yes there are critiques. As some have alleged, queerness could be better framed. Freedia and Messy Mya’s voiceovers in “Formation” could have more context and better introductions. But I am also struck by the way queer presence is there in Lemonade, without much fuss or “coming out.” Beyoncé shows us (without really telling us) that queerness is not elsewhere. It is on your block. In your building. At the corner shop. It might even be in your church 👀. It is also hella Black. Instead of Pride flags and rainbow parades Beyoncé gives us Gucci Slides, the Beauty Supply Store, Bounce music, and Big Freedia’s proclamation that she not only came to slay but also loves “Cornbread and collard greens, bitch.” The “bitch” takes me OUT every time. What I love about Lemonade (especially “Formation”) is how Black queerness figures as so quotidian, so central to Black life. It’s a poetic reminder that Black queers are not on the outside but sutured to the very foundations of Blackness.