My mother worked for white families when she first came to this country. She used to push white babies past the gates of Columbia University’s campus and wonder what happened on the other side of those walls. Last year I received my Ph.D on full scholarship from Columbia University at the age of 28. Lemonade.
This letter is a protest and a promise for the gloriousness of my healing. I always knew that everything sweet about me was birthed from the sour stench of resilience. At the age of 15 years old I was a chocolate-skinned, first-generation Caribbean-American girl struggling with obesity. There, at the threshold of womanhood I was told that my Black, and my woman, and my fat were the brokest of things. With the sharpest edges. Each layered with the dustiness of margins. I spent my entire life conjuring magic out of the aftermath of my intersections. I never dreamed that you would see me.
And then you gave me Lemonade. In a tall, cold, glass. It was icy the way it splintered through my soul. Me. At the threshold of 30. Me. Staring every real and raw thing of my life in the eye waiting to see if it will turn me to stone or to another level of slay. What you served was curiously silent on the subtleties of Black girl body type, but I am made out of crossroads so I found myself anyway, and I forgave you quickly. In time for this ode to the both of us. Now that you can see me, I feel inclined to speak:
The citrus of your song has been at the center of my spirit for days now. The breaking of your skin opening and closing with Black girl stories and magic and hope and histories and pain and fears and questions and retribution and rage and love and indignation and peace. Did you prepare a eulogy for our wounds now that you have left us so undone? What will you, and Warsan, say at our funeral now that you have given us new life?
More times than I can count I have put my body on the line for our people, but I have not ever had the courage to put my broken on the line for my self. So this here is a protest and a promise for the gloriousness of my healing.
My unborn daughter will live in a post-Beyoncé world. Maybe she will reach into the archives of her ancestry and cite your legacy like a compass. Black girl Odyssean quest for self before beyond between batteredness and slave. She will cite me too. With the sanguine heirlooms of victimhood and victories that exist in the matrilineal mix of me. This Lemonade legacy. She will cite others too. But you, in this moment, are the subject of my imagination.
Beyoncé. You are not the first person, and will not be the last, to give me this much life, this much courage to love myself more radically–My Black, my woman, my fat. Their faces stay puckered with the sour and sweet of it all–but today you passed me the coldest glass of Lemonade in the midst of an unquenchable heat. And nobody coulda ever told me that Beyoncé Knowles-Carter would see me one day. I still can’t get over it. So I wrote you this self-love letter. Openly.
In Love and Legacy,
Jamila J. Lyiscott
- 28 Apr, 2016
- Posted by Jamila Lyiscott
- 0 Comments