On Saturday, April 23, HBO aired Beyoncé's second visual album titled "Lemonade." Shortly after, the full album was released on Tidal.
The 12-track album features powerful lyrics and visuals centered on feminism, blackness and politics. But unlike some of her works, "Lemonade" is personal. It is widely speculated that the album is a nod to husband Jay Z's infidelity. You can feel Beyoncé's pain, sympathize with her anger, and applaud her ability to forgive. But in my opinion, the real star of "Lemonade" is the song that takes us far away from marital strife and brings us back to one of the biggest issues our country faces, racism.
"Freedom," the 10th song on the album, is purely centered on racial and social issues. Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar offer us a soulful anthem that has hints of gospel and the blues. The chorus, shown below, is reminiscent of African slave chants.
Freedom! Freedom! I can't move
Freedom, cut me loose!
Singin', freedom! Freedom! Where are you?
Cause I need freedom too!
I break chains all by myself
Won't let my freedom rot in hell
Hey! I'ma keep running
Cause a winner don't quit on themselves
Kendrick's verse, however, brings listeners back to the modern day and focuses on media coverage of police brutality.
Channel 9 news tell me I'm movin' backwards
Eight blocks left, death is around the corner
Seven misleadin' statements 'bout my persona
Six headlights wavin' in my direction
Five-O askin' me what's in my possession
Yeah I keep runnin', jump in the aqueducts
The music video only adds to this powerful message. Viewers are met with stunning black and white visuals of Beyoncé and various other celebrities. Most don historical, antebellum outfits and traditional African-American hairstyles. Throughout the video, the women take on powerful stances to denote their strength in the face of racial struggles. It also seems to be a nod to the sentiment "okay, ladies, now let's get in formation".
There is beauty in the casting of the cameoed females. They are more than extras, dancers, or friends of Queen B. Each woman has a story, in real life, that makes her a prime example of this "freedom" that Beyoncé is alluding to. Consider the strength and beauty of the following women:
DePrince was orphaned during the Sierra Leone civil war in 1995. Due to her pigmented skin, caused by vitiligo, she was treated terribly in the local orphanage. Life didn't seem to look up until an American couple adopted DePrince and her friend. Today, she is a professional ballerina for the National Dutch Ballet.
Since there are very few black ballerinas, DePrince, like American prima ballerina Misty Copeland, is fighting against racism within the dance industry. When asked why she's working so hard to change this stigma, DePrince told The Guardian that she "overheard one of [her] directors saying 'we don’t put a lot of effort into the black girls, because they end up getting fat.' I want people [in ballet] to realize that not everybody is the same — you don’t know how our bodies are going to turn out."
Zendaya is known for her role on Disney Channel's "Shake It Up," her time on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars," and her popular song "Replay". The young actress/singer, who frequently fights for female empowerment was faced with an interesting situation at last year's Oscars. Former E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic noted that Zendaya's dreaded hair "probably smelled of patchouli oil and weed." Though Rancic claimed it was all in good fun and made "as a reference to the hippie culture," the Internet, and Zendaya herself, viewed it differently.
Zendaya responded to the comment with eloquence and maturity, and in doing so, taught the world a lesson about prejudice.
At 17, Amandla Stenberg is most know her role as Rue from "The Hunger Games." Others might be more familiar her important video "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows," which examines cultural appropriation, specifically in terms of Kylie Jenner. Because of her important discussions on gender and race, Stenberg was named "Feminist of the Year" by the Ms. Foundation for Women. Stenberg is more than your average young actress, she is truly making a difference in the world.
Quvenzhané Wallis is most remembered for playing Hushpuppy in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Annie in the remake of "Annie" the musical. She is revolutionary for being the first African-American child actor to earn an Oscar nomination.
Some may remember Chantelle Brown-Young, most commonly known as Winnie Harlow, from Cyle 21 of "America's Next Top Model." Tyra Banks, the show's creator and judge, was enamored by Harlow's beauty and attitude towards life. Though she was bullied for having vitiligo and even contemplated suicide, Harlow grew to accept her appearance. Since finding strength and empowerment in her skin, Harlow has become very successful in the modeling world. Most importantly, she has turned her story into a platform to help others. Her TED Talk urges everyone to be proud of their skin because “there is beauty in everything."
At the end of the song, we hear the voice of Hattie White, Jay Z's grandmother. "I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to cool myself off. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade." These words were so important to Beyoncé that they not only inspired the album title but also laid the foundation of this song.
"Freedom" goes beyond the call to action that was "Formation." It salutes those who fight against racism every day and honors those who were lost in the battle. It is an ode to the Hattie Whites, Zendaya Colemans, Serena Williams, and Sybrina Fultons. It is an anthem for black empowerment, and hopefully, it's a reminder for African-Americans everywhere — take pride in your culture. You will face adversity and there will be hard days, but you WILL overcome.