Higher Ground

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By Leslie Lyons

This is all so unnecessarily complicated. How we live as a people together; how we live as women, how we live as men, how we raise our children and how we are inspired by chosen leaders, heroes and artists that we hold dear is the continuous investigation of making sense of our own place in the world.

I spent the better part of 1993 pregnant and then ushering into the world my daughter, Evelyn, without a man. My sisters accompanied me to the Patti Smith concert in Central Park, the War concert reunion at the old Cat Club downtown, readings and hangs and cookouts and my dearest friend, Colleen (DJ Cosmo from WNYC’s Soul School radio show), was in the room when Evelyn was born on October 4, 1993. I didn’t feel alone. And yet, in the still of the night when I would wake up to feed Evelyn I did fully realize that the responsibility for her was all on me. I could not make her father do what I thought was right and what I knew she needed from him and I folded myself into her and listened over and over and over again to the one thing that brought real inner comfort and hope, Tupac’s Keep Ya Head Up, which he had just dropped.

I felt like the words were written for me even though it was clear he was singing to his Black sisters and only women of color were in the video. But that’s what great art does—it transcends intention.

Beyoncé speaks loud and strong for Black women and, like Adele, I have Black female friends who are empowered by Lemonade. But if the reach of the message is forced into the niche of Southern, Black women then we will miss the high art of her monumental, masterful effort. The film Lemonade is so stunning in its narrative scope and visual command that it sets the bar even higher and even for Beyoncé.

Bey’s vision is deep and manifests itself with surprise and perfection. But the absolute genius of what she has done with this offering steers all of us back toward a balanced world where the female agenda is not just asserted through a power goddess identity but through the forgiveness of a mother. . .for all humanity. She is saying to everyone, ‘we can do better and I’ll lead the way.’ Black, White or otherwise, this message was made for us all. Bey’s arrow is aimed at a target so high and mighty that in way lesser hands, it would be impossible to achieve, even pretentious to attempt. But she simply nails it, unapologetically, because the end goal is too precious. She didn’t hold anything back and we are the better for it.

I will not comment on the Grammy voting members’ consciousness. It embarrasses me that Beyoncé stood there with grace and beauty and humility while one of her greatest fans accepted an award that Bey herself deserved. But many things in our society discomfit me. I take consolation that at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards two incredibly talented female artists rose above votes and gold-plated statues and tired industry standards to meet on higher ground. Let’s join them there.

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