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Why Solange’s unapologetic blackness is what we need right now.

Solange’s "A Seat at the Table" transcends black and white spaces, and it's awesome.

Why Solange’s unapologetic blackness is what we need right now.

When Solange asked me and basically every other black person to finally take a seat at the table, I brought a chair and a stool.

‌While listening to "A Seat at the Table," which is now easily one of my favorite albums of the year (surrounded by the likes of "Lemonade," "untitled unmastered," and "Blonde"), I went through several stages of emotion: pride, relief, excitement, but most importantly, mutual understanding.      

Solange’s knowledge of the black struggle — both current and past — was strongly represented in her new album, and people noticed. The singer/songwriter and producer received praise both in and out of the music industry for her unapologetically black ethos, and the album has already reached #1 on iTunes.  


But what's most important is that her album, while explicitly created for black people, will probably reach the ears of people everywhere — not just in the black community.

Solange (who is Beyoncé's sister) has spent the last few years of her career straddling the line between R&B, neo-soul, and indie, a genre generally filled with white musicians.  

In an age when unapologetic blackness is seen as a radical political act and when black bodies have continued to be brutalized by police, Solange's ability to straddle multiple genres is more important than ever. Her undeniably indie aesthetic is a welcome entrance of black voices in spaces that were initially appointed as white ones.

Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Lexus.

When you look at the history of rock music, it's even easier to see how big of a move Solange is making with her new album.

One only needs to be reminded of Elvis Presley’s appropriation of black culture in rock music to understand how far back the fractured history between race and rock 'n' roll goes.  

Of course, all rock 'n' roll music is not racist. But there are certainly racist lyrics and overtones in some songs that often match the actions of those listening to the music.

Solange isn't immune to the racism, either.  

In a Twitter recap, Solange explained that she was recently at the German electronic pop band Kraftwerk’s concert with her husband and son. Surrounded by a predominantly white audience, Solange began dancing along with the music. But four white women began to berate Solange and her son, yelling at her to sit down and eventually throwing a lime at her.

Solange's story sparked debate on Twitter and raised awareness of how difficult it is for black people to simply exist without being harassed in predominantly white spaces.

Seeing black faces in white spaces is still a point of dissent for many, making this album even more crucial in today's music scene.    

Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images.

Solange has merged black pride and various music styles in such a way that her words will reach a multitude of ears — a necessary act when the world so clearly still has yet to acknowledge why loving one’s blackness is a beautiful thing.    

Not too long ago, lyrics that talked about the complexities of blackness and the issues surrounding black life in America were found only in rap and R&B (think Sam Cooke, Billie Holiday, and 2Pac), and they were typically heard by black people. Now, those messages are being taken to people outside traditionally black circles. Her album will more likely be heard by those who probably need to hear it most — people like those who threw a lime at her while she was dancing with her husband and child.    

Bold lyrics can change the world. Black faces in white places can change minds.

But it's also clear that Solange created this album for black people first.

In the leading chorus of “F.U.B.U.” — a sure-to-be anthem of black liberation — Solange boldly declares:    

All my niggas in the whole wide world / Made this song to make it all y'all's turn / For us, this shit is for us.    

This beautiful piece of work was a welcome gift for people of color like me. We are still expected to validate our existence in America and around the world. And these lyrics, lyrics of empowerment and ownership, will flow through the ears of many non-people of color. We should all be listening closely.    

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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