so the world has been really giving us a toxic dose of black suffering and bodies under assault lately. it feels like half the black names i hear in the news belong to people who have just lost their lives to some sort of injustice. i feel it is important in this context to uplift some of the joy, creativity and beauty that black folks are up to around the globe. i picked four things that have lifted my gloom and grief of late.
1. my own life!
i just want to shout out my life right now. my friend patrisse recently told me that my black life matters, and i appreciated the specificity, the demand really to live a life that matters.
i feel like many threads are finally weaving together. i am placing as much of my facilitation work as possible in the container of emergent strategy, and i am taking on clients and mediations left and right – there are so many intimate moments and processes that need gentle hands. i find i have a different attention for it, for the scale of small deep change. it is the level at which i am currently reveling.
also, walidah and i announced this last week but AK Press picked up octavia’s brood!!
i am also on a refresher sugar cleanse, with a growing awareness that i am in a transparent and lifelong mindfulness practice around sugar that is, in both the ancestral and healing games of life, revolutionary. basically, i am (we are) immersed in a world that wants to give me (us) sugar instead of watching me (us) cry or laugh or live.
2. fka twigs
this is the sexiest album and artist of 2014 (not counting beyonce, obviously). i started with the video two weeks, which had such a gorgeous afrofuturist effect that i giggled and clapped my hands together with joy and tried to get everyone i know who likes badass women of color and sci fi to watch it.
then i watched the video for pacify and blushed and averted my eyes in erotic overwhelm. and then watched it a few more times. her music, over two EPs and an LP, plays seamlessly, emotionally accurate, steamy, smooth, sensual and complicated.
watch, listen…i am excited to see and hear more from her.
3. long division
this book! i know i am late and he has a whole nother book out but…
kiese laymon managed to write a laugh-out-loud-and-cry-about-the-truth-of-racism narrative about a brilliant chubby black boy in the south. i couldn’t put it down. my sister autumn told me she had a book for me to read about time travel, the 80s, race, the south, spelling bees. i ran towards it.
i don’t want to say too much about it because it is the kind of wild journey that is best experienced in your own hands.
but i will say that i like you, and therefore i want you to read it.
also, i shouted him out on facebook and he totally responded and i am still lit up about the modern world of fandom.
4. on the run tour, hbo
i have no real excuse for not seeing the on the run tour in person. i had logistical challenges, yes, i was traveling and not in the same city as them at the right time. but…beyonce and jay-z together? i should have been there. i wanted to be there.
so when i learned it would be aired on hbo, i added it to my calendar. i made sure that i had the kind of internet that has hbo with it (it’s called internet plus on comcast and it’s all i have wanted forever). when i realized i would be traveling when it aired, i made sure i could get hbo at my sister’s house while i was out there taking care of the babies with my mom. i made sure the babies were asleep on time. i recorded it, while watching it, so i could watch it again. and so my sister could watch it. i then returned to detroit and watched it a few more times.
i have some thoughts.
there was one major problem with it, and it was a big one, so let’s get it out of the way. the way the concert was edited was upsetting. they changed camera angles every 3-5 seconds for most of the first two thirds of the concert. it was exhausting, it was an onslaught…an onslaught of incredible performance!, yes, but an onslaught nonetheless.
i wanted the sports experience, you know? my dad watches sports on tv and he says it is often better to watch it from home. you get to see more details. this was the opposite. i was having to fight way too hard to see bey’s outfits and perfect laughter and diverse dance moves and references. it was like standing behind the tall guy at the concert. a smile would start on her lovely face and then the camera would cut away. or worse, go slow motion. jay-z’s camera work was much more steady and i actually got to really see him emote, perform, work the crowd, be brilliant.
the rumors are that she is pregnant and that is why there was so much camera play. but i saw the dance for you video and she is delectable pregnant, so i don’t quite buy that, i think they were showing off how many cameras they had. and whew, when we got to see her move? it was magnificent.
so, that said.
there were beautiful transitions and exciting blends of their older hits into their modern shared aesthetic, skewed more hip-hop than i expected on the fashion tip. i love watching that woman perform, and i loved watching bey and jay go back and forth.
the whole concert is framed as a bonnie and clyde love affair tragedy, with the disclaimer ‘this is not real life’ popping across the screen. about halfway through the concert the songs start to move from tossing greatest hits back and forth to what played out as an intimate conversation between them, around when bey rages like a blood dragon on ‘ring the alarm’.
at this point, the camera work slowed down a bit.
‘drunk in love’ had several moments of jay looking at beyonce with gleeful disbelief, like he is having the time of his life with his favorite person. i realized watching that look on his face that i adore him. i also realized that the show has a sort of tina and ike turner revue energy in several places. i continue to want to ask them about that song, what it means to them.
there are little movie clips all along, one with her drunk and half dressed trying to reach him on the phone which ends, brilliantly, with the line, ‘nothing open at 3am but legs’. another with her riding a horse, bouncing on a saddle in what appears to be a white thong under a wedding dress. just gifts and gifts.
i must note that i feel so curious about public conversations on jealousy and infidelity and honesty and healing, the real things that happen in relationship which we don’t discuss and thus have a hard time learning around.
that they could argue, as all couples do, and then collaborate at this scale, which almost no couples do, is a testament, although i am not sure if it is to their professionalism or their mutual adoration.
either way, her magnificent hype wifeyoke on holy grail changed the song for me, now i hear it and forget whoever originally sang the hook, i just see her dropping low and it fills me with joy.
i have extensive notes on this concert, but what matters most to me is the flow that begins with the last verse of song cry, where jay speaks of giving and receiving pain in front of video of bey being wounded. that transitions to beyonce singing resentment wearing a wedding veil and white slacks, sitting on stage singing in a way that feels righteous and vindictive and fair and powerful. i was with her every step of the way. this song slays me, it feels like the heart of the matter. it isn’t about what people do, but how we honor the trust that sits at the heart of partnership.
the camera stays right on her face for most of this song, and she is worthy of the singular focus. she looks like catharsis embodied. grown and scarred and tender and fierce and truly deeply beautifully shady in the BEST way. it’s my favorite act of her play, every time i see it.
then she BRUSHES THE DIRT OFF HER SHOULDER. and LAUGHS.
so liberating. and then it cuts to footage with her saying, ‘love is an act of endless forgiveness. forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. forgiveness is the final act of love.’ and takes us to love, saying ‘after all the pain there’s love’, and she transitions into ‘love on top’, and we realize we want to forgive everyone. because love wins.
i was fully buzzing by this point, camera work woes forgotten.
the last section of the concert is us getting to watch beyonce and jay-z love on and celebrate each other, looking into each other’s eyes, astounded by how awesome it is to be the best things ever. they face each other for ‘part 2’ and just look smitten and beautiful. they hold each other and sing ‘halo’ to blue ivy and it is the kind of black love we need to see: big and bright and loud and over the top, awesome, complex, healing, friendly, respectful, fun, glamorous, fierce and so on.
now i want them to take a year off to just love on each other, on a boat, with no paparazzi or internet. i doubt they will, but i am rooting for them, that all of this vulnerability translates into earned joy.
p.s. i have been listening to jay nonstop since the concert came out, studying and enjoying his genius in a new way, as a lovable, forgivable man. that twinkle in his eye? flawless.