The Power of Modern Black Feminism: Knowles Edition

by Kyia B. Young

“There’s a SECRET LANGUAGE shared among black girls

who are destined to CLIMB MOUNTAINS and CROSS RIVERS in a world

that tells us to belong to the valleys that surround us.”

Solange Knowles

Black women hold the current position as the pioneers of society. Ever since the early 2010s, when the first major social media outlets were born, a new era of black feminism took place. Social media advocacy was defined by multiple Black people speaking on behalf of our community, due to the ongoing oppression and killings of our black brothers and sisters in America. These two things alerted not only regular Black folks around the world, but ignited celebrities to use their platforms to bring awareness to our culture and its suffrage.

According to International Socialist Review, “intersectionality” is a term that was coined by Kimberle’ Crenshaw in 1989 that described “a description of the way multiple oppressions are experienced.” Crenshaw argued that many black women cannot limit black feminism to just revolving around sexism, considering that feminism, or white feminism, was established based on white, but not black women. This argument labels black women as being “invisible” to the legal system without having the rights or privileges as being a male or a white individual in today’s society.

Two modern pioneers and sisters, Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, have recently centered their attention towards promoting black culture and feminism through their albums, Lemonade and A Seat At the Table. Both Grammy-nominated albums introduced an explanation of how it feels to be black in America, especially to those who aren’t able to understand our struggle. In addition, they also paralleled many of these songs to their personal lives, in order to help African American women overcome whatever issues they face as being a double-minority in the United States.

Lemonade by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, international pop sensation, wife, and mother, introduced the world to her problematic marriage issues and journey towards overcoming personal trials and tribulations in her sixth-studio album, Lemonade. Lemonade was a black-inspired album that represents how black women overcome their struggles dealing with personal issues involving marriage, relationships, and oppression.

Most of her songs involve her seeking a change in her marriage, starting with songs like “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” that allows black women to realize their importance regarding their spouse and infidelity issues, promoting that we have a right to relationship-liberation that popularizes our ability to survive. She also included “Freedom,” featuring Kendrick Lamar that expressed her frustrations on behalf of the #blacklivesmatter movement. “Freedom” is the main song off of the Lemonade album that represents how black Americans feel in this time of police brutality and our ongoing fear of who will be the next victim to die underneath our legal system.

Being that most of her visual album takes place in the South, we reminisce about our ancestor’s tribulating times and their need to hide their personal lives from the public. A black woman's inability to show her emotions to others stems from the angry black woman stereotype. This stereotype generally sheds a negative light on African-American women and their stereotyped habit of emasculating men and deeming themselves as being too independent for a relationship. Knowles-Carter reminds black women that it’s okay to feel vulnerable in unprecedented situations and enables them to recognize that showing emotions are acceptable--no matter how much you’d be judged.

Additionally, her single, “Formation,” encompasses black pride through natural hair, black culture, southern roots including her infamous wit to controversy. The purpose of this song is to assemble black womanhood to promote resilience and resistance towards our opposition, police officers.  

A Seat at The Table by Solange Knowles

Solange Knowles, Beyoncé's sister, dedicates the full album of A Seat At The Table to the experience of being a black individual in today’s society. Solange provides a glimpse of black frustration and issues that perceives her as a voice on behalf of the black community. From “Don’t Touch My Hair” to the song, “Cranes in the Sky,” she acknowledges how unique our melanin is to others. Having always admired her talents, I’m happy that she decided to make others aware that it’s okay to not fit the “social norm” of permed, straight hair and calling to attention that kinky hair is beautiful and also that cultural appropriation is still alive and well.

Like Beyoncé, all of Solange’s visuals promoted black culture with a double dosage of black representation in every video. Along with this representation, she exemplified the amount of diversity we have within black culture when it comes to skin color, hair textures and facial features.

This retro, R&B, pop and old school genre album allows black women to relate to Solange’s past of personal issues like having a child at a young age to overcoming grief and finding salvation towards the end. She sets the ultimate example of a true feminist and black woman in America. Solange, unlike many other popular celebrities, dedicates the majority of her career to acknowledging black importance and creativity.

These two artists have recently opened doors for black women to become socially accepted in  expressing their emotions and embracing vulnerability. In addition, they relay how strong black women are, especially with everything that we go through daily. Black feminism has been popularized since the 1960s civil rights movement, but we look towards new dimensions today with artists being positive influences among women of all ages. As a black woman, I’ve started accepting my natural hair and the kinks that go along with it. Black culture is starting to reach new heights due to a broader sense of appreciation between our natural hair and ancestral ties to Africa.