Think pieces are flying out from everywhere about Beyoncé’s visual album, Lemonade. So, I was going to chill to the next episode. Yesterday, however, I saw a photo and commentary that made me change my mind. It was the latest selfie set of the Queen Bee, Lil Kim. A very light and hardly recognizable Lil Kim. So what’s the connection? OK, here goes.
Besides raising the bar to astronomical heights, King Bey did something else with Lemonade She is represented. She told the stories of Black women. This isn’t new. Billie, Bessie, Nina, Mary and so many more have been singing our song, but never on this scale with the world watching. King Bey attacked what is called crisis of representation. The crisis of representation is the narrative of a (marginalized) group to be written or altered by the hegemonic class. Melissa Harris Perry identified the stereotypes (such as the Mammy, The Jezebel, the Sapphire and the Welfare Queen) and how these ideals created by the ruling class shaped and shamed our identities. But article after article, conversation after conversation, song after song, and story after story we are defining ourselves.
Legal academic Adrien Wing explains that as Black women, we cannot be subtracted or added, we are complete, indivisible with multiple consciousness. Our layered experience is multiplicative:
one X one X one X one = one.
black X woman X mother X sister = you.
As political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal paraphrases, Black women are “being[s] of many facets. This results in a whole being…single and distinctive.”
Lemonade is the art and the will to turn sour into sweet. Literally, the drink quenches thirst; figuratively, lemonade heals. The artistry of poet Warsan Shire weaves through the album to fortify its purposes: To acknowledge us, to tell our stories and to heal us.The interlude before “Don’t Hurt Yourself” Beyoncé recites:
“If it’s what you truly want, I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. Her scalp, a cap. Her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph, all three of us. Immortalized, you and your perfect girl…”
Later, Malcolm X is heard saying:
“The most disrespected person in America, is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman, the most neglected person in a America is the Black woman.”
I need you to stop focusing on who is “Becky with the good hair.” If Beyoncé and her woadies don’t stroll up, Solange got that ass. They got the game tied up, stop tripping.
Back to the Rhinoceros of Rap, do you think she learned how to make Lemonade? Queen Bee was in a an unhealthy relationship with a man who was killed. Biggie married and had a child with singer Faith Evans after knowing Lil Kim then he was with Charlie Baltimore–both light-skinned women. But it’s more than that, Lil Kim has been disrespected, unprotected and neglected, but her loyalty was still unwavering. In “Another” Lil Kim professes:
“…my love is concrete
Stashin ya heat in the passenger seat of the Nautica Jeep
We’ve been down for so long
Still a b—h like me trying to hold on.
Teary eyed, damn a b—h steaming
Girls steady screaming, ‘Kim you need to leave him!’
When I testified in court, couldn’t think straight
thinkin bout the bitches I fought
over you, you could have the s–t you bought”
Ladies, shall I proceed? I’m going to flip Wing’s multiplicative theory and focus on contributing systemic factors that are socially and psychology evident in Kimberly Jones physical change:
racism X sexism X colorism X culture X abuse X materialism X fame=
When we lost Biggie, a part of Brooklyn died and so did a part of Lil Kim. Lil Kim has experienced a lot and like Deray McKesson once said, “Time does not heal all wounds equally.” In her song, “Hold On” featuring Mary J. Blige, the Brooklyn MC raps “wounds heal slow, you jus’ don’t know.” In some cases time doesn’t heal at all, in other cases the wound is what destroys you.
So why can’t we see that pain that has been manifested into the Lil Kim we see today? Why can’t we see the hurt Lil Kim wears as her skin and hair as she poses in the picture to be the perfect girl immortalized? Her narrative is not being acknowledged–even though we know the details. She is being slandered for wounds she does not how to heal. Money, cars and clothes can’t repair the damages–they barely mask it.
The Notorious K.I.M. was given lemons, but she doesn’t know how to make lemonade, so instead she used it for its’ other purpose–skin lightening.
The lesson here: “So how we supposed to lead our children to the future? What do we do? How do we lead them? Love. L-O-V-E, love. Mm-mmm-mmm.” Teach the children–both boys and girls–how to love themselves before the world teaches them how to hate themselves. As my 90-year-old grandmother would say, “You bend the tree when it’s young.” You also have to know and protect the tree roots because without these two key ingredients, it’s hard to withstand and survive the elements. It needs to be done generation after generation, so when the world becomes sour–and it will–the children will know how to make lemonade.
Updated: April 30, 2016