Five years ago, Beyoncé released her chart smashing sixth solo studio album Lemonade and it is still the gift that keeps on giving.
The critically-acclaimed masterpiece spawned empowering, pro-Black anthems like "Formation," a world tour, and enough accolades to rival most of her contemporaries’ entire catalogs since its inaugural release. The visual album delved into topics such as Black feminism and the intricacies of Black love while intertwining the concepts of race and gender to culminate in a story of healing, forgiveness and breaking down generational curses. The Yoruba-inspired visual album has been so monumental, that it’s inspired the creation of collegiate courses centered around Black feminism and unpacking race, gender, and pop culture.
Of course, this byproduct of the phenom that is Mrs. Carter’s artistry should be celebrated for all of these reasons, but we’d be remiss to not acknowledge the true legacy of Lemonade : creating abundance from what was once a place of destitution. If Beyoncé has taught us anything, it’s how turn lemons into lemonade — serving not just yourself but your community.
This past year has been especially grim for the world as the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged our community, disproportionately affecting the majority of Black populations. Teaming up with fellow Houston native Megan Thee Stallion last April on the remix to Thee Stallion’s song "Savage," the two starlets donated the proceeds to a local Houston nonprofit to aid those afflicted by the pandemic.
That same month, the singer partnered with UCLA to unveil an online care package designed to assist those struggling with mental health and anxiety in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Beyoncé collaborated with her mother, Miss Tina Lawson, to provide free mobile testing for the virus last May. We all have varying definitions of what the term superhero means but when Blue Ivy’s mother addressed the rent crisis in America brought forth by COVID-19 before the United States Congress, she deserved her own cape. A sequined one at that.
Since the onslaught of the pandemic, many working-class Black Americans have been financially displaced due to the loss of jobs and as a result, have been unable to pay their rent. While Congress was entrenched in extensive debates on whether or not American citizens should receive a second stimulus check, which was a measly $600, Bey was quietly mobilizing her wealth and star power to help those most impacted. Partnering with the NAACP, Beyoncé’s BeyGOOD Foundation gave grants in the sum of $5,000 to families in need of housing assistance, be it mortgage or rental payments.
Beyoncé’s BEYGOOD foundation is teaming up with the NAACP to provide housing assistance for families impacted due to COVID-19.
The deadline for the application is January 15. Visit https://t.co/n6gDNpkw1a to apply. ✊???? pic.twitter.com/GG0dIh7uKt
— MEFeater Magazine (@mefeater) January 9, 2021
Unfortunately, we still live in a society that places little to no value on the lives of Black women. Breonna Taylor was killed by police on March 13, 2020, by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) yet these officers have faced no consequences for her wrongful death. Taking to her website, Beyoncé penned an open letter to Attorney General Daniel Cameron urging him to hold Taylor’s assailants accountable for this criminal act in June of 2020, three months after the incident. While the phrase “protect Black women,” has become a trending topic on social media, it is an actual movement to provide the same protection to Black women that we uphold for Black men by dismantling the misogynoir that prevents such.
For Beyoncé to use her massive platform to call attention to Taylor’s case and the overall issue of many Black women being left out of the movement for Black lives, speaks volumes to who she is as an advocate and more importantly, as a person. It’s incredibly refreshing to witness a celebrity of Beyoncé’s caliber live so unapologetically in her Blackness in a time where many of her peers turn a blind eye to racial injustices in favor of fruitless initiatives or endeavors that will turn a profit.
A powerful letter to AG Daniel Cameron by @beyonce. Thank you for using your voice to demand #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor. Three months have passed and we cannot wait any longer — we need ARRESTS NOW. #BreonnaTaylor
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) June 15, 2020
Of course, the pro-Black, pro-woman anthem with dazzling aesthetics alongside fabulous choreography is a bop but it’s more than that. Beyoncé took us on a journey through her personal history by diving into New Orleans Creole culture, boldly proclaiming her love for Black physical features all the while addressing police brutality. Mrs. Carter’s pro-Blackness didn’t stop there. This past summer, to commemorate Juneteenth, the singer released an entire directory of Black-owned businesses to patronize.
Nearly a month later, she premiered Black Is King, a retelling of The Lion King from the perspective of a young Black boy on a journey to discovering the king within. These are just a few but powerful ways in which Beyoncé goes above and beyond to dismantle the faux yet dangerous narratives of Blackness, born out of colonization. Bey not only inspires us to be better and do better but she empowers us to love our Blackness and embrace it in every way. It should be noted, however, that she was just as empowering as she is now, before the pandemic.
Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance should (and will likely) go down in history as one of the best performances to ever take place. In this dazzling spectacle of Black girl magic and probably real magic, Bey did what no other performer had done before. She took this opportunity to pay homage to Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) one of the world’s biggest stages. The Destiny’s Child alum featured HBCU students as performers within the production and centered them in a way that paid homage to these brilliant institutions that have played such a pivotal role in the Black community. Soon after these dazzling performances, it was announced that Queen Bey pledged $100,000 in scholarship money to be split between four HBCUs as part of her Homecoming Scholars Award Program. When it comes to paying it forward, Mrs. Carter could teach a master class.
Whether it’s personally mentoring up-and-coming Black women artists like Chloe x Halle or empowering women around the world through works like Lemonade, Bey’s graciousness knows no end.It’s been five years since Lemonade dropped and if she’s taught us one thing, it’s how to do for others and practice selflessness in a world that praises selfishness.