Black Girl Magic Superstar Siblings Tackle Art Activism

Words by: Leondra Santil

“For us, this sh*t is for us.” From her song F.U.B.U in her third album, A Seat At The Table, Solange established her first number one as one for the people. With a subject focused on being black in America and the emotions attached to this identity, Solange’s personal reality speaks to the experience of all black people. Her album follows up after her sister Beyonce’s Lemonade which shares similar political statements.

Beyonce and Solange are the first set of sisters to have number  one albums in the same year. Even though they are the first set of sisters they are the third set of siblings to achieve this. The other set of siblings who have capped Billboard’s rankings are Michael and Janet Jackson, and Master P — who was featured three times in Solange’s album– and his brother Silkk the Shosolange-a-seat-at-the-table-billboard-no-1-1cker.

A Seat at the Table dropped September 30 and quickly sold 72,000 copies in its first week, entering the Billboard 200 at the top spot. Beyonce’s Lemonade debuted number one in April.

Themes of racism, the equality for black lives, and what it means to be a black woman surrounds both albums.

”This could be a product of being raised by the same parents,” Solange said in an interview with Fader.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that two people who grew up in the same household with the same parents who are very, very aware—just like everyone else is—of all of the inequalities and the pain and suffering of our people right now, would create art that reflects that,” she said.

Seniorsolange-3 public relations student and radio personality, Nadia Felder, expressed how the Knowles sisters have made an impact on African-American culture this year with their recent albums.

“Solange and Beyonce made a huge impact for today, especially during an election year. Not only are Americans listening to them, people from around the world are,” Felder said.  

When Beyonce released Lemonade, she made a political statement guided by a story about marital infidelity. With songs such as Formation and Freedom, Beyonce embodied black feminist confidence and used visuals to accompany her bold statement.  

Before the release of the album, Beyonce surprised fans with the premier of the single, Formation. The song accompanied by a video which highlighted police brutality and the issues exposed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

The video showcased graffiti art that read “Stop Shooting Us,” a little boy dressed in a hoodie standing in front of police and Beyonce standing on top of a police car in A heavily-flooded neighborhood. This video sparked major controversy as an alleged anti-cop proclamation.   

In the hour long HBO special, Beyonce presented videos for each song from the album with aesthetically pleasing transitions. Each segment portrayed heavy African influences, particularly from the Yoruba culture. The film also pulled a lot of inspiration from the  film  Daughters of the Dust.  In Freedom, she features the mothers of young black men who have been killed by police. Known as the Mothers of the Movement were all also wearing African adornment.

In Don’t Hurt Yourself, Beyonce samples a 1962 Malcolm X speech where he stated:

“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 America is the black woman.,”

Black womanhood is a very particular type of womanhood and a very particular experience. It is a reminder of when author Zora Neale Hurston said “black women are the mules of the world.” In short, the very backbone of the community is the one that is being most hurt and disrespected.

Solange expressed  how she felt about her sister’s latest album Lemonade with Fader.

“As far as I’m concerned, she’s always been an activist from the beginning of her career and she’s always been very, very black. My sister has always been a voice for black people and black empowerment. And I give so much of that credit to my parents,” Solange said.

Daniece Brady, Senior public relations student and radio personality,  expressed how A Seat At The Table has empowered her as a young black woman.

“You wouldn’t get the album if you’re not black basically. I [will always] have pride in my own hair and my culture,” Brady said.

Solange, a resident of New Orleans, craftily features New Orleans native, Lil Wayne in song “Mad”  to give unique insight into overlooked forms of oppression within the black community. Solange and Lil Wayne tell their own stories of frustration with non-black people’s confusion over the burdens forced upon minorities, weaved through ethereal melodies.

Deep interludes from family and friends are sprinkled throughout the album, but the most powerful of these interludes are  the two narratives from Solange’s parents, Tina Knowles-Lawson and Matthew Knowles.

Matthew Knowles, tells a brief story in “Dad Was Mad,” detailing his young anger and confusion during the dangerous era of both segregation and integration.

“We lived in the threat of death every day. Every day. So I was just lost in this vacuum between integration and segregation and, and racism. That was my childhood. I was angry for years, angry, very angry,” Knowles said.

In “Tina Taught Me,” Solange’s mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, discusses her cultural pride and the misguided criticisms of said pride, showing the lasting microaggressions toward black people in modern society.

“It’s such beauty in black people, and it really saddens me that we’re not allowed to express that pride in being black. And that if you do, then it’s considered anti-white. No,  you’re just pro-black and that’s ok, the two don’t go together,” Lawson said

Solange released music videos for “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair”, co-directed by herself and her creative director husband, Alan Ferguson on October 2, highly revered by surprised fans and critics.

“It makes me feel more in tune with myself. I love that two black sisters who are completely different in style and sound were able to come together and produce black excellence,” Felder said.  

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