Beyoncé references are kind of something I do often. Queen Bey and I share a hometown, a last name, and more recently, the self-label of Feminist. Beyoncé came under scrutiny when her 2014 song, ***Flawless included a recording of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describing the word as follows:
Feminist. A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
And yes, I did type that from memory. Adichie’s statement surprised many, but some feminists were disappointed in what they felt was an oversimplification of the word. Beyoncé’s newest album included another quote from an activist, even further from the mainstream. In her newest video, Malcolm X’s voice 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 America is the black woman.
Upon hearing this speech excerpt, I could have cried. Beyoncé went even further. She labeled herself an intersectional feminist. She acknowledged the fact that women of color are left out of conversations about race and conversations about feminism.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my social sciences education thus far, it’s that discoveries of the truth start small. Usually, a moral realization is initially made by someone who lacks the ability to make their idea widespread. But over time, ideas and truths spread. All throughout history, those who most need their voices heard and their stories told are often in the worst possible position to do just that. Until one day, a person or entity with a wide reach of influence gets ahold of the important truth, is convinced of its veracity, and spreads it.
But something else happens when an idea or issue makes it into the mainstream – it becomes incredibly diluted. Beyoncé didn’t write an album dedicated to the intricacies of the untold history of Black women’s plights. She didn’t publish an open letter to Lena Dunham on the ways mainstream “white” feminism excluded her. Her statements, set to music, were quick, succinct, and simple.
And although there is always more that could have been said – I know one thing for certain. Beyoncé’s Lemonade will be viewed many more times by many more eyes than YouTube star Franchesca Ramsey’s 3 minute video titled “WTF is Intersectional Feminism???” ever will. So say what you will about Bey’s statement, but it gave the term a level of coverage it never would have received otherwise.
Behind every little social justice-y statement of Beyoncé’s and behind every Oscar winner’s selfless speech on climate change or the wage gap are countless academic research papers and opinion articles documenting the complexities of that problem or untold truth in detail.
And in today’s digitized world – they’re connected. A controversial statement in a public setting leads to a link to an article your friend shares on Facebook. That article links to a TedTalk on the subject, and that to the bio of a professor who’s an expert on it, and before you know it, you and your smartphone actually learned something.
What has this got to do with me, you ask? Well I, unfortunately, am not Beyoncé. I cannot “change the game with that digital drop.” But I know there are more truths to discover, everywhere. I know that there are people being marginalized and mistreated in ways I have never been exposed to and can’t begin to imagine. And I believe that The Moxie Project, in conjunction with my internship at Brooklyn Family Defense Project, will open my eyes to issues like these. I am ecstatic to have a summer ahead of me that will uniquely give me the knowledge (or the ~information~) to talk about them confidently as well as the experiences understand them personally (or at least as personally as an outsider working for 8 weeks in this community can).
Or maybe I’m completely missingthe mark of what I’ll learn. As my bon voyage date looms closer, all I can do is try and keep an open mind and stand firmly by my intentions to learn and make myself useful as much as possible.
But who knows? Maybe Queen Bey herself will reference and draw attention to the issues surrounding the U.S. foster care system in her next album.