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How Malcolm X turned Lemonade from a breakup album into a battle cry

I haven’t been the same since I watched Beyoncé’s stunning visual album, Lemonade, on Saturday. On the surface, it seems to be a tale of infidelity and forgiveness through the stages of grief. But for me, the message of Lemonade has nothing to do with infidelity. The clear message of Lemonade is that the most disrespected person in America is the black woman, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

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“Don’t Hurt Yourself” is Beyoncé’s battle cry to black women, telling us it’s time we take our power back. “I am the dragon breathing fire/Beautiful mane I’m the lion,” she sings. “Beautiful man I know you’re lying/I am not broken, I’m not crying, I’m not crying.” We are more than our bodies. We’re more than a man’s wife or side chick. We’re the center and givers of life. Treat us accordingly.

As Malcolm X is quoted in the song “Don’t Hurt Yourself”: “Black women are the most unprotected people in America.” This is an excerpt from a speech he delivered called, “Who Taught You To Hate Yourself.” In that speech, Malcolm X calls on to embrace all of the things that make blacks beautiful, such as wide noses and kinky hair. He calls on black men to protect the black women. Malcolm X understood that the black woman is key to the survival of the black man, and to hurt black women is like hurting yourself.

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Once Malcolm X’s quote sounds the battle call, Beyoncé takes us on a journey of her newfound independence and strength. As she transitions into “Sorry,” we see her strength rise. “Middle fingers up, put them hands high/Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye.” She’s found her voice, and she isn’t being marginalized any longer. This is her world, and you just want to be a part of it.

As we transitioned into “Love Drought,” we saw the true strength of black women rise. “Ten times out of nine, I know you’re lying/But nine times outta ten, I know you’re trying/So I’m trying to be fair/And you’re trying to be there and to care.” We saw the levels of forgiveness that have been ingrained in us from birth through the generations. We forgive and forgive, always looking to be that support to our man, family or whoever needs us.

We love so hard. Our love can overcome the greatest of tragedies, as witnessed in “Freedom” with the images of Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mother), Lesley McSpadden (Michael Brown’s mother), and the faces of other mothers whose sons were killed by unspeakable acts of violence and/or police brutality. These women were given “lemons” through the loss of their sons, and they are making “lemonade” by speaking out about injustice. They’re making their voices heard and standing in their truth. They’re embracing everything about being a black woman.

Black women are not here to make others comfortable; we’re here to achieve on all levels. That’s what Lemonade is all about. No matter what circumstances we face as black women, we have to stand in our power because that’s what we’re born to do. That’s the magic of black women. That’s what Malcolm X knew. That’s what Beyoncé wants us to know with this deeply personal and beautiful glass of Lemonade.

More: How my grandmother inspired #BlackGirlMagic in me

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