“A Seat at the Table”: Black Girl Magic Incarnate
Solange couldn’t have released “A Seat at the Table” at a better time.
She’s released at a time that cripples Black people and our right to live and breathe freely.
She’s released at a time where racial hatred, anxiety and fatigue threaten to swallow the Black soul. She’s released at a time where Black women are still fighting to make movements for Black lives recognize the deaths of Black women.
She’s released it when we are on the path to get free, when we are having to fight for all Black lives—the queer ones, the trans ones, the hood ones—to be on the path of liberation.
She’s released it at a time where Black magic—Black Girl Magic—is most necessary.
I’ve always considered Solange to be a womanist as opposed to a feminist. The difference between womanism and feminism is one that must be highlighted but is often dismissed or outright denied. Womanism is a practice that centers the Black woman, and how the sociopolitical and socioeconomic state of Black womanhood is vastly different than any other woman. Womanism allows for Black culture and theology to thrive in an intersectional analysis of society. I am a womanist because Black women are my priority; they are my passion, in fact.
They are Solange’s passion, as well. “A Seat at the Table” shows me that.
“A Seat at the Table” is Black Girl Magic incarnate. The album, a collection of 21 songs dedicated to blackness in all of its glory, discusses pro-blackness, self-care, the right to be angry, the rise of self through turmoil and having the ability to shine when others want to dim your light.
The album encourages you to celebrate Blackness despite people’s misconception of it (“This Moment” and the assertion of how Black people belong) and despite the charge that pro-Blackness is anti-whiteness (“Tina Taught Me” is the most perfect explanation of pro-Blackness).
The album asserts the autonomy of Black folk. It reminds the audience that Black people are not up for consumption and what we make is what we own (“F.U.B.U and the beautiful interlude before it that explicitly states that if you don’t understand it, maybe it’s not for you.)
The album demands the respect of Black spaces and Black History (“Dad Was Mad” and the eye-opening discussion of Matthew’s experience with integration and “Don’t Touch My Hair” discussing the sanctity of what we’ve created).
The album forces you to confront yourself and how you treat yourself in times of struggle (“Cranes in the Sky” and “Ode to Self-Care”). It reminds you that you—your wellness, you state of being—is something you must hold gently.
“A Seat at the Table” is an invitation to liberation. Through it, Solange showcases how she has crafted her path to being free and tells the audience, “You must do it, too. You must get free. You must believe in your blackness, love yourself deeply and you must get free.”
And Solange tells us this with clips in her hair.
I can already see people confusing the celebration of Blackness and Black Girl Magic as segregationist and anti-white. To be honest, I am not in the business of appeasing the feelings of the ill-informed and racially obtuse.
I will say that I understand why White people feel threatened by the celebration of Blackness; celebrating a self that is so oppressed seems foreign and terrifying to the dominant culture. This oppression is what makes “A Seat at the Table” amazing and necessary.
We have to get free. And we have to be Black while doing it.