Sheryl Sandberg may have written a book and started a movement called “Lean In”, but it’s artist Solange Knowles’ “A Seat At The Table” we want to dig into a conversation about. Certain progressive political women in the US have spoken about this particular phrase, saying “if you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably on the menu”. In terms of policy, this couldn’t be more on point in America right now.
But what does it mean to have a seat at the proverbial table? And what are the barriers certain women face to even getting close to that seat? In a new interview with Bust Magazine for their April/May 2017 cover story, Solange is fiercely unapologetic about he views on feminism, specifically black feminism.
Since the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration, conversations about intersectionality and elevating the voices of marginalized groups, including women of color, have become even more important. We are at a point in our collective consciousness as a society where the understanding of additional barriers faced by black women, for instance, are finally coming to the forefront.
What elevates these conversations all the more are women with a platform like the Knowles sisters, who are using their music to really go beyond just the shiny pop music imagery to really dig deep and challenge existing notions of womanhood, activist, and identity through artistic messaging.
We see this in Solange’s album ‘A Seat At The Table’ where she makes a deliberate decision to talk about the black female experience with tracks like ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ which is pretty self-explanatory, ‘Weary’ and ‘Borderline (An Ode To Self-Care)’ where she gives a glimpse into the collective feeling within the black community right now and ‘F.U.B.U.’, a track that celebrates the triumphs and pain of the black experience.
There are also a couple of interludes dedicated to her parents, ‘Tina Taught Me’ and ‘Dad Was Mad’. In her interview with Bust, Solange talks about how her family life influenced the woman and artist she is today, especially because it was so female-dominated.
“I grew up in a house with five women. My mother, my sister B [Beyoncé], Kelly [Rowland, of Destiny’s Child] moved in with us when I was five. And my…first cousin, Angie…So this household was all women’s work. Literally. And there was absolutely nothing that couldn’t be done between us. My father was super smart and brilliant and instilled many wonderful qualities in us, but my mother was really the heart and soul of the family,” she said.
Her identity has shaped and influenced not just her music, but her music videos, where she wants her fans and audiences to see the world and certain issues from a distinctly black female perspective.
“I think that as women, and as black women in general, we’re always having to fight two times harder. And you know, even with my videos, I was so invested in the visual storytelling, of wanting to see black men and women in the way that I see them every day, which is powerful but graceful but also vulnerable and also regal and stately. And how we use style as a language, and our pageantry, and how we communicate,” she said.
For Solange, feminism can’t just be a label or a word. Having grown up in a black family and today seeing the issues the black community is still dealing with, she says feminism has to be felt.
“I am a proud black feminist and womanist and I’m extremely proud of the work that’s being done. I’m a feminist who wants not only to hear the term intersectionality, but actually feel it, and see the evolution of what intersectional feminism can actually achieve,” she said.
Her own experience enables her to want to see equality for all women, especially those who are part of communities being viciously attacked and discriminated against by the current president. It is where feminism must play an important role in the resistance.
“I want women’s rights to be equally honored, and uplifted, and heard…but I want to see us fighting the fight for all women — women of color, our LGBTQ sisters, our Muslim sisters. I want to see millions of us marching out there for our rights, and I want to see us out there marching for the rights of women like Dajerria Becton, who was body slammed by a cop while she was in her swimsuit for simply existing as a young, vocal, black girl. I think we are inching closer and closer there, and for that, I am very proud,” she said.
From the title of her album you get the sense that intersectionality means inclusion – of one’s own personal journey to those in the community around you. Refinery29’s Ally Hickson sums up the listening experience of ‘A Seat At The Table’ perfectly:
“To offer someone a seat at a table is to include them; to make their thoughts, feelings, and opinions valid. For Black Americans, struggling through an election filled with racist rhetoric and a news cycle dominated by the killing of unarmed Black men and women, it often feels as if we’ll never be offered a seat without conditions,” she writes.
“Solange’s 21-track album gives a voice to the voiceless with a cohesive, calming, and sumptuous sound that blends electronica with funk and R & B. If Beyoncé’s Lemonade was a call to action for her sisters as a picture of the Black female experience in America, then Solange’s album is a meditation on the experiences of both Black men and women and a call for self-care.”
You can read more of Solange’s Bust Magazine interview by visiting the website, and in the meantime, we’re sharing her video from our fave track ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ below: