A message of acceptance and love for and by all.
Maybe whoever said a “picture is worth a thousand words” never got the chance to see a continuous composition of millions of pictures contained in a video. Even though the proverb wasn’t intended for this century, it applies perfectly to one of the most used ways of creating content.
And may I say that no one creates art through words and illustrations like Beyoncé. The level of joy, anger, empowerment, sadness, and unity that this woman can capture in all her hard works is unparalleled to anything we have ever seen. Not to mention inspiring, for all ethnicities, but I believe mostly for people of color, especially for black people.
While analyzing the newly released video clip for “Brown Skin Girl”, I felt a calming, loving, and embracing atmosphere that is often absent in our current society.
This short film, like “Lemonade”, reminds us of the joy we can feel and provide for others when we accept all with respect and empathy. It gives us hope of what the future could look like if we embraced one another with loving and welcoming arms.
Lineage, Knowledge, and Change
The opening scene of the clip, in which an older woman teaches a young girl how to play a hand-clap game, is a familiar situation for many individuals from different countries, including Brazil. It is also a statement of keeping traditions alive within the next generations.
Almost like a chain, the game reverberates through different children, reaching a more significant number of individuals than only the first two how started the motion. I guess, the most significant part for me about this particular frame was seeing not how we are able to perpetuate the things we wish to, but how we can influence other people to change. In other words, the power of modification a human and humanity as a collective have on one another.
Like so many other traditions we still have present in our lives, the hand-clap game is carried almost in a maternal way, similarly to how mothers pass their knowledge and heirlooms to their daughters.
Beyoncé has already approached the cultivation and nurturing by family and community in “All Night”, the song featured in her visual album “Lemonade”. She talks about how her grandmother spun gold out of this hard life, by metaphorically making sweet lemonade with bitter lemons. And when she broke the curse with her own two hands, how she passed the instructions down to her daughter, who then passed down to her daughter.
The message behind these analogies extrapolated the mere idea that traditional knowledge is wisdom in itself. It reaches to show us what the power of a nurturing family, and in a broad sense of the word, a nurturing society can have on humankind, for the better.
Social Reinsertion and Female Empowerment
Debutante balls are social events where fathers would introduce their daughters as women so they could be appropriately inserted as active members of society. Although the definitions of insertion revolved around a patriarchal mentality, the video clip tries to portray the dance as a form of reintroducing black women according to their own terms and wishes.
Historically, these dances were brought to the US by the pilgrims and incorporated as aristocratic traditions, where the predominant guests were both white and wealthy. Black people, especially women, were only allowed in the ball to serve other people, a role that relates deeply to slavery and full ownership of black bodies and minds.
By centering black women not as guests, but as protagonists, Beyoncé tries to show the symbolic process women of color lead to reappropriate their image. But most importantly, doing it in a strong, empowering, and beautiful way, in which their bodies, minds, and souls belong to no one but themselves. This process also translated verbally through the song when it is sung “keep dancin’, they can’t control you”, encouraging women to be the only determinant of how they should live their lives.
There is also a possible interpretation regarding the character of nobility and royalty that surrounded this kind of European event. By portraying black women as a staring role, there is also a process of retaking a membership of the African kingdoms, recognizing black women as queens and men as kings of Africa.
Similarly to “Apeshit”, in which Beyoncé and Jay-Z reframed history when including black people in famous paintings inside the Louvre, this is a way of attributing new meaning to art and history.
Oppression, Heritage, and Acceptance
The Black Lives Matter movement’s necessity proves two things: society is, up to this date, racist, and a united front still is the best way to fight for rights. And when I mean united, I include humans and the history and legacy of other resistances such as the Black Panther Party and movement. Once again, we go back to the power of ancestry on acceptance and embracement.
For centuries, society has been echoing a broken record that repeats the same hateful song that consistently denies a place of right and belonging to minorities.
Or rarely when given a place in society, it is retained by conditions where people have to deny their heritage, their roots to “fit” into a racist and oppressive ideological construction of a community.
Through elements such as nature, dances, body shapes, clothes, hairstyles, and colors of skin — inspired by a multitude of cultures from American to African and Indian — “Brown Skin Girl” rescues an ancestral and almost sacred form of social belonging and emotional expression, that is truest because it is untamed.
This freedom gives the possibility of speaking artistically, socially, and politically in whichever way it is desired, which strengthens the sense of uniqueness and acceptance, that is neglected to black people daily.
The intention behind this statement becomes evident, especially when we take under consideration the verse “If ever you are in doubt, remember what mama told me” and “Never trade you for anybody else”.
The constant illusion sold to women in general that they have to be a certain way makes it impossible for us to be who we are. Because in reality, we don’t have to be anything at all. And if none of us are meant to be what society envision, then maybe by leaning into one another, we could become more than what it was initially expected from each of us.
Beauty and Reassurance
The fragment “Brown skin girl, your skin just like pearls” personified by the images of influential and powerful black women such as Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Rowland, and Beyoncé herself extrapolates the individual features of a person, carrying the beauty of a lineage of black women.
On the one hand, “Your skin is not only dark, it shines, and it tells your story” creates a reference to black people carrying in life the lives and legacy of their grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmother.
On the other, by comparing it to pearls, and later to diamonds, the song relates not the color of skin to these items, but the meaning of black lives to valuable and precious stones.
In so, “Brown Skin Girl” becomes the eulogy to black women everywhere, the praise that society will not give. A reassuring message that black lives matter and black women are precious, more so than pearls.