Beyoncé at her most vulnerable, inside an intimate apartment, recording the song “Sandcastles” seated on the floor at a keyboard.
Beyoncé reunited with her husband, confronting the tears and scars and reconciling through forgiveness. Having restored her relationship, she will turn to healing communal wounds.
CH. 9 – RESURRECTION
A large tree covered in Spanish moss at Destrehan Plantation, a setting previously seen in Lemonade’s opening chapter. The site holds the memory of communal resistance and horrific violence, as the site of the trial for the 1811 German Coast Uprising.
An assembly of women in front of the tree at Destrehan, similar to images from Chapter 1.
A collection of shots from Chapter 1, the “unknown women” intended to symbolize Beyoncé’s forebears and an acknowledgement of her ancestry.
Left, Amandla Stenberg, a powerful voice for Gen-Z Black girls, sets up an old-fashioned accordion box camera on a tripod.
Left, Stenberg directs a group of two dozen or so young Black women; right, the young women smile and talk amongst one another. At Destrehan, where the past is present (as made clear in Chapter 1), these young women exist in the face of that painful past as a hopeful symbol of the future.
Visual Allusions to Daughters of the Dust
Left, the title card from the 1991 film, written and directed by Julie Dash; right, the end of the opening credits sets the scene at Ibo landing in 1902. Recall the story of Ibo Landing and the 1803 rebellion discussed in “Reformation.”
Compare the shot of Stenberg and her accordion box camera to the shot above of of a photographer documenting three generations of a Gullah family named Peazant as they prepare to leave their Georgia coast island and migrate north to the mainland during the Great Migration.
The photographer poses a young generation of the Peazant family for a photograph. The Gullah people are a group of Black Americans who live on islands off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia, where hundreds of plantations existed prior to the Civil War. However, after the war, many plantation owners left, while the freed Gullah people remained and largely preserved their African heritage due to their relative geographic isolation.
Prior to their departure, the entire family gathers, young and old, for a group photograph. The photographer tells them to “Remember Ibo Landing!” their home and the site of the 1803 rebellion, as he snaps the photo. These generations of family members must contend with the history of slavery that informs their present, and decide what aspects of their past they need to hold onto and what they need to let go of as they embark on their new lives.
The camera and photography are among many aesthetic aspects that appear to nod to Dash’s 1991 film, the first ever theatrically distributed film directed by an African American Woman in the US.
Return to Fort Macomb
Photos strewn about the grass at the ruins of Fort Macomb, the still standing relic from the American Civil War. The shot begins with an upside down photo of Booker T. Washington, former principal of the Tuskeegee Institute and a powerful force of hope from an era dominated by the threat of brutal lynchings. As the camera traverses the landscape, we are literally being led by Beyoncé’s ancestors into the fortress, a symbol of the history she must confront.
Beyoncé’s only appearance in the chapter, within the walls of Fort Macomb, lit by candles as if the ruins have been converted to a vigil. Beyoncé gazes into a photograph, drops it into a large trunk, and in the reflection of a mirror we see her wipe her hands clean. This gesture demonstrates a decision made concerning what elements of the past to hang on to and which to let go.
Moving Forward with the Mothers of the Movement
Young Black women, including Quvenzhane Wallis and Kajifa Brown (left) and model Winnie Harlow (bottom right), show black and white photos of older Black men to the camera, honoring their lives and legacy.
Sybrina Fulton holds a framed photo of her son, Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by an armed neighborhood watchman in 2012. Trayvon was on his way home from a 7-11 store with Skittles and an iced tea. He was 17 years old.
Gwen Carr holds a framed photo of her son Eric Garner from his senior year of high school. Eric, who was restrained by an officer using an illegal chokehold, pleaded “I can’t breathe” eleven times before losing consciousness and being pronounced dead an hour later. Eric was 43 years old.
Lesley McSpadden holds a framed graduation photo of her son, Michael Brown. In the shot, you can notice her complex grief as she shakes her head, averts her eyes, and allows a tear to roll down her cheek. “Mike Mike” was shot multiple times and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by a police officer. His body remained on the street for four hours after his death. “Mike Mike” was 18 years old.
Sybrina Fulton, Gwen Carr, and Lesley McSpadden, the so-called “Mothers of the Movement,” activists for change and advocates for gun control, criminal justice reform, and improved police training. Their unspeakable grief on display is shared, as well as the “Mothers of the Movement” moniker, with the mothers of Sandra Bland, Dontre Hamilton, Jordan Davis, and Hadiya Pendleton.
Mamie Till-Mobley (from the Chicago Sun-Times/AP), who famously held an open casket funeral after her fourteen-year old son was tortured and lynched in Mississippi in 1955. She confronts her son’s casket as well as three photos of him alive and well, similar to the “Mothers of the Movement” above. Through the inclusion of the “Mothers of the Movement,” Lemonade calls attention to the strength of generations of Black mothers who endured the loss of their children to racialized violence.
Ceremonial Healing and Spiritual Resurrection
Kajifa Brown, “Queen Yaya,” of the Washitaw Nation, a New Orleanian Mardi Gras Indian Tribe, performs a ritual with a tambourine in an empty, candlelit dining room. The dining room and table is a symbol of family and community, its emptiness a reminder of the lives cut tragically short and the void thereby left. Queen Yaya performs the ceremony to heal the space and resurrect spirits.
BONUS MATERIALS: Episode References and Links
- Amandla Stenberg Don’t Cash Crop My Corn Rows:
- Warsan Shire’s for women who are difficult to love – (the affirmation)
- Chants of “I am Trayvon Martin!” at the “Million Hoodie March” in Philadelphia:
- Sybrina Fulton interview from Insight Network:
- Sybrina Fulton interviewed on CBS This Morning by Gayle King:
- Gwen Carr on BET’s Black Coffee:
- Trenton Protestors chanting “I can’t breathe”:
- What Eric Garner’s Mother Has to Say from the New York Times:
- Lesley McSpadden with Steve Harvey:
- Professor Yolanda Pierce’s Black Women and the Sacred
- Mamie Till-Mobley in 1988 discusses her decision to hold an open casket for her son: