Beyoncé (center) with Wanda Johnson, Gwen Carr, Sybrina Fulton, and Lesley McSpadden, mothers of Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown (respectively). Their shared grief over their sons’ tragic deaths connects them as the so-called “Mothers of the Movement” against police brutality and injustice. Their activism, in the words of Gwen Carr, “…transformed their mourning into movement, and pain into purpose.”
The penultimate image of the chapter, a Mardi Gras Indian circles an empty dining room table, shaking a tambourine as part of a healing ritual.
The chapter’s final image, a black and white shot of Beyoncé with a group of Black women inside a Jim Crow era school bus, the same women and setting from “Apathy.” With poet Warsan Shire’s utterance of the word “magic” over the image, we consider the obvious nod to the idea of “Black girl magic.”
CH. 10 – HOPE
“The women of the past in Beyoncé’s Lemonade attempt to rewrite the tragic stories they’ve inherited through art. They dance. They sing. They cook…This is how we try to birth beauty through pain.”Author Jesmyn Ward
Previously depicted as despondent, paralyzed, and silenced, here in “Hope,” the women occupy the tiny cabin with beauty, color, and feminine grace, giving the impression of solidarity and self-sustaining community as the women nourish themselves and care for one another.
With the opening note of the chapter’s song “Freedom,” the camera pushes forward into the room as if we, the viewers, are walking into the room ourselves. As we center on a Black baby sucking her thumb, the baby looks directly at “us.” She is the future, occupying a space of the past, in this present moment.
Return to Fort Macomb
Left, a cut to this shot of Fort Macomb, as the music becomes muffled, implying that the music is coming from inside the fort, and we follow Beyoncé as she pursues the key to freedom within the decaying brick walls of the Civil War relic. This juxtaposed with the next shot, as we now follow the same Black women who have accompanied Beyoncé throughout the film into a small slave cabin (right).
Left, overlaid with the spoken word poetry that describes birth “from a slit in my stomach,” the camera winds forward through darkness to a narrow source of light; right, with the poetry depicting a flower blossoming, an extreme upward angle revealing a bright light above. Both suggest birth and hope, that there is a way out, a light at the end of the tunnel, a freedom to be found.
Paulette Leaphart, a breast cancer survivor, inside Fort Macomb, serving as a symbol of survival, a woman literally scarred, but living on stronger because of her hardship.
Left, the camera returns to Destrehan sugar plantation, and this shot of an audience waiting for a stage performance. The canted angle creating suspense as we have an incomplete scope of what’s to come. Right, the Mothers of the Movement, apparently seated prominently in the front row.
Left, the camera moves left to right and peers through the crowd. This movement is commonly used in film to naturally reveal; right, Beyoncé is revealed as the featured performer in a simple white gown.
Left, Ch. 5 hinted at a storm forming; right, the foreshadowed storm has coalesced, informing the rain and storm imagery present in the lyrics to “Freedom,” and that Beyoncé herself is indeed “the storm.”
Ballerina Michaela DePrince, whose journey from an orphanage in war-torn Sierra Leone mirrors the thesis of Lemonade; quite literally considered a curse because of her skin condition, DePrince was able to defy the odds and break the curse she inherited through her strength, determination, talent, and perseverance.
Symbolism: Hope, Healing, and Community
Fashion model Winnie Harlow, who was born with the same skin condition, vitiligo, as Michaela DePrince. Right, Harlow is costumed and posed to allude to the Statue of Liberty.
A close up of Harlow’s headpiece, which offers a second interpretation alluding to the crown of thorns Jesus Christ was forced to wear in mockery. She serves as a beacon of hope for future generations of Black women burdened with the legacy of colorism and Eurocentric beauty standards in America.
At the base of a giant oak tree covered in Spanish moss, the Black women featured all throughout the film are now seated at an extremely long table together for a feast prepared throughout this chapter. These images are juxtaposed with the empty dining room table that ended the previous chapter. All of this is to suggest healing through community, caring for and nourishing each with a collective spirit.
These shots from the outro of “Freedom” of the same women we’ve seen throughout the chapter, including Beyoncé herself, seated on the large branches and in front of the enormous Spanish moss-covered oak tree.
When compared to Destrehan’s use in Chapter 1, we see a stark contrast to the way women occupy these spaces in Chapter 10. The same women here staged silent and still, later join multiple generations of Black women to demonstrate power through community, defiance, and artistic expression.
Worth noting that Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy herself is among these women, holding hands with actress and author Quvenzhané Wallis, prominently establishing the generational and deeply personal theme of the piece.
The final shot of the chapter, as the camera centers on only Beyoncé in the tree, but then recedes to reveal Beyoncé joined by the entire multigenerational group of Black women, some also sitting, others standing in formation in front of the tree. the final frames feature the Mothers of the Movement in the foreground. The tree itself is a silent witness of the history of Destrehan plantation. These women in the very place their ancestors were enslaved and abused for generations acknowledges this past and is a testament to not only their survival, but their ability to transform curses into blessing.
BONUS MATERIALS: Episode References and Links
- Puerto Rican psych band Kaleidoscope’s “Let Me Try,” the song’s foundational sample:
- Alan Lomax’s samples of Reverend R.C. Crenshaw preaching to a Black congregation in Memphis, TN, 1959, and a so-called “chain gang” at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, 1947:
- Bukka White’s “Parchman Farm Blues,” describing Mississippi State Penitentiary, where inmates were forced to work the cotton fields:
- Warsan Shire’s “Nail Technician as Palm Reader”
- Michaela DePrince’s 2014 TEDTalk:
- “Wade in the Water,” an African American spiritual based on the biblical story of Moses and the Israelites escaping slavery:
- Kendrick Lamar’s music video for “Alright” from his socially conscious album To Pimp a Butterfly, released approximately a year before Lemonade, and video of protests adopting the refrain, “We gon’ be alright”:
- 2pac’s “Death is Around the Corner,” likely alluded to in Kendrick Lamar’s verse:
- Author Jesmyn Ward in COMPLEX: “Rewriting Your Life: Beyoncé’s ‘LEMONADE’ and the Art of Storytelling”