This past January, a black queen came to Yale: Solange. Solange came as a visiting panelist for the conference entitled, “Everybody Still Wants to Fly”: Activism in Pop from Prince to Solange hosted by Professor Daphne Brooks. I barely got a ticket to the panel because the tickets were literally gone within minutes of being made public; one of my friends thankfully got an extra ticket and gave it to me! My friends and I got there an hour early to make sure that we got a seat. I still remember being seated in the section on the right of the Levinson Auditorium of Yale Law School watching her, several feet away, walk down the aisle towards her chair at the front. Listening to her album right now, I can’t help but feel like my ears and mind are being steeped in my history, in my blackness. If you haven’t listened to her album, A Seat at the Table, please do so now.
With vulnerability, Solange spoke to the audience about her art, about her feeling “naked” as she has performed her songs of personal magnitude on public stages, about how her album cultivated her relationship with her father, about her humanity. Looking back, what I appreciate about Solange is her aura of genuine humility. She did not let her celebrity-hood impede her ability to tell us her true story. As we applauded and gave her standing ovations, she looked as if she was in disbelief. And as we praised her album, she bowed her head gracefully. When speaking on how she originally tried to go for an alternative sound in a predominantly white space, she admitted that she was “traumatized” by that experience. But then she went on to proudly proclaim, “I belong in the space that I create for myself.” When she asked, “Why do our songs always have to be about a nigga?” the audience erupted in snaps. She repeatedly kept dropping these poignant phrases to the point that all we could do was speak about her for the days to come.
Overall, hearing Solange speak caused me to feel reinvigorated as a student who often sings music via an activist-driven platform through Shades of Yale. And personally, it gave me even more of a reason to be proud of my melanin skin. I thank Solange deeply.