I am enamored with A Seat at the Table. It has acted as the needle that threads together my entire being, and all the links to my family, my spirit, my rage, my struggles, and power. It works beyond representation: not only do I see myself in the mirror, but I am recognized as regal. So much to unpack and learn, which I am gaining more context from Solange’s interviews and subsequent essays from others musing on this masterpiece.
A Seat at the Table stages artful, grounded pictures of the ephemeral. Phenomena like institutional racism and other indignities are entrenched in the fabric of the country. It is in the air here. We know its strategies well. The knowledge doesn’t preclude that at any given time, the air can coalesce into a “metal cloud,” can freshly distress you. A Seat uncovers these moments, gives loose shape to both them and the consequences they wreak. So much of this album documents, with colossal beauty, the way environments conspire to ruin or lift the moods of black people. For Mathew Knowles on “Interlude: Dad Was Mad,” the surroundings are the fallout from school integration. For Lil Wayne, clarified and vulnerable on the twinkling “Mad,” it’s general despair. Whatever the cause, Knowles makes room for the effects, the weariness, and the defiance. Knowles is unmoved by didacticism, by referential storytelling. She prefers traditions like anguish, annoyance, aggression, pride, haughtiness, and jubilance, and in that order. She maps the escalation of feeling.
Doreen St. Felix, “In Solange’s Room“
She recognizes that anger can be a burden on our souls, that it can keep us from our true potential as black Americans. This is why she invites her mother, Tina Lawson, to remind us that there’s “so much beauty in being black.” The conversations with her parents harken to a black childhood of hearing your elders sit around the kitchen table, engaged in conversation, sharing grievances, and laughing over joyous shared experiences. When Solange named her album A Seat at the Table, it wasn’t about black people clamoring for a seat at the proverbial table of whiteness. After all, as Erykah Badu once sang, “Don’t feed me yours / ’Cause your food does not endure.” We don’t need a seat at any other table — we have our own. And once we’re nourished, we’ll juba down.
Ira Madison III, “Solange’s Feast“
Diamond Sharp, “Sonic Healing”
Bim Adewunmi, “‘A Seat At The Table’ Contemplates Black Life’s Contradictions”
Judnick Mayard, “A Seat With Us: A Conversation between Solange Knowles, Mrs. Tina Lawson, & Judnick Mayard”
Anupa Mistry, “An Honest Conversation with Solange Knowles“
By the time this piece comes out, you’ll know that Master P actually narrates my album. I remember being a teenager, much like many teenagers at the time, and seeing Master P on MTV Cribs, and it being one of the most gaudy, incredible displays of wealth that I had ever seen in my life. It really impacted me that, out of all the houses on MTV Cribs, this was a black man from New Orleans, and he got this by completely staying firm in his independence. As a teenager, and my family being in the industry, I would hear my dad talk about No Limit and how they never sold their company and how they started from the trunks, from nowhere, from nothing. It left a huge impression on me. I saw a lot of my father in Master P, and him in my father, as young black men who dreamed really big and manifested those dreams. Although I, like everybody else, loved “Hoody Hoo” and TRU and all of the No Limit jams, I, at a very young age, felt a deep, deep connection with his story.
Solange on Master P, from “Solange Shares Her Inspirations for A Seat at the Table” by Tom Breihan
Review: Michael Jackson’s Dangerous by Jeff Weiss
“The Anti-Blackness of Interracial Porn” by CiCo3
“The Final Countdown – Getting Ready for the final PhD Years” from PhDivas Podcast (XIne Yao & Liz Wayne)
First episode of season 2 of the Pineapple Diaries!
And they offered me a million dollar deal, and had the check ready. Said I wouldn’t be able to use my name. I was fighting my brother, because “Man, you shoulda took the million dollars!” I said “No, what you think I’m worth? If this white man offer me a million dollars I gotta be worth forty, or fifty… Or ten or something.”
To being able to make “Forbes” and come from the Projects. You know, “Top 40 Under 40.” Which they said couldn’t be done. Had twenty records on the top “Billboard” at one time. For an independent company. Black-owned company. You know, going to the white lady’s house where my Grandmother lived at, and say, “Look, you don’t have to work here no more Big Mama! We got more money than the people on St. Charles Street.”
And I, I took that anger and said, “I’mma put it into my music.” I tell people all the time, “If you don’t understand my record, you don’t understand me, so this is not for you.“
Khalil Gibran Muhammad is my hero.
September was a really rough month for me, like a routine Dragon Ball Z beatdown. The kind from all directions where all your senses and defenses are affected. Even when I am not surprised by the lows to which people sink, it’s not as if I’m not affected by it, and I haven’t figured out how to push forward beyond it (not really sure that I want to be numb to that kind of behavior). But I survived!
Today is the start of a new month in the calendar. I have better plans and better back-up plans, and the warmth, wisdom, and love of friends to help me. That foundation is where the blessing bloom and rise to my face, and then the reminders that visit to keep me on track:
May I learn all the ways in which I do not really see me. All the ways I rush through me, past me, over me. May I learn to pause in my presence. May I learn that witnessing me is witnessing myself. The more I do one, the more I can do another.
May I learn all the ways in which my self-obsession inhibits me from being able to experience me as I am, not as I think I should be. May I look for all of the assumptions that I have created. All of the prejudices I have been handed and that I consciously and unconsciously perpetuate. All of the limited understandings of me that I project on to me everyday. May I commit to rewiring my mind to be humble enough to know that I don’t know me but that I am willing to learn about me. May I remember that getting to know me is an honor and a blessing.
May I know where to draw the line for myself. May I remember that being in balance in my relationships requires my ability to first and foremost be in relationship with myself. The moment I forfeit that relationship, I can’t be there for me.
Nara – Nara Leão (1964)
Self-Titled – Jorge Ben (1969)
“Gostava Tanto de Você” by Tim Maia (1973)
“Gloriosa” by Erasmo Carlos & Os Tremendões (1970)
“Assim falou Santo Tomaz de Aquino” by Jorge Ben (1975)
“Soul Train” by Destiny/Princess Nokia (2015)
“Soul Finger” by the Bar-Kays (1967)