I knew something was wrong when her name would flash across his phone screen more frequently than before. She was his co-worker and friend, who I had spent a few unmemorable dinners and outings with. She had a presence that blended into the white walls and people around her -- non-threatening and forgettable. As the days passed, the text message buzz and her name became more frequent and pressing, an incessant reminder of the betrayal that was playing out in front of my eyes. Every cell in my body knew something was wrong. There were signs there was more to this friendship than met the eye. It felt and moved differently than any other friendship I had seen in his life, and she was eerily omitted when chatting about his day-to-day. When asked, he would downplay any substantial connection with this girl, although his communications with her were becoming more intense.
When our relationship met its end, after efforts on both our parts to patch the emotional holes ripped from the various pains and insecurities we both brought to the table, within days he began pursuing a public relationship with this girl before the scent of my body was washed from the bed we had shared for the one thousand, seven hundred, seventy seven days we had spent together. The betrayal was brutal, publicly played out on social media for our overlapping communities to ponder upon, and it struck me with many an emotion that lent itself to a lot of great pieces of writing that are better left in private pages. It was surreal to watch the person I had placed on a pedestal and invested so much time and commitment to, come crashing down as part illusion, part wounded human.
Beyonce’s Lemonade, a visual album, is a creative ode to the pain and incredible lessons this sort of betrayal creates in your life, particularly in the lives of black women. She weaves a seemingly personal story, using spoken word and songs to display the stages of grief, alluding to the pain of a cheated wife, a disappointed daughter, and a wounded warrior ground from the passage of pain from her ancestors.
Lemonade's creole tinged layers and female dominated backdrops are part of Beyoncé's evolution as a creative vessel, and stands as an example of the beauty that can come from betrayal, among the spirit black women have carried for centuries as the ultimate survivors.
Betrayal Ushers in the truth
Ernest Hemingway once said to create great works, you must "write the truest sentence you know." Truth is unearthed after a betrayal sets in, peeling back lies and false realities. Lemonade is an artistic journey for truth, first from the loves of Beyonce’s life (both her husband and father), and ultimately from herself.
Universal truths bond human beings together across race, gender, sexuality and beyond. Some of the greatest artistic works came from revealing the truth. Invisible Man revealed the psychological weight of not being seen or heard as a black person in America to a broader audience who didn’t relate to that reality. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings humanized what it means to be a young, insecure black woman growing up in the South in the 1930s. Americanah unmasked the disillusionment immigrants feel when facing the empty promises of the American dream. When individuals stand in their truth, they help others to be seen and heard themselves.
Betrayal is a tricky path to the truth, but when flipped on its head, the upsides to the tragedy can be freedom, authenticity, and cementing your worth in ways that resonate far beyond your personal experience.
Black women in particular encounter many harsh truths. We face unprecedented levels of violence. Health concerns from STDs to diabetes plague us at higher rates than other groups. The men from our communities are more likely to be killed or jailed than any other group. And still we rise to the occasion as leaders, being 6x more likely to start an organization or business than any other demographic currently in the nation.
Betrayal can forge new identities
Beyonce reaches a stage of reformation towards the end of Lemonade, walking in sync with her fellow sisters to be baptized in a bayou, symbolizing her transformation into a new version of herself.
Deception is the life source of inauthenticity. Maybe you tried to change yourself to better fit someone else’s needs over your own. Maybe you’ve contracted the shinier parts of your personality to mold into realities that weren’t real to begin with. The preamble to betrayal is like a prism, warping how you see yourself and who you really are.
When the curtain is pulled back from the lies of a deception, you have the opportunity to reimagine who you are and what you want moving forward. It’s no coincidence that many break ups lead to revenge bodies, improved states of mind, and refocused energies on becoming a better, stronger version of you than what you were before.
Studies show that when we’re able to rewrite the story and perspective of a hardship, we reimagine a better identity than what we started with during our healing process. Betrayal can be a turning point for understanding the deeper parts of ourselves and who we want to become after the dust settles.
Betrayal can bond communities
I come from a long line of strong, beautiful black women. Women who had little formal education but were still incredibly smart, who carried aching backs and wrangled hands in fields as sharecroppers. Women who lived without fathers, a by-product of a slavery system that purposely divided family units by selling off the men to plantations away from their families. Women who gave birth to children who continued to live fatherless existences, never understanding what it means to feel love from both parts who created them. The love passed down through this legacy radiated strongest from the women who through it all, still held their communities, and each other, together.
Black women exist at the intersectional onslaught of racism and sexism, battling a media machine and society that positions black women as the lowest peg on the social totem pole.
Throughout Lemonade, we witness a sisterhood that’s the backbone for Beyonce’s journey to redemption. History shows us there is more power in numbers, particularly when adversity comes to your community’s door.
In an iconic scene from The Color Purple, the main character, Ceilie, is serenaded by Shug Avery, who has been a witness and unlikely mentor against the tragedies and abuse Ceilie has faced throughout her short life. Shug lovingly sings to her, “Sister, you've been on my mind. Sister, we're two of a kind. So, sister, I'm keepin' my eye on you.” This scene demonstrates the ways betrayal can forge supportive bonds with others who have experienced similar fallings.
Strength in numbers extends beyond artist endeavors. The Black Lives Matter movement, alluded to with photographs held by the mothers of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin among others in Lemonade, showcases the power of mothers and women to lead a cause that cements the names of their sons into the history of injustice, creating a source of motivation to right the wrongs they have experienced.
Betrayal is one of the most confusing and painful experiences to go through, exacerbated especially if you come from a demographic that faces a mixture of adversities passed on through societal shortcomings.
Yet, there is a way to create greatness past the betrayals you have been burdened with. From my own experiences, any adversity I have faced has clarified my creative focus, helped me tap into a deeper source of my self worth, and allowed me to live more freely in a truth that I think others can positively relate to.
As said in Lemonade, “I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”