In April of last year, award-winning artist Beyoncé released an ode to black women via her surprise visual album entitled Lemonade. The album took us on a journey from exploring the stages of grief, infidelity, and emotional turmoil to finding peace and happiness. Accompanying the songs with visuals full of kinetic energy, she highlighted social issues such as black feminism, Hurricane Katrina, and The Black Lives Matter movement.

She opened the curtains to offer people a glimpse of the struggles of black women - both quiet and loud. We were able to connect with the album with every lyric and beat knowing that many of us had experienced these same feelings. We grappled with emotions we didn't know we had and weren't ready to feel.

For a slight moment, we saw our win of the year when everything else was crashing down. Something that celebrated us. A voice for us. To sing our songs of hurt and generational damage gave us a moment to breathe, but not for long.

It Doesn't Stay Sweet

Fast forward to December 2016, Trevor Noah brought Facebook news reporter Tomi Lahren on The Daily Show to discuss her views on politics and racial relations. Responses varied, but one sparked a discussion all in itself. Breakfast club host Charlamagne sent out a tweet that lit fires across phone screens.

Tweets fired back giving him several examples of black women that were influencers that used their voice to spark change.

Two weeks after trending on twitter, he was joined on his New York-based radio show The Breakfast Club by Jamilah Lemieux and Amber Phillips to discuss such topics as his tweet, Tomi Lahren, Nate Parker, and the plight of black women.

Lemieux expressed to Charlemagne that by giving Lahren and others like her these platforms and openly joking with her is hurtful. The majority of her rhetoric is lined with racist anecdotes, skewed data, and making absurd jokes about black men getting killed. For women who fight for hard for black men, it was hard to take in.

Users were highly acrimonious due to Phillips' statement suggesting that homicide is the second largest killer of black women and many of those deaths are at the hands of black men. Whether that if you agree with her statement or not, there is some truth to it. According to the Violence Policy Center, black women are disproportionately impacted by fatal domestic violence.

The arguments from social media trickled down into text messages, GroupMe and Slack chats alike. Naturally, men and women will always have rifts because we are very different, but there is a shift in the atmosphere between the genders on how they see black feminism.

It gave a chilling look at the double standard of how when non-women of colour use a platform to spew rudeness and hatred, it is celebrated, yet we are overlooked in the shadows for our voices and opinions. Often times when we do voice it, a backlash begins. We are drowned out by how people think we should feel. We are labelled emotional and angry when we refuse the lemons we didn't ask for.

Everyone Wants the Lemonade, But Not The Lemons We Are Given to Make It.

This isn't the first time we've seen black feminism challenged, and it certainly won't be the last. I've said this numerous time, but I'm going to say it again: people often love the idea of black women, but don't love black women. We see it in cultural appropriation (we can talk about the Kardashians and those alike all day), media, memes and especially social media.

People love our Black Girl Magic. They love the way we dress. What we can do with our hair. The way we dance. If you were to ask them would they actually want to be black women the answer would be no. They want the benefits and praise, but without the pain. It's already painful when we see it from other women, but especially painful when we see if from our men.

At times, we don't realize the detrimental actions of small actions and how they feed into the bigger picture. What are seen as harmless jokes, memes and videos aren't that harmless at all.

We see many images like this, that we often brush off or even laugh at, but taking a step back, what is funny about it? "It's just a meme." "It's not meant to be taken seriously." We see the damage it causes. The narrative that gets painted is a tough pill to swallow.

"How our men perceive us can be frustrating. Knowing that we hold them down so often, but they are the ones creating and retweeting the memes that disrespect us. I am talking about grown, educated black men. Is this for likes or do you really believe what you are perpetuating?"  - Daniella Flemings, Chicago

"Images like that devalue who I am. I am more than dancing skills and physical appearance. I am smart, strong, and the woman that God created me to be. Reducing me to those shallow attributes implies that without them, I'm worthless"  -  Britney Robertson, Chicago

Sour Lemons Are What Created Black Feminism

"My mama said life would be hard; Growing up days as a black girl scarred. In every way, still you've come so far; They just know the name, they don't know the pain" - Talib Kweli, Black Girl Pain

There are several opinions on black feminism and the role it plays within the community. Some (not me, just some) even believe that is has destroyed not only black men but black families. Others feel as though feminism isn't for black women. Part of that is true, and many of us understand that. The Women's Liberation movement did not include our narrative. The efforts made by Susan B Anthony and those like her were not for black people, let alone black women.

While we were (and still are) struggling with inequalities based off of gender, we were fighting racism and oppression. We do not have the pleasure of being able to separate the two as they forever linked. We had to create our own form of feminism that was not only inclusive of both but also fought for the betterment of our men and children.

Through our own right, we formed opinions. Gained perspectives. Displayed passion. Took in knowledge. We have the right to angry at times but that doesn't mean we are "angry black girls." We have been disfigured by society from actions years ago. We have been dilapidated. Preyed on. Beaten. It is not something we can just "get over" as we are constantly faced with the effects.

"Black men are raised by and around black women and some still refuse to connect. We will fight someone for the smallest things but question a woman coming forward about having been raped. It's more personal and more harmful because it's in our literal household."  - Hannah Brooks, Chicago, IL

"Black men treat black feminism the exact way the world treats Black Lives Matter. It is the same thing we get frustrated with non-black people for. Listen to us. Hear us. Don't drown us out with how you think we should feel".  -  Kenna Delaney, Chicago

"Because people don't see the humanity in us, they taunt us for everything. While as black women we are constantly making lemonade because if it not us then WHO WILL? We have sustained deeper trauma that anyone. We hurt, but we still make a way. I don't know why that is, but I truly believe it is because we are magical as fuck. No one else can do it like us. No one else can take the worst circumstances and build homes and livelihood out of it"  -  Kamela Fleming, Washington D.C.

"We face the issues of our gender and our blackness. So yes some of the women's issues may be the same (sexualization, abuse, pay, etc), but because we are black, the severity and lack of power to redress are more stark. The experience is fundamentally harder. Being the "black version" of a women's issue is totally valid, bc precisely that "version" makes it a different experience. We focus on what makes us different here in this space, because out in the world we don't have that luxury. All black feminists are also civil rights activists. Are all civil rights activists equally concerned with black women's rights? Wherever the answer is no, then that's where black feminism must exist" - Aurora Muhuza, Atlanta, GA

Us standing for ourselves and one another is not to be confused with hatred. It is a continuous cry for help. An echo of tragedy. We are exhausted. It requires participation from everyone, especially our men. We are holding out our arms to walk you through your struggles, but we need you to walk with us. Fighting for our livelihood as well as that of our men can not continue to be at our own mental, physical or spiritual expense. Help us change the narrative.


Credits

Hannah Brooks is an attorney in the Chicago area. Having graduated several times with several different degrees, she is an avid reader, creator and master of awesome. Hannah also loves all things natural. A native of Chicago, Kenna Delaney is a catering assistant and event coordinator. Kenna is a history factbook that loves black history, black trivia, and Martin.

Kamela Fleming is an event coordinator in the D.C. You can see her behind the scenes directing and making moves but in the forefront for her noticeable fashion and slay-all0day ways.

Daniella Flemings is a supervisor of HR Administration in the Chicago area. A recent MBA graduate, Daniella enjoys spending time with her friends and family. She is a beer pong advocate and Chicago hood snack connoisseur.

Aurora Muhuza is an Emory grad and business development manager. After hours, this Atlanta transplant can be found binging movies and checking out the local music scene. Aurora considers herself to be a voracious reader, trap soul aficionado and pastel junkie.

Britney Robertson is a client evaluation analyst and a family entrepreneur. She believes her strong foundation in life comes from her relationship with Christ. A key supporter of Popeye's, Britney loves arts and crafts and tea parties.

Brittany Bullock is a writer of random life stories and lessons via her Medium platform as well as a serial event goer and photo taker.