When I first heard the words “I tried to make a home out of you,” against the backdrop of a drowning Beyonce, my ears automatically recognized the mind behind the words.
The raw emotional interludes that created a bridge between each track of Beyonce’s groundbreaking visual album Lemonade were crafted by Somali-British poet, Warsan Shire.
Raised in London, Shire was born in Kenya to parents from Somalia. As a cultural polyglot, her work details the immigrant experience and touches deeply upon relationships and the glory and burden of Black womanhood.
I became a devout fan and follower of Warsan through her Instagram profile when I stumbled upon her healing words in a moment of pain. And I’m not the only one.
In 2011, the twenty-seven-year-old published “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth,” a riveting collection of poetry laced with humor and grief.
The author said in a Q&A that she aims to “tell the stories of those people, especially refugees and immigrants, that otherwise wouldn’t be told, or they’ll be told really inaccurately.”
Given the marginalization of Black women, a Beyonce + Warsan matchup is the perfect marriage to tell such an intimate story of a Black woman’s journey towards wholeness after deep hurt.
Without Warsan’s written transitions through each moment of Lemonade, the visual album wouldn’t have survived. It was the project’s spine carrying information and signals and truth to the brain of the motion picture.
It was our heartbeat.
And while I appreciate her very words being spoken to such a mass audience, I was hungry for her actual spoken voice.
In the same way Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s words paused the confident raucous that was “Flawless” or in the same way Malcolm X’s speech was heard in the midst of a song about Black female independence or in the same way Big Freedia‘s words broke the door open to the beginning of “Formation”—I wanted to hear her speak.
So while we stop to stir our lemonade as it rushes through our veins, let’s pause and thank Warsan for allowing her words to be used in such an important project for Black women. In the sisterhood of art, we are holding hands, and grateful for your firm grip.