I finally cried yesterday morning.
A mixture of grief, joy, fear of change, excitement for the future, loss, freedom, purple lemonade…it was too much. It needed to settle. Manifestation requires time.
Prince’s influence on me is indescribable. He was woven into my life from the beginning. 1984: Purple Rain. I made my mom leave the theater because I bounced so hard in the womb. She went back a second time, and it happened again. I’d found a soulmate.
High School. I liked the obscure version of him. I saved my after-school job money for three months to buy tickets for The Rainbow Children. I was probably the only high schooler in the audience. In the 10th grade, I drew the symbol, in purple, for my visual poetry assignment. It hung on the wall in Ms. Smith’s class on large butcher paper.
On April 21st I received a dozen text messages from people in all corners of my life. They knew what he meant to me. In recent years, he funded the organization I became the Executive Director of in 2014, Green for All. He anonymously funded many other organizations as well. His gifts offered healing.
Yesterday’s tears unleashed the grief of losing genius, and celebrating its new form. He played 27 instruments. The greats of my childhood were…GREAT. Who will be the greats in 20 or 30 years? I prayed on this. Created a heart song around it. Where does the unapologetic, complex, fearless, raw, pure Black expression come from now? Who evokes in me, as an adult, what Prince evoked in me then, as a child?
Two days later. Lemonade.
That level of total expression is what I needed to soothe the pain of losing a legend. Others do, and will exist. Exist in splendid, evolved ways - the black juju woman. The actual, factual weaving of creation, sustenance and destruction through sound and image. The things I am afraid to say, to scream, to even see within myself - all on screen.
Yesterday’s tears: for the Black tragedies about which I have kept silent. I haven’t known how to be raw, shatter, and trust I will re-form.
Yesterday’s tears: for Whitney. What if she could have created something like Lemonade? Would this childhood hero of mine have found a way to turn the screaming outside, to let it escape and transform? What if Bobbi had too? Beyonce expressed a crippling, can’t breathe, womb-contracting level of pain - with transcendence. This week I have been breathing it into being. I have found that pain/transformation/place within myself and cried, so I don’t turn those screams/that rage/teeth gnashing into a demon that will one day stop my heart.
Yesterday’s tears: for our pain. What if it was regular practice to witness and create space for the raw, unfiltered, soul-shattering “HE! HURT! ME!”? Even if Lemonade had stopped before Sandcastles, I would have bowed to the revealing of the real. Resolution cannot occur before the pain is witnessed. Felt. Expressed. Believed. Held. I sobbed for sistas that have had hearts/bodies/souls violated, and have turned those screams inward. I released for my own daily micro-violations that I perpetuate upon my own body; for the emotional abuse I absorb through my dark skin; for the times. I. Didn’t. SCREAM.
Beyonce screamed out loud. And I was thus able to scream out loud. For Prince. For Whitney. For Bobbi.
For me. For me.
As my breath hitched in the quiet moment after my waves ceased, I heard Blue’s paternal grandmother talking about making Lemonade from lemons. I felt my grandmothers, both of them, reaching from the other side to wipe my tears. We have practices and tools. Within the courage it takes to shatter is the opportunity to become more beautiful, more whole.
With every Prince and glass of Lemonade, I find more of that courage. This week in Blackness, I am gratitude.