Last Sunday night, a very pregnant Beyoncé graced the Grammys stage to deliver a profound ode to Black motherhood. Just over a week prior to her performance, she stunned the Internet with the announcement of her pregnancy–with twins. What should have been a beautiful moment has quickly become the center of harsh criticism. This, however, is nothing new for Black mothers.
New York Post writer, Naomi Schaefer Riley, criticized Bey’s performance, entitling her opinion piece, “Having a baby isn’t a miracle and doesn’t make you a goddess.” She questions why motherhood has become so “fetishized” when today’s women are constantly trying to combat the traditional role of being a woman. Riley was among many who misinterpreted the performance as egotistical and unnecessary.
As per her themes expressed in the visual album, Lemonade, Beyoncé was not trying to portray the Virgin Mary, contrary to what others have said, but instead was most likely channeling the Yoruba Orisha, Oshun. Not only is Oshun the Orisha of love, womanhood, femininity, fertility, sensuality, and beauty, she is also the first woman to give birth to twins. She is typically associated with the colors yellow and gold and resides in rivers. Lemonade has been Beyoncé’s way of paying homage to African culture and spirituality, which has survived despite colonialism.
Aside from that, we need to have an honest discussion about the way Black motherhood has been depicted in society. During slavery, Black women were hypersexualized and excluded from what white supremacy deemed as being a “woman” (The Cult of True Womanhood). They did not have a right to their children either, having to live with the reality that at any moment their children could be torn away from them. From a bitter matriarch to a welfare queen, Black mothers have historically been only represented negatively. Black mothers such as Mammy are depicted as docile and loving towards the white family she cares for while Black mothers such as Sapphire are seen as emasculating the men in her life and are cruel and angry to everyone around her, including her children. The welfare queens take advantage of the system and are lazy. All of this was an effort to discredit their womanhood. Even a study that was conducted by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965 entitled The Negro Family: The Case For National Action (or more commonly known as the Moynihan Report) argued that the rise of single Black mother households was the cause for many problems that plagued the Black community. It probably was not until Clair Huxtable in the 1980s when we begin to see more positive images of Black mothers.
More importantly, though, it is no secret that Beyoncé has struggled with getting pregnant, miscarrying twice before her first daughter, Blue Ivy, was conceived. This moment was far from her being egotistical. It was a celebration of being a Black woman giving life despite having difficulty before and society’s negative views of Black mothers. Even more simply, she is carrying life within her, and it is a beautiful thing. Women, especially Black woman, should celebrate their pregnancies to the fullest and view it as a reclamation rather than a conformation to traditional womanhood. This was certainly Queen Bey’s way of reclaiming her pregnancy.
Beyoncé herself is a manifested protest to white supremacy because she has given life to three Black children in a world that has perpetually undervalued Black lives and Black children and does not want Black life to survive or thrive.