Written by Emma Glassman-Hughes
It was June 7th, an unseasonably brisk night in Flushing, Queens. I was wearing a weather-inappropriate outfit carefully curated to look both like a freshly picked lemon, and like a bumble bee. I had a pretzel in hand, and my best friend to my left. All around me were familiar faces--covered in glitter and heavy, precisely applied liquid eyeliner. There were short-shorts and crop tops and matching tribal patterns peppered in around the crowd. There was big hair and big heart, and none of us could have predicted what happened next.
Actually, all of us predicted exactly what happened next (after DJ Khaled wriggled off the stage and back to the black hole of mediocre hip hop from whence he came) and I think that’s why we showed up in the first place. For the magic.
Bey. Yoncé. B. Queen. This woman has enough nicknames to feed a family of five for a whole year. She’s almost mythical in her celebrity; she doesn’t give many interviews or agree to many public speaking engagements. She doesn’t have her own reality TV show. She lives in mystery, doing god knows what (my theory is that she has two settings: 1. performance mode and 2. ice bath). But she’s also a businesswoman and a mother and a wife and a friend. She gets up and puts on some of the most elaborate shows for hours at a time, in stilettos and bejeweled leotards, legs bound in thick stockings, head dripping with hairspray and clearly waterproof eyeshadow. She dances with the most palpable intention, she hits every note, slides between each buttery riff with ease; not a beat is missed, not an untimely body roll to be seen or a sparkle out of place. She is a creature not quite human--more celestial, like a goddess or an actual fallen star. I’m an areligious person and I don’t believe in higher powers, but watching Beyoncé perform, I saw god. I saw god in her smile and in her bare feet as she splashed through a makeshift pool on her stage, belting lyrics about freedom and chains breaking.
Through my tears, I watched and I listened to this exquisite being commanding the attention of thousands, orchestrating our cheers and our “YAS”es; I watched and I listened as she stood up with no music and told the crowd to pay attention to the next song that she was about to sing--that it was her favorite even though it was old. That it was about everyone’s most important relationship. She said words that I will never forget to the sea of loyal fans below: “There is no such thing as a weak woman.”
I gasped. The hungry crowd cheered.
“This song is about our most important relationship. Our relationship with ourselves.”
She sang “Me, Myself, and I” to the tune of my feminist tears, and I was in awe of her power and her brilliance, her bravery and her hard work. I felt I was watching history as it was made; I was waiting for her to announce that she was going to take over the world and forcibly teach girl power to all of her subjects. I would be a loyal follower.
Instead, I looked down for a moment and saw that I had a text from my mom. It was a group message to two of my grandmas and to me. It said “Are you watching history, sisters?”
Hillary Clinton had just won the Democratic party nomination, becoming the first woman in this country’s entire history to ever have made it so far in a presidential election. This is something that my mom and my grandmas have been waiting for; this is the recognition of their movement, as I was watching the recognition of mine.
But instead of sitting at home trying to filter through all the sour Facebook posts from Bernie supporters thoroughly detailing the many ways Hillary stole the election and is going to eat us all alive, I celebrated the beginning of this new era for women by witnessing the magic of womanhood performed right before my eyes. To feel the blowback of heat from the controlled flames that erupted during “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” To see little black girls dancing with their moms and their friends, admiring and basking in the power of womanhood and black womanhood and feminism and possibility.
It was June 7th, and I caught a glimpse of the future: bright (partially because of all the sequins and glitter), and saturated with sisterhood.