THE SCALES OF SOLANGE
The beginning of this year was challenging for me. Earlier this month I decided to resign from my current job. It's not new that I’ve had a lot to be mad about lately: The politics of our art community consumed me. My job that I once “needed” now “needs” me. Our art community is hurting at the expense of the organization's unorganized turnover. I see the cultural paradigm shift. I see inefficient systems that I can’t solve. Believe me, it’s difficult to come to terms with this but after all that I faced, I know this is for the best. To accept this defeat has been laborious because I am stubborn with my time and if you know me, you would know that I would prefer to not waste any. But something happened today that made me realize (yet again) that I truly control nothing …
I must tell my awakening to you. Since the spring equinox, I feel like life has been in a state of renewal. A long awaited new beginning. I took the last week off with the intention to begin healing. I luckily walked into this week with steady vibes. I understand that I will be faced with new challenges. I see my frustration with the past slowly turn to hope. Day to day, I coped with all that I could. I can’t save the art world in this current system, in this current presidency, or in this current climate. This acceptance follows me everywhere I go. It was time to pack up and start moving. I began my journey, I discovered my threshold, I stepped through and I’ve been walking towards the top of my mind’s metaphorical mountain ever since. You might not believe me but I reached the top today. This is how.
I opened my eyes this morning with my regular “Team Tuesday” enthusiasm. It’s very natural for me to like Tuesdays because I was born on a Tuesday. They're just too good to me. I was originally planning to meet with The Awakenings Movement’s Curator of Human Potential // Folklore Film’s Director // Visual Anthropologist Marlon Hall to learn more about his film projects which are largely dedicated to telling the stories of local folkloric heroes. Similar to the work that I do! But the plan took an unexpected turn. Marlon called at 4:30p and told me that a very private performance by Solange Knowles Ferguson was happening at the Menil Collection at 5:00p. Talk about a plug.
I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. What was happening? I tried to see Solange perform only once, pretty recently at Super Bowl Live. Did you go too? What was your experience like? Mine was heavy. Everyone was racing to get there on time. By letting too many people in, the crowds became intolerable. People got aggressive. Right as she started to sing, a four person fight broke out in the back left corner of the crowd. Imagine a domino effect of about 200 people. My friends and I were practically trampled. Vulnerability, confrontation, and emotion were in the air. Of course, not everyone experienced this. I heard many success stories. Only my friends and I were limited from experiencing Solange. I didn't understand why then.
Yet here I was now. I had been given a second chance too see her play in our beloved Menil. A sacred experience I would never take for granted. I arrived early and decided to walk to the red swing in the park to gather myself before I went in. *Side note: The Red Swing Project is possibly my favorite example of “social intervention” in the neighborhood. Phenomenal job.* So rather than worrying about how crazy fortunate I felt, I knew I had to accept this magical moment of truth within myself. As I swung back and forth, I started to sing the a cappella “Interlude: I Got So Much Magic, You Can Have It” with Nia Andrews and Kelly Rowland. Listen to it below.
You did it from the get go, get go
Let's go, let's go, let's go look for magic, yeah
They not gon' get it from the get go, get go, get go, get go
Don't let, don't let, don't let anybody steal your magic, yeah
But I got so much y'all
You can have it
From deep within, I looked up at the sky and realized that everything was exactly how it should be. I took this opportunity as an invitation to clear out the negative energy that I'd been holding onto from my past. All the pain that I tried to drink away, to dance away, to sleep away, to easily change was lifted. This was all while sitting on the red swing. I hadn't even had a seat ... on the floor of the Menil that is.
I walked into a room not knowing how close she would be and how close she would come. In one of the most intimate secret events the Menil has ever presented, she showcased Scales, a performance piece that examines protest as a meditation through movement and experimentation. It was the perfect place for this performance. The Menil consistently stands as one of the deepest, most reflective art spaces in the city. I couldn't have imagined it anywhere better. The tonality of her company's wardrobe was neutral to golden, like skin color. The women were raw and the men glowed. Solange wore a navy cutout one piece with navy high waisted pants. She was barefoot. Her hair was down. She tiptoed throughout the crowd as she performed numerous unique compositions and arrangements from A Seat At The Table.
The woman stepped with purpose. She look at us with soul power. Seeing her walk up to Andrew "The Aspiring Me" Davis and get down to her knees was incredible to witness. As she sang "F.U.B.U." to him, she looked at him directly in the eyes and placed her hand on his shoulder. This shit is for us. There was a brief moment during the song where she got up and walked towards the corner of the room. She placed her head on the wall, covered herself with both of her arms, and consciously went inwards. She got comfortable because she felt safe, in the very same place she would frequently visit as a young girl. Performing in the Menil allowed Solange to express herself in an environment that wasn't exploitative. The audience wasn't allowed to bring cell phones in. This experience was embraced with the absence of technology, which ultimately made it even more timeless and real. She and the backup singers loudly screamed during "Mad." Their screams felt cosmic. In between my tears, I could feel them reverberate off the walls and into my ribs. I imagined screaming with them off the top of my mountain. True liberation. Solange reminded me how to recognize the glory within myself, by myself, for myself. I will absolutely never forget today.