“A Seat at the Table”: A Necessary Discussion About Being Black in America

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Solange Knowles released her highly anticipated self written, produced, and composed album “A Seat at the Table” Friday, September 30th after a 4 year hiatus. Staying true to her gift of provoking self love through her art, this album expresses not only empowerment for African Americans, but also the struggles of racism and mircoaggressions we face throughout our lives. The term “A Seat at the Table” is widely known to represent an opportunity to be heard and make a difference; the exact purpose of this album for the African American community.

“A Seat at the Table” serves as a soundtrack and a source of strength for African Americans as we are continuously, unrightfully, unjustifiably killed at the hands of police officers. When asked on Twitter how “A Seat at the Table” compares to her previous album “True”, Solange notes:

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“A Seat…” starts with a slow tempo “Rise” that instructs people to know themselves and be true to their “ways” in order “wake up and rise.” A call to order for the African American community to be proud of their roots and come together. It also represents the importance of doing things that bring you peace “so you can sleep at night”.

Solange speaks on her concern about “the ways of the world” in “Weary“, where she explains that everyone is human (“but you know a king is only a man…”) and equal. This song is an mantra to live by for anyone who feels they don’t belong in a space that constantly tells them they don’t (“‘And do you belong?’ I do, I do.”). Its followed by an interlude “The Glory is in You” from Master P that summarizes the previous songs. Master P, New Orleans native and founder of the No Limit Soldiers, narrates the entire album through various interludes.

A fan favorite “Cranes in the Sky” expresses the various cooping mechanisms people often use to run away from the pain they feel. This track sparks a much needed conversation in the African American community about mental health and dealing with traumatic situations. Cooping mechanisms distract you for the moment, but don’t address the issue that’s bothering you.

Dad Was Mad” uses a story in the life of Matthew Knowles, Solange’s father, to describe the rightful anger and frustration African Americans have in American. It also serves as a transition to “Mad“, which features Lil Wayne. “Mad” is an expression of our right to be mad, but how letting go of that anger is freeing. Solange chants “Where’d your love go?”in an effort to promote more love and less anger.

One of the most powerful lyrics of the album is in “Don’t You Wait“. Solange sings,

Now I don’t wanna bite the hand that’ll show me the other side, no. But I didn’t want to build the land that has fed you your whole life, no. Don’t you find it funny?

Those lyrics explain the economic inequality between African Americans and White America and how African Americans are often found in situations where we have to be unwarrantedly polite to people with economic power even though our ancestors were the ones who helped build America’s economy. Ironic isn’t it?

The African American empowerment is turned up to the max with Ms. Tina Lawson’s interlude “Tina Taught Me“. Ms. Tina, Solange’s mother, talks about the beauty of being Black, how she has always been proud to be Black, and how we are always criticized for showing that pride. Having pride and love for yourself and your heritage is not an attack on other heritages. We should all celebrate where we come from and who we are. Ms. Tina also answers the often used comment about how we have a Black History Month and why isn’t there a White History Month. This hits me personally as I remember there being a huge debate and protest of white students at my predominately black high school about how a Black History Program we were all forced to go to was unfair. Ms. Tina explains,

Well, all we’ve ever been taught is White history. So why are you mad at that? Why does is make you angry? That is to suppress me and to make me not be proud.

Don’t Touch My Hair” is another exclamation of the importance of Black culture to African Americans and a need to have ownership of our heritage. Cultural Appropriation is seen as a way for others to try to own or invade a space that is not meant for them. In a place where noting is our own, we [African Americans] hold our ethnic traditions close to us and feel disrespected when our culture is misused by others. Solange also sings “What we’ve been to know” expressing the importance of knowing our ethnic background in order to understand why we cherish our culture so much.

Met by crescendoed horns, Master P again sums up the previous segment of the album in “This Moment” interlude, stating

If you don’t understand us and understand what we[‘ve] been through then you probably wouldn’t understand what this moment is about.

In “Where Do We Go”, Solange talks about how “This used to be ours”; a history lesson about how Africa had the wealthiest of kings, but now African Americans are at an economic disadvantage (“What used to be mine, say your goodbye”) Solange also asks the most important question facing the African American community today, “Where do we go from here?” There is much talk about the issues we face from police brutality to discrimination and beyond, but there needs to be more discussion about solutions to these issues. What can we do to make things better? Where do we go?

The next interlude from Master P is “For Us By Us“, which is the meaning of the acronym F.U.B.U., a popular line of clothing in the 90s/early 2000s that was made by Black people for Black people. In this interlude, Master P talks about self worth and how we should all know what we are worth. He teaches a lesson on not settling for what someone says you are worth, but working for and demanding what you know you are worth. This interlude leads into one of my favorites on the album, “F.U.B.U.

F.U.B.U.” is the jam!! It features one of the best songwriters, producers, and singers in the game, The Dream, and again voices the need to have something for us (African Americans) in a world where we have little to no ownership of anything. Solange uses “niggas” throughout the song in a way that makes it impossible for anyone who isn’t Black to sing along (anyone with respect for others…). She sings,

Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along, just be glad you got the whole wide world. This us. This shit is from us. Some shit you can’t touch.

*closes eyes and lifts hands in praise*

In “F.U.B.U.“, Solange also lists many personal experiences of racism and micro aggression towards her.

When one continuously uses their life and influence as a platform for change for a whole race, one becomes rightfully tired. Solange sings about the need to take an “intermission” from her mission of uplifting Black people and fighting for our rights in “Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)“. It is important to find time for yourself when you live your life with a purpose for helping others. You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself first.

Solange sprinkles in a little Black Girl Magic with the help of Kelly Rowland and Nia Andrews in the next interlude, “I Got So Much Magic“, which leads to another favorite of mine, “Junie“.

I can’t seem to get the melody of “Junie” out of my head and I don’t want to! This song is reminiscent of a Black neighborhood BBQ in the 70s or dancing at The Soul Train in the 80s; a soulful groove anyone can cut a rug to. Not only is “Junie” a song that you can’t help but to do a mean two step to, it expresses the need to not be vulnerable and protect what’s yours.

But what you gonna do when they saw all your moves and practiced ’em daily? Protect yo neck or give invitations?

Master P, again, speaks empowerment, having no limits to what you can do, and explains why he named his record label “No Limit” in the next interlude, “No Limits“. This interlude leads to “Don’t Wish Me Well“, where Solange talks about staying true and firm in her beliefs and leaving anyone who doesn’t agree behind (“I’m going all the way and now you’re almost out of view.”).

In “Pedestals“, Master P talks about the equality of all mankind. I stand firm in the belief that nothing is above me but God. Master P shares that belief stating,

Think about it, none of us are perfect. We live in an imperfect world, you know. Only God can judge me, that’s how I look at it.

Scales” is an ode to the trap stars of every hood. With almost every rapper and fan of rap idolizing the world of dealing drugs, the reality for real drug dealers is one of necessity and struggle. Solange gives hope to trap stars for achieving their dreams and sees the kindness of their love.

“A Seat at the Table” ends with closing remarks from the album’s narrator, Master P in “The Chosen Ones“. Master P speaks about the importance of knowing that there is a higher power that’s in control. Our ancestors before us believed and depended on this higher power to give them strength to keep pushing…fighting for their worth…living.

We come here as slaves and we going out as royalty. We’re able to show that we are truly the chosen ones.

Make sure you listen to “A Seat at the Table” on any streaming service and let me know your interpretation of the songs. Comment below about what each song means to you or tweet me @Nside_My_box . Also, let me know if you want me to do more album breakdowns and reviews. Talk to you soon.

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