This post is part of #the100dayproject that encourages creatives to do an action every day for 100 days. I've chosen to write an article or blog post every day. Previous posts for this project can be found here.
Spending this Saturday night watching Bring It On: All or Nothing with Hayden Panettiere and Solange brought back memories of seeing the latter during Chinati Weekend last year.
The movie is over 10 years old and it will never live up to the original (it's a close second), but it's crazy rewatching the film knowing that I saw the same Solange perform in Marfa just a few months ago.
Every year, Chinati Foundation hosts Chinati Weekend, an open house weekend filled with all kinds of events, including a musical act. It's the biggest weekend of the year that it reminds me a bit of South by Southwest in that the town is flooded with people.
I had to read last year's email twice to make sure I read correctly that Solange would be the performer. By then, she had established herself as more than just Beyonce's little sister. Her third album, A Seat at the Table, was a number one album. Her song “Cranes in the Sky” won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance and she performed at the Guggenheim. So I knew this was gonna be epic.
The details about the performances were slowly released as it got closer to the date. We were required to wear white. We weren't allowed to bring cell phones and photography wasn't allowed (not even for the press. I'm still a little bitter about that).
I decided walk to Chinati with my friends to the show so we wouldn't have to worry about parking (and the town is a mile wide, so nothing is really that far). I did some people watching while I waited in line and it was interesting to see how everyone interpreted the dress code. While most were pretty run of the mill, there were some who felt the need to dress as absurd as possible. Granted the dress code was given to us pretty late, so shopping was and will always a struggle, but it was almost like they were throwing a hissy fit. Like how dare this artist force a dress code on them. Someone actually referred to it as dressing as the "KKK."
When it was time for the show, we walked in the field to the main hill next to the farthest set of Donald Judd's concrete blocks. There was a stage set up in front of us and Solange had included a few fushia-colored pieces in the field. Wearing a similar color, Solange and her band marched towards us and onto the stage.
Her performance was amazing. That girl has so much energy, which was impressive in those heels, and the music was so empowering. Solange mentioned in an NPR interview that she's always had "a seat at the table" and that the title of her album reflects that she's inviting people to a seat to her table.
I think that, you know, so many times, black people — or any people who are oppressed — have to constantly explain to people what's right and wrong and what hurts and how to approach this. And I think that even me, I'm still learning so much about other cultures and I think that when you have the opportunity to learn from that, you are gracious and you are appreciative and you listen. And so that was also my way of saying I am opening myself up to everyone to have a seat at this table.
In Doyin Oyeniyi's article in Texas Monthly, she calls out that Marfa isn't the most welcoming to black people. Marfa does have a very small black population and I couldn't tell you why, but I do have issues that the writer didn't include that Hispanics/Latinos are included in the 90 percent of the white population she quotes in the article. When we fill out a form that includes demographics, there isn't a check box for Hispanic/Mexican/Latino under race. It's a completely separate question, so when you use this data, it makes Marfa sound more white than it really is (although, there are three places in town that serve avocado toast). It's evident in today's political talk with "bad hombres," the wall, DACA and now adding the military to the border that we are not viewed as equals, but this is a blog post for another day.
Despite that technicality, she does describe the show better than I ever could.
Throughout A Seat at the Table, Solange makes it clear who she’s talking to: primarily black people, with a few asides to non-black people. During the performance of “Mad,” her dancers and musicians, who’d been moving on the stage along with Solange’s coordinated choreography, suddenly broke from their rigidness, grooving to the drums and the keyboard as Solange sang while standing still. As the song ended, she added new lyrics: “I’m not, no I’m not really allowed to be mad. When you are allowed to be mad. When I deserve and you deserve. I’m not, no I’m not really allowed to be mad. And isn’t that sad?” She had switched from addressing black people, the “you” that she insisted had the right to be mad, to addressing white people, the “you” that had always been given the space to express anger.
And the mostly white audience applauded.
The sun set midway through the concert, which I expected it would given the start time and the way the light hit the stage and the colors changed in the sky drove me crazy that I couldn't document it with my camera. I eventually forced myself to take in the moment and simply appreciate what was happening, like I had to back in the day before social media and smartphones.
And I did.