Why Beyonce’s “Be Alive” is Still Giving Me Life

It feels so good to be alive

Got all my family by my side

Couldn’t wipe this black off if I tried

That’s why I lift my head with pride

Lyrics from “Be Alive” by Beyonce Knowles-Carter & Dixson, King Richard Album (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2021)

“Be Alive” has been nominated for an Oscar⸺its significance stretches further than a mantlepiece.

Released in the pandemic-era when Black people have suffered disproportionately due to the virus; dealt with the continued violence of police brutality; confronted housing insecurity and the looming threat of eviction; grappled with loss, mourning and sudden change, and experienced higher rates of maternal deathBe Alive emerges as a triumphant anthem.

Be Alive is the music in the background helping us stretch as we put both feet on the floor; the melody that slips into our kitchens as we prepare our meals; it is the sound that drowns out the silence; it is the comfort we deserve; it is the healing escape from normality. Be Alive is the frame to my picture⸺ the backdrop to my commute home. Be Alive is a cathartic release⸺it is the reminder we need to center ourselves and our loved ones.

While the song is part of a soundtrack for King Richard, a film about the life of Richard Williams and his brilliant daughters, Serena and Venus Williams, the song taps into the hearts of many.

March is my birthday month. And to still Be Alive despite the intentional threats to my life and well being is no small feat. Indeed, there are many things that could have already taken me out: a negligent doctor who fails to validate my requests for medical attention; a police officer who perceives me to be too vocal during a routine traffic stop; employees of the state who adopt violence instead of calming techniques during a mental health breakdown⸺there are a multitude of antecedents that could have led to the consequence of GAME OVER for me.

And yet, I’m still here. Living, breathing and writing this piece.

Some have only considered their inevitable mortality a little more deeply with the onset of the pandemic. I’m clear that I could be murdered in my own bed, while dreaming; I could be shot while walking away; I could die while incarcerated; my lungs could slowly be destroyed due to my proximity to pollution. The fact that I am still here⸺regardless of whether or not I am adding any value to the world⸺is something to celebrate.

The lyrics of Be Alive speak about our fight to exist:

And can’t nobody knock it if they tried

This is hustle personified

Look how we’ve been fighting to stay alive

So when we win, we will have pride

Do you know how much we have cried?

How hard we had to fight?

Indeed, as a Black person who actively resists racism, whether observed in a professional or personal setting, I’m a threat to the stability and continued existence of the white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy. My refusal to coalesce, to adhere to rules that silence Black voices, and Black experiences, is the reason I can end up isolated, and in a corner.

Be Alive allows me to dance in that corner, and know there is a door right next to me, which I can walk through.

Be Alive reminds me to keep the spark burning in my love affair with Blackness. I love everything Black⸺the richness of Black culture, music, scholarship, creativity, science, community and food, of course. And, let’s not forget Black fashion⸺the list is long.

And yet, to be Black is to be complicated. A single definition of Blackness does not exist. We are too layered to be contained. Our subjective definitions of who we are is what is relevant, not imposed archetypes of Blackness.

For just over a year, I stopped writing. Just put the pen down, and stopped creating. Everytime I typed a few sentences, I wanted to smash the screen. Anything I created just wasn’t good enough. I needed time to simply live, to examine, to reflect, take walks and to nurture my relationships. Eventually I understood that instead of creating I wanted to be a learner. Instead of exploding words on the page, I wanted to inhale them. I was also just too hard on myself⸺I needed to practice patience and self-love.

I am now in a place where I want to create again.

Be Alive is a reminder that my story MUST be told.

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