There has never been a doubt in my mind that my upbringing was unconventional.
I grew all over the country, living in California, Washington State, Florida and Virginia. But, with all this movement, my home base was at my grandparents’ in the deep South. My dad’s side of the family is African-American and my mother’s side is Cuban.
So, somewhat naturally, my identity has always fluctuated in an in between space: in between locations, in between races and cultures, and interestingly enough, in between musical preferences. Our long road trips were accompanied with lengthy playlists—everything from Gloria Estefan to TLC to Prince to Elton John. But there were always two voices that stood out to me—Natalie Maines and Beyonce.
My time spent with my parents and my grandparents in the South cultivated a strong country alliance—the pinnacle of which was the musicality and the feminism of the Dixie Chicks. Their music and their political activism was the earliest and the most influential political exposure my young self experienced.
I remember being a young teenager and hearing Natalie Maines’ comments on George W. Bush and the Iraq War. I remember my parent’s incredulity on the widespread negative reaction, and I remember countless car rides of blasting “Not Ready to Make Nice” as we drove our way through the southern Florida swamps. I remember purchasing tickets to the Accidents and Accusations tour and not being able to go—because we were in Florida, and the Dixie Chicks had received too many death threats to be able to hold their concerts in the southern area of the country.
And even then, I remember being baffled at how they were being treated—as though stating their opinion was some form of treason, as though by saying they disagreed they were just as bad, if not worse, than the terrorists who had attacked our country. And I remember thinking about the core of their music, how, even at that young age, songs like “Cowboy Take me Away” and their cover of “Landslide” made me feel things in my core and moved me unlike anything else. Their musicianship is impeccable.
As for Beyonce, I feel like anyone, any woman, any person of color, any person who feels anything can relate to the depth of her musical influence. Her voice and her lyrics have inspired, challenged, and motivated me to become the best version. These feelings have always existed but “Lemonade” was the culmination of these feelings. This album was an immensely moving success, one that I believe has changed music irrevocably.
So, this past Wednesday, when the two came together at the CMA’s to perform one of the most moving pieces on Lemonade, “Daddy’s Song,” I was incredibly moved.
There has been a lot of talk about this performance—about its political implications, about its racial implications (because somehow people don’t believe that a black woman deserves a space on a country music stage?). But among these voices of incredulity and doubt, of criticism and intolerance, I have another voice to offer—one of utter gratitude and complete awe.
Watching the Dixie Chicks and Beyonce come together to sing “Daddy’s Song” spoke to the core of what it means to be a Southern woman. They addressed and placated many of the contradictions of the Southern life, its history, of its racial relationships, its music.
This performance was a statement. This performance was political. This performance was calculated. But as someone who has grown up among the contradictions of Southern life, whose very identity is cautiously clustered among these different dichotomies, this performance was the breath of fresh air I didn’t even realize I needed. It connected me to my Southern roots, making me proud of where I’ve come from, and where we can all go from here.
When they go low, we go high—and we sing our hearts out.