Solange Knowles Provides the #CosmicJourney We All Need
The Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall was buzzing with people on Sunday evening, October 1, as I was eagerly waiting for Solange Knowles to grace the stage. The show opened with a slamming set by Sun Ra’s Arkestra, whose late leader was a pioneer of Afrofuturism, an ever-relevant theme in black art and culture.
Solange’s performance, Orion’s Rise, a #cosmicjourney, including her all-white geometric set, covered in red light, furthered the Arkestra’s emphasis on Afrofuturism. The performance, celebrated a year since the release of Solange’s third album, A Seat at the Table which is in her own words “a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief, and healing.”
The performance began with an iteration of “Rise,” the first track on A Seat the Table, which established spiritual nature of what we would experience for the next hour. The outfits, Solange, her two backup singers, and her band wore were minimal much like the choreography, seemingly leading the audience into the psychedelic '60s or '70s or more likely a place without time. Some of the best parts of the performance were the moments where the audience got a greater window into the artist Solange, from her description of her first performance of work from A Seat at the Table in Washington, DC at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture’s, Peace Ball on January 20th, 2017 or when she left the stage to dance with the audience to “FUBU: For Us By Us.”
The whole performance was a much like A Seat at the Table, was a revelation. Knowing that if only for a few moments, I was a part of a community that at its core felt the deep resonance of the lyrics “I got a lot to be mad about” was comforting. There were also lighter moments such as when the crowd electrified by “Losing You” from Solange’s 2012 EP, True.
Solange has been outspoken about what it means to black artist at the present moment noting in an interview at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago “The art world definitely has its own set of issues, and in my opinion there is a tonality in certain of the spaces and institutions that as a black artist you should just be happy to be here.” At the Kennedy Center, Solange was not just present, but radically defiant, literally bringing color and a new sound to a traditionally white and stuffy space; in Solange own words, that shit was for us.
Orion’s Rise, was a chance for Solange’s fans (specifically women of color) to experience what A Seat the Table allowed us to. Similar to the kind of escapism Sun Ra suggested for black people in the song and 1974 film Space is the Place; Solange provided a boundless meditation, to celebrate moments of joy, in order to escape systemic injustice such as daily microaggressions or constantly having to assert that black lives matter, because our president will not.