Within a span of less than five minutes this past Saturday, Beyoncé celebrated Black men, women, children and our overarching culture with the most pro-Black video I’ve seen for some time. Within one fell swoop, she presented an amalgamation that highlights the beauty, vivacity and resilience of the Black and marginalized, could easily serve as a new-millennial version of the Black National Anthem, breathed resuscitating life into New Orlean relics and raises a decisive middle finger to the savages in uniform who unjustly and ceaselessly claim our lives.
The video*, directed by Melina Matsoukas, was a visual homage that not only celebrated quintessential Blackness, but recalled some of the worst atrocities committed against us in recent years–from the ineptitude of our government to respond with a prompt state of emergency declaration in times of exceptional peril to the slew of state-sanctioned murders that have snuffed out Black lives across the nation.
Throughout, Bey conjures a bevy of Gucci-laden, multi-brown hued and naturally coiffed and afroed women, Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation. The words and images of Formation, for me, are not only a a call to arms, but a nod to Black women who have stood at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement in solidarity, yet are also too often overlooked when the camera pans to our collective plight, pain and struggle. To emerge victorious over the ails that confront us, that disenfranchisement brings, we must mobilize our resistance and strengths and exercise more efficiency in planning and organizing, as Beyoncé incites us, Prove to me you got some coordination.
This exemplifies an imperative visual and vocal context for a Black woman in a world where, as a friend put it, “Everyday tells you, be quiet, or I’d rather see you dead.” Like many of Beyoncé’s songs, Formation too, functions as a female empowerment anthem.
An especially powerful scene occurs when a young Black boy in a hoodie dances in front of police officers clad in riot gear. He halts, arms spread like Jesus on the cross. The authorities eventually surrender to him with their hands up. In my opinion, this is an exegesis on the conversation surrounding respectability politics and the necessity to stop using them as an excuse to dehumanize, and ultimately crucify, Black people. Finally, a wall appears with “Stop Shooting Us” tagged on it.
This was all pulled together seamlessly with lyrical content that embodied what Black people are–dynamic. Regardless of whether the verbiage correlates directly with the imagery in its entirety, the video stands alone as metaphor for the veneration of Black people, the Black experience, our survival, and our undeniable swagger.
Naturally, white people are disgruntled over Formation and the fact that it was performed with unabashed pride during halftime at Super Bowl 50. Beyoncé and her entire squad seized the stage swathed in garments that referenced Black history, her dancers dressed as Black Panthers, and her outfit reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993.
But what’s new? In white minds, anything promoted in popular culture that is pro-Black must be anti-white. So, Dear White People…Beyoncé’s offering isn’t for you, her field of f*cks is non-existent, and her stance is loud and clear if you don’t like it:
I like my baby heir, with baby hair and afros/I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.
Outside of the social commentary and feminist posturing perpetuated in the song, Beyoncé also has a message for the m(asses). She’s enamored with all things Negro, including but not limited to her beloved Blue Blue’s baby hair and afro, and Negro noses accentuated by Black nostrils, produced by wide flat noses, much like the one that occupies the face of her man. Don’t come for her firstborn or her boo. She will twirl you into obscurity.
A day prior to the Formation debut, Jay-Z’s music streaming platform, Tidal, donated 1.5 million dollars to Black Lives Matter and several other social justice organizations from money raised at an October concert. I’m sure it was no coincidence that this announcement was made the same day Trayvon Martion would have turned 21-years-old. The Trayvon Martin foundation will receive a portion of the funds.
When all is said and done, actions speak louder than words, and the collaborative efforts of Beyoncé, her husband, and her team make me proud.
Formation is a rallying cry letting you know, We’re HERE. And we’re not going.
I slay. We slay.
*The production has not been without controversy, as hours post-release, filmmaker Chris Black tweeted that Formation used footage from That B.E.A.T., a documentary released in 2014 that he assisted in the production of. Beyoncé’s reps later debunked these claims by stating that, “The documentary footage was used with permission and licensed from the owner of the footage. They were given proper compensation. The footage was provided to us by the filmmaker’s production company. The filmmaker is listed in the credits for additional photography direction. We are thankful that they granted us permission.”