Beyonce’s Formation: My First Thoughts
Formation needs no introduction. By now most people who frequent the Internet or get into contact with people that inhabit social media have heard of Beyoncé’s socio-political statement masquerading as perfect art on our YouTube channels.
On Sunday afternoon a friend texted me about Beyoncé’s new video. Knowing me you would know I am not any part of the Beyhive. Even during the times when I loved Destiny’s Child, it was Kelly who was my girl. So, I rolled my eyes as I got onto the net to find out why anybody would want me and all my radical blackness to spend time looking at Bey. I have always appreciated the enormous contribution that Bey does to the black art catalogue. You can see she is hardworking, talented and strives for excellence. Of no real fault of her own, she has just never wooed me. I always thought she could use her platform to speak up for the black, marginalized community. I tend to have the most love and respect for artists who try to represent their community in a way that could uplift the masses who are not privileged and have no position of power. In modern American times we have seen Janelle Monae, John Legend, J Cole, Talib Kweli being socially engaged with the people and using their influence to speak and fight with the people. Back in the days there were the Nina Simones , James Baldwins and even the Muhammad Alis using their talent to spread awareness about the plight of their people. After a black boy or man gets gunned down in the streets of America by police or self-entitled keepers of white peace, after a black girl or woman gets killed in her sleep or mysteriously dies in police custody, the question of what Beyoncé and Jay Z are doing for the community besides delivering art and making money of it, often came up on social media.
In my skeptical book of analysis, arguably one of Beyoncé’s greatest feat is how she is able to do her thing and just retreat and let everyone talk about it. I have never heard Bey deliver an apology, explain herself further, argue against or in defense of somebody. From the Destiny’s Child days, the allegations of how her manager parents put her above the rest of the people in the group to how her marriage to one of Hip Hop’s biggest and most enduring stars was a business arrangement rather than a love affair, to people writing up petitions to do Blue Ivy’s hair, Bey does not argue, explain or debate. Any black woman out there who is just being herself unapologetically, is admirable, maybe even more so when she is constantly in the sometimes harsh public limelight. Black women are too often expected to defend, explain or diminish themselves to be accepted, loved or just understood. Bey just does her thing and we must deal.
We stood in guard as she came accompanied by drumroll and female dancers with Afros and berets, dressed in sexy outfits that mimicked the Black Panther Party attire. At the 50th Superbowl, for all those that had not yet seen the Formation video that she released the day before, Beyoncé delivered that she is down with the people. That Formation is for the people. Yes, Beyoncé shines in her leotard piece, that pays tribute to none other than the reigning King of Pop, Michael Jackson but just so that anybody who ever doubted her completely understands how down she is with the people, she lets us know that she is fine with Negro noses with Jackson Five nostrils and that her Negro with Creole self has that hot sauce in her bag. She even rubbishes the Illuminati links that have been circulating her. We were not even aware that she was aware of that. The Beyhive would probably say that of course the Queen knows it all.
I remember watching the video and being quite impressed with Bey on top of the New Orleans police car in the middle of what can be identified as a Hurricane Katrina aftermath setting. Seems like the Queen was already then silently identifying with the plight of mainly black people who lost homes and family members in that sad part of Black American recent history. And even though I do not remember Bey speaking out against George Zimmermann, there was a boy with a hoodie dancing in front of a police guard as she remembered Trayvon Martin in the month in which he would have turned 21. And just in case you were still not convinced about how serious Bey is with her message, a wall with a scrawling “Stop shooting us” appears in the video to make the message very clear and unambiguous.
She may have even been addressing the Blue Ivy hair haters by putting her in the video slaying with that Afro in the Southern setting. Blue’s hair is not relaxed, straightened or tamed in any way, like so many petition-signatories suggested Bey should have done. She looks like a pretty, black child, happily twirling around the room with fellow children. Beyoncé reminded us that besides being Superwoman, she is a black mother. Beyoncé also reminded everyone that this is black history month for America. We all have to deal.
Formation was Beyoncé’s deliverance to her people, those who hate and those who remained hopeful that she would one day come through for the black community. And if all that political stuff is not your thing, she still delivered art, perfection and grace. I never thought I would use these words, but Bey slayed. As someone who was never impressed by the hype about her and without going too much into the lyrics that of course carry capitalist privilege alongside black identification, I am deeply impressed. I may be reaching with my analysis and she will not climb up the feminist black power charts for everyone, or even for me, but I appreciate Formation, the art, the politics and the empowering beauty in it. Formation is flawless.