This Saturday, Beyonce Knowles-Carter dropped her latest single out of nowhere and turned the entire internet upside down. Since the release of “Formation”, social media has been alight with both praise and critiques of the fabled singer’s latest musical offering. Is she profiting off ratchet culture? Is her shout-out to her mom’s Creole roots an effort to center Whiteness? Did she steal the footage of post-Katrina New Orleans? Exactly what brand of hot sauce is she carrying in her bag?
Over the last two days, I’ve read dozens of think-pieces and been party to a multitude of conversations discussing this very thing. And although “Formation” is without a doubt another hit King Bey can add to her ever-growing list, it seems that there is a huge part of the Black community that feels as if this latest tune is nothing but a cleverly-crafted and well-timed gimmick to allow the singer to capitalize on the current political climate of her fan base without actually having to put in work. Most of the complaints center around the fact that the lyrics of the song – which are indeed, incredibly celebratory and self-congratulating – don’t match up with the somber images she’s used in the video. And while this is most definitely a valid point, I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t exactly the point.
Over the last few years, Black America has made a concerted effort to make ourselves known and heard, on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s – 1960s. What we are witnessing is an awakening of the collective consciousness of Black people – particularly and specifically YOUNG Black people. The realities of police brutality, poverty, the school-to-prison pipeline, and other maladies which contribute to the United States’ blueprint for Black genocide are more apparent to us than ever, and for the first time in our lifetime, there is a strong, concerted effort to counteract these effects.
Audre Lorde once said that, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and THAT is an act of political warfare.” This quote made its rounds in my head over and over again as I watched the “Formation” video, and all that I could think was, “Damn, Bey – #shotsfired”.
Because what’s more revolutionary than watching a Black woman – a representation of the most oppressed of the oppressed in this world – sing a song celebrating herself in all of her “ratchet” glory? “Formation” didn’t miss the mark by pairing celebratory lyrics with somber images – it made a clear statement about the beauty of being Black in America. It took some of the absolute worst things that have happened to the Black community in history (Katrina, police brutality, etc.) as well as made nods to some of the issues we face as a community (colorism/self-hate) and juxtaposed it against a self-love anthem we can all relate to on some level. She acknowledged how difficult it is to navigate this world as a Black person – especially as a Black woman – and basically said, “But I’m still here, with my hot sauce, and You. Will. Deal.” And then she encouraged other women to do the same.
Until Saturday, I wasn’t sure I liked Beyonce’s feminism. As a matter of fact, until Saturday, I wasn’t sure that I liked Beyonce. And while there are definitely several things that I question about the authenticity of her feminism and her pro-Blackness, what isn’t up for debate is the power that comes with seeing this Black woman use her platform to shout-out everything that America tells us we should hate about ourselves, unapologetically.
One Black woman turned the world upside down just for singing a song – how incredible is that?