“Okay Ms. Bey I know you came to slay!” Big Freedia boomed out about halfway through Beyoncé’s newest song "Formation", and BOY was she right. Like most of the living world I heard the Queen Bey's world-stopping song when it was released to an unsuspecting world on Saturday. Seriously, I was so distracted that I forgot to get dressed for an event I was supposed to be going to. Beyoncé’s new video is just another example of the artist’s dominance and her ability to literally do whatever the fuck she wants whenever she wants; including be unapologetically pro-Black and complex. It was and still is so monumental that I had to say something about it, but rather than add to the many, many, MANY critiques and analyses of the song lyrics and video I’ve decided to talk a little bit about what we can learn from Beyoncé dropping a song like this. So come on people, let’s get in formation to get some inFormation! (s/o to Maia Butler for the cool phrasing)
First off let’s talk about the fact that this was Beyoncé of all people dropping this song. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is NOT commonly known as an artist with any sort of consciousness or any political spin. She’s not Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill or hell even Alicia Keys. When most of us think of Beyoncé we think boring, safe, manufactured pop star. That is until she dropped her fifth album literally out of nowhere. When that album dropped and everybody started to hear Beyoncé talk unapologetically about being a feminist, things changed. Sure she always supported women, but she never went that far. When Beyoncé talked unrelentingly about her sex life things changed. Sure, she always had her “nasty” songs, but she never went that far. When Beyoncé told people to bow down and bragged about how major she was things changed. Sure, she always elevated and empowered herself but she never went that far. Now this new sex positive braggadocious (look it up) Beyoncé ALSO being pro-Black is an eye opening experience. It tells so many people that they don’t have to sacrifice their Blackness because they’re not respectable. You like sex and are proud of your body? Cool. Come march with us. Have feminist (or better yet womanist) views? No you’re not destroying any family structure, teach it to the kids! Don’t get along with EVERY SINGLE Black person? That’s fine; we’re human. You don’t have to like someone to love them. Beyoncé, by virtue of being who she has become, gave all these people “permission” to still be pro-Black even when other “pro-Black” people told them they couldn’t.
And that brings me to another point. Beyoncé wasn't always where she is now (at least in public). Like many of us, it probably took her a while to be proud of her Blackness; to embrace it and not be embarrassed by it. She may have even thought like many of us that her riches (or for us degrees, light skin, pretty hair, or nice vocabulary) made us better than Black people without them. And you know what that's okay. No one is born just completely “woke” and very few are even born loving themselves, despite what some people would have you think. I wanna talk about that for a minute. While yes, it is awesome that this woman has been “woke” for so long, but contrary to what she (and anyone else) believes you weren’t always that way. When the entire world teaches you that black is bad and black is ugly and black is stupid at the earliest of ages then you HAVE to have someone teaching you the exact opposite. That’s just how it works. If an outside influence is teaching you to hate yourself you have to have another outside influence teaching you to love yourself too. It may be your parents, books, TV, movies, artwork, or it may just be Beyoncé, but SOMEONE taught you that lesson. Don’t be mad or shady because someone took a different path to get to where you are. I mean, Malcolm X had to go to prison to learn his worth. Isn’t it good enough that people get there at all?
The fact that Beyoncé is teaching people stuff just goes to show that you can learn from anywhere and anything, so long as you’re willing to analyze and think about it. For example I watch Being Mary Jane all the time. I’ll never forget the episode where Mary Jane had India Arie, Michaela Angela Davis, and Mark Anthony Neal talk about Black women’s beauty; I learned from that episode about how Black women are marginalized by the media in the most innocent seeming ways. Yes, I learned a complex lesson about misogynoir (sexism combined with racism; usually towards Black women) from a primetime BET drama. Beyoncé’s video is the same way: if we allow ourselves to step out of that stupid idea of “Beyoncé aint that deep!” and “Yall are reading too much into this!” and actually pay attention to what is in front of us we could learn some really powerful and really valid lessons. We get so caught up with the idea that you can only learn in school and from certain people that we miss out on what is right there in front of our faces. Even if Beyoncé DIDN’T plan on all the analysis we’re giving her video so what? When have we ever only followed the original creator’s intent for something? A lot of these schools and establishments we flock to would have never allowed us in if their creator(s) had anything to say about it; so who cares what the creator intended?
Now this doesn’t mean that we can’t critique the work or Beyoncé for what she said. By all means we should talk about the problems with what she said, but always keeping in mind that NO ONE and NO THING is perfect. We gotta take the good from the bad. It also doesn’t mean that Beyoncé is now an activist; don't expect her to be beside you at the next march chanting "The people united will never be defeated." What this does mean, or at least I hope it does, is that it starts to show us that everyone plays a part in this fight against oppression. From the richest to the poorest, the respectables to the ratchets, the glass houses to the grass roots we all can do our part to enact change, and the “Formation” video shows that. I don’t care that Beyoncé isn’t perfect nor do I care if you are. If you can get kids and adults to proudly walk around singing about how much you “like your baby hair with baby hair and afros” and how you “like your negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils”, then you are a friend of mine and you are a friend of this struggle.
What did you think of the "Formation" video? Do you think there is anything else we can learn from Beyoncé dropping this song how and when she did? Leave your questions, comments, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share, and subscribe!