Formation is Beyonce embracing her blackness in all it’s glory, everything from her Creole ancestry to her love of Jackson Five nostrils (you know I had to include that line). She also in this song and in the video is putting out the calling to get in formation–in her SuperBowl performance that formation was Beyonce, and her back-up dancers dressed in outfits reminiscent of Black Panthers regalia, in an X formation, a nod to Malcolm X.
The video which I have yet to see–I’m trying to register for my free trial on www.tidal.com, Jay Z’s music streaming company, but the site seems to be having trouble processing my registration. Yet, in countless posts in social media this week, I’ve heard about the imagery of Beyonce laying atop a sinking police car, in the flooded waters of Hurricane Katrina, of a young boy of color dancing in front of a wall of police officers, with the officers putting their hands up in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” formation brought to life by the Black Lives Matter Movement.
I’ve also heard the many opinions from friends and news outlets on-line. They vary from the conservative, who are outraged by Beyonce’s supposed disrespect for policemen and our country; to the skeptical, who believe Beyonce is a pawn of the entertainment industry, and is using this political song and video simply to call attention to herself, and to draw ticket buyers to her upcoming Formation concert tour; to the liberal, who are proud of Beyonce for unapologetically showing her love for her blackness, and for using her platform to speak on issues that are important to her.
Artists have been making protest songs forever–Peter, Paul and Mary, and Pete Seeger during the Vietnam War in the 60’s, Gil Scot-Heron’s early 1970’s exposure of the harsh reality of inequality for black people in this country, and a waking up for the “revolution that will not be televised.” The Sex Pistols in the early 80’s called out the monarchy, and even Michael Jackson used song as a call to action with They Don’t Care About Us, filmed in the favelas skirting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, depicting the utter poverty people were living in, as well as with his Earth Song, a call for us to care for our planet before it’s too late.
I support Beyonce’s right to sing about what matters to her, and am not threatened by her song, like so many seem to be. Yet, as many of the commentators of color noted this week: white people, not everything is always about you–this song was not made for you, it was made for black people, and so no need to get in a fuss about it.
And, Beyonce does not hate the police, as some have intimated, just as the people who are a part of the Black Lives Matter movement do not hate the police either. What I have learned they do want, is a humane system of law enforcement–one that does not use excessive force, that is not trained to be militaristic in their responses, especially to the black community, and officers who do not regard the black body as automatically dangerous. They want the killing of unarmed black people to stop. They want equality.
While Beyonce might not be a lot of people’s idea of an activist or someone who truly cares about issues, she has contributed generously to causes, including a $7 million donation to a housing program for the homeless in Houston, Texas, just one of the donations she makes to charities she tends to keep quiet about instead of calling attention to her philanthropy like some other celebrities do.
Here are links to a few opinion pieces on Beyonce and Formation, and the Saturday Night Live skit that shows the impact her latest artistic output has had on the white community.
Sean Trainor’s Salon piece, highlighting works of women of color writers, Dream Hampton, Tiffany Lee and Regina N. Bradley, Dear Liberal White Guys, Before You Critique Beyonce’s Formation, Read This
Stacey Patton’s piece featured on Dame Magazine, They Mad: Beyonce’s Middle Finger Salute To White America
SNL Skit on the effects of Beyonce’s Formation video on white people:
Finally, I’ve linked to a youtube lyric post of the song, Formation. Looks like you’ll have to go on Tidal to watch the real thing.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts, readers. Please get in formation, and share your opinions in the comments below.
www.salon.com, Dear Liberal White Guys, Before You Critique Beyonce’s Formation Video, Read This, Sean Trainor, 2/11/16
www.damemagazine.com, They Mad: Beyonce’s Middle Finger Salute To White America, 2/12/16
www.youtube.com, Formation, Beyonce, posted by Betty Smith
www.youtube.com, SNL skit, The Day Beyonce Turned Black, posted by SNL
photo credit: www.allhiphop.com