***This is not subjective. I’m not going to try to win you over about why Beyonce is Queen or what the symbolism of this video means on a large scale. Like Formation itself, this piece is for Black women.

Excited swearing may ensue.***

Beyonce, the Queen of pop has gifted us with another video, seemingly from out of nowhere. Formation, was released on B’s platinum edition of her self titled album, Beyonce, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Trayvon Martin’s 21st birthday should have been yesterday.

Today, Sandra Bland would have turned 29.

We’re only a week into Black history month and we’ve already had to deal with Stacey Dash’s Black ass informing white folks the recognition is unnecessary. We’re losing Barack and Michelle, but we’ve gained a Deray and Netta. Black lives and Black perspectives in America are constantly evolving. But today, our Queen laid it out and helped us come to a single point.

We’ve been talking about #CareFreeBlackGirls for over a year. Here, at BGN, there’s been articles about embracing being weird, and the falsehood of the “strong-black-woman” trope, and the general struggles of identity for Black woman.

Enter: Blu Ivy Carter looking confident, radiant, and the definition of slay.

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When Blu threw her shoulder back I nearly lost it. This is how Black girls should feel inside. It’s how our mama’s raised us. (I know I wasn’t the only one getting my shoulder pinched and told to, “sit up straight before I make you.”)

When we say representation matters this is what the fuck we are talking about. Carefree Black girls in their Sunday best running around the house is an identifiable memory for most of the Black community. This melanin, curly hair, smile full on display for everyone to see is the visual representation of “We Gon’ Be Alright”. Our kids are going to be fine, and confident, and beautiful, because that’s how we make them.

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Speaking of kids….c1555e5dcdb52e617cc3f7f399aacb7181b320cc

This little soldier, knocked it out of the park.  Aside from his slick moves the visual imagery of this scene cannot be understated. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of accounts of not just physical police brutality, but the mental psyche of Blacks when they’re pulled over. Our papers are strategically placed so it won’t look like we’re reaching for a gun. We slow down when we see a POC pulled over because if we can spot wrong doing, maybe we can stop another tragedy before it occurs.

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This child, IN A HOODIE, twirling for his life, in front of an armed police line disarming them through movement is hauntingly beautiful. Most of the reactions on Twitter seemed to revolve around the kids and for good reason.

This country’s history is painted with the blood of Black children. We saw Michael Brown’s body lay in the street for hours, covered in blood, and ignored. We saw 12 year old Tamir Rice gunned down in seconds in an open carry state. Charges against the cop who killed 7 year old Aiyana Jones while she slept, were dropped. We watched Trayvon’s killer walk.

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So trust, that seeing happy, healthy, Black kids has an impact of profound hope. It humanizes Blacks in a way only other Black people can do.

I must pause here to shout out the glory that is Melina Matsoukas. Matsoukas is also the director of “Pretty Hurts”, “Move Your Body”, “Diva”, “We Found Love” by Rhianna, and “Work” by Ciara featuring Missy Elliot. She’ll be directing for TV next, starting with Insecure Issa Rae’s new HBO show.

As you may have heard, there was a lot of controversy online yesterday when the producer and the director of the documentary footage featured in the video claimed they never gave permission to use their footage. Producer Chris Black tweeted out:

 


And Then This…


AND THIS!!!!!

And finally…

 

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in credit where credit is due, BUT I also believe in knowing how your industry works. Black made this doc for Sundance and was sponsored by Nokia. He doesn’t own the rights to this footage. The craziest thing is Beyonce and camp DID ask permission, out of respect, but final paper work has to be signed with the people who own the footage, not the creators. However, the creators are noted in the credits of the video. So, maybe it’s not B who is out of touch…

I digress.

What makes this video great is the need ending parade of cultural representation. To see an array of Black styles: gothic, modern, historical, street, haute couture in all of its glory and it doesn’t stop there.

THE CULTURAL REPRESENTATION:

Part One: Hair

Ladies. I’ve been natural for five years and it’s been life affirming. I love every curl, I love wash day (even when it’s hell), I love embracing what naturally springs from my scalp. Black hair is beautiful in all it’s shapes and forms and we got to see every single one in Formation.

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We’ve got afros, long braids, buns pilled high, and tight fades. B, brings back her micro braids from the Destiny’s Child days and whips her hair for all it’s worth.

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When she states in such a matter-o-fact tone, “I love my babies with baby hair and an afro” affectively telling every hater, “BACK THE FUCK OFF MY DAUGHTER” I howled with delight.

Phrases like, “Brush your baby’s hair” have plagued natural women forever. There’s a feeling that afros are messy, dreads are dirty, and any weave is ghetto. A shaved head is considered too masculine. There’s no winning in the Black hair game. The only way to succeed is to embrace what the fuck you enjoy. Not that you needed it, but Queen B, gives full permission to embrace your hair. If you didn’t need to hear this, believe that somewhere some little girl did.

Part Two: NOLA’s LGBTQ Community

New Orleans is known for it’s flamboyant style, loud music, and party atmosphere. The combination of which can be found in bounce music, which is a mix of Mardi Gras Indian chants, call and response, and defined by it’s sexual nature. The line at the beginning, “What happened after New Orleans?” is the late Messy Mya, a New Orleans bounce artist.

At 1:10 when you hear, “I did not come to play with you hoes. I came to slay, bitch! I like cornbread and collard greens” That’s Big Freedia. She’s been reppin’ New Orleans since the early 90’s and is a local celebrity.

B, also uses documentary footage from Lily Keber’s doc New Orleans: Here and Now focusing on life after Katrina, featuring queer New Orleans’ youth dancing.

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Part Three: Squad Goals

Obviously the song is inspired by the majorettes of the south and Beyonce did not come to play. No mama. She hired Shiona Turini to style the ever living shit out of her crew and then they went to work. Flawless doesn’t begin to cover it.

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There’s something special about Black female friendship. We can understand one another struggles in a way no one else can. When a bond of friendship is formed nothing but each other can tear it asunder. To see it on screen, outside of a Mara Brock Akil production, is a glorious thing.

Part Four: The Looks

If there’s one thing we know about the Queen, it’s that she looks good in everything. Turin brought the house down with

Every

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Single

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Look

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It’s rare in America to see Black people in period dress. Usually Blacks are depicted as slaves or lower income, until about the 1950’s. This is a fallacy of media as there’s been a Black middle class for well over a century. Big ups for including these looks.

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I’m looking forward to trying the southern gothic look, myself, but I’m guessing it won’t be long until I see the these outfits in gyms and clubs across America.

Part Five: Beyonce Takes Down Everyone & is Unapologetically Black

This song just kills and Beyonce leaves no one untouched. My favorite lines in no particular order:

  1. Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess.
  2. Got hot sauce in my bag, swag.
  3. I like my negro with the Jackson five nostrils.
  4. Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.
  5. When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster

Is there anything better than watching the man you love eat a meal you got for him and enjoying the shit out of himself? Is there anything better than declaring you love the features that society has taught you to hate? WHAT’S BETTER THAN HOT SAUCE?!

Formation now sits with We Gon’ Be Alright, I’m Black and I’m Proud, Young Gifted and Black and Changes as a pillar of Black strength and solidarity. Songs we can rally around when we’re down or unsure of our greatness.

Final Thoughts 

Black brothers and sisters not supporting Bey – You don’t have to like the music, you don’t have to think she is the Queen, but when you tear her down you’re tearing down your entire community. Beyonce has performed with an all female band from way back when. She hires Black creators to work with frequently.

For me she is the ideal of what Black success can look like. You can be proud to be Black and be successful within all communities. You can hire Black creatives and make great work your community can be proud of.

Formation is a celebration of Black American culture. So celebrate we shall.

Anyone who’s got a problem with it…

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Copyright 2016 Black Girl Nerds

About Joelle Monique

Joelle Monique is the co-creator and writer of the webcomic Harsh Mellow, a podcaster with Black Girl Nerds, a proud Hufflepuff, and a member of the water tribe. She resides in Los Angeles but her heart resides in Chicago.
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  • nice article

  • Dianna

    Did we also forget that Beyonce and Jay were secretly helping people during Ferguson and paying the money needed to release folks who were arrested. I was LIVING for the video. LIVING for her performance.

    Yes yes yes.

  • Great piece — I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Beyonce. But, between her last album and this epic song — I give her nothing but props. She came out swinging and I’m loving it.

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