By: Narrean Marsden
Beyoncé unapologetically defined herself and every bit of her Blackness with her surprise “Formation” video. All plans to be a productive student were cancelled as my phone rang with urgent links and messages of “YAASSSS, BEY BETTER GO!” I immediately knew that it was indeed a serious matter and required every ounce of my attention. I was surprised, excited and ready to get my life.
Why were so many of us (Black people) excited? Why were we (Black people) holding on to our seats, you ask? Because lately, being Black – specifically a Black woman – has been tiring. Especially in the media.
Every day I am bombarded with messages of Black women being mimicked, put down and simply told that they are just not good enough. Just like these messages, I am tired.
What makes “Formation” so powerful is its unmistakable message. The song opens with NOLA royalty, Messy Mya asking the question of, “What happened after New Orleans?” a clear reference to Hurricane Katrina. “Formation” director Melina Matsoukas then takes us on a sensational voyage through the very real and raw heart of New Orleans with Beyoncé as our guide.
There are a number of symbolic moments that may take a second, and even a third view to fully grasp. One of the most mentionable of these is witnessed early on, depicting a buttoned-up Beyonce nestled on top of a partially submerged police car.
The scene instantly reminded me of Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 masterpiece “Alright,” which displayed kids dancing atop a neglected cop car.
If you haven’t seen the “Formation” video already (which wow, you really need to) the cop car sinks, and Beyoncé goes down with it. Powerful. Over a thousand undeserving lives were lost in the waters of Hurricane Katrina. Most of those lives could have and should have been saved. If the system does not change then we will continue to drown with it.
Then she begins to sing, and if you thought that this was going to a “We Are the World” styled anthem, you thought wrong. This is Queen Bey, though, and she again came to show out.
The song is catchy at first listen. The beat is up-tempo and Black women across the world found themselves sharing Beyoncé sentiments of “I slay.” The Instagram captions can prove it. But the song is so much more than that. After the third repeat, Black women also began to realize that the lyrics were more about their roots. She references baby hair, afros, a Negro nose and country roots.
And just when you think the song couldn’t feel any Blacker, Beyoncé hits us right in the jugular:
“I got hot sauce in my bag, swag.”
EDGES GONE. Just kidding. But if you don’t get it, then, well… it’s an insider.
Trayvon Martin’s birthday was February 5 and Sandra Bland would have turned 29 on February 7, the same day as Super Bowl 50. Beyonce strategically performed “Formation” with her army of Black Panther-inspired backup dancers. With 111.9 million viewers in the arena, the message was a huge checkmate on society. Her cocky, shameless declaration of self-love in her music is not for entertainment. It’s real.
Whether or not you liked the song and video, seeing one of our own beat the odds time after time in a space that continuously tells women what they can and can’t do is a breath of fresh air.
Messages of “love yourself,” “be yourself” and “own it” simply were not always endorsed for Black women. Black women and men are constantly surrounded by noise that refuses to consider their voices.
Today, Black people need messages that say they matter, tell them that they are human and they have the right to navigate life in whatever fashion they so please. What Beyoncé told me and countless others was it’s okay to be ourselves. We don’t have to embrace the nuances of our culture in only our spaces, but we can take pride in putting them on display for all to see. “Formation” is a Black anthem for women.
It’s a message from Queen Bey to the masses that movements witnessed from the ‘60’s because Black is – and will always be – beautiful. So, let’s get in formation… Oh yeah, and don’t forget the hot sauce.