I always knew Beyoncé had it in her to truly be revolutionary. Since the release of her album 4 with its lead single, “Who Run The World (Girls)”, I’ve been witnessing an enlightened, wanting to make a difference, and unapologetic celebration of (her) womanhood, Black womanhood, Texan roots, (her) sexuality, and increasingly socially defiant artist and it’s been absolutely thrilling to watch. I thought it all came to a head with 2013’s self-titled visual album Beyoncé, the one she famously dropped without advance promotion and was the pop culture moment of the year. But clearly, she was just getting started as she surprised us again with “Formation”, the most politically charged and irreverent statement of her career. Beyoncé and irreverent. Who knew that word would ever be used to describe the once blonde haired Barbie doll that’s become a blonde haired Pro-Black bad ass.
Mrs. Carter used to piss me off greatly and regularly back when her debut solo album Dangerously In Love was out in 2003. It all seemed obvious to me, the shtick of it all. Musically, I was obsessed with “Crazy In Love” just like anybody else. And “Me, Myself, and I” is my personal favorite song from the album. But while even though I am a few years younger than her, I just felt that during that time, she was singing about mature life subjects she still had so much to learn about. Eventually, I too would be 23 years old, as she was during DIL, and looking back at the rear view mirror, I didn’t know shit! And the sex appeal she flaunted wasn’t dangerous or challenging. It was just obvious, as shown in her cheesecake fest of a video for “Naughty Girl.” In retrospect, maybe the beginning scenes of the “Crazy In Love” video, with her no-bra tank top, booty shorts, red pumps wearing self, were a statement amongst the lines of “Free the Nipple”, a slogan that wasn’t invented until Lina Esco‘s extreme feminist campaign and film in 2014. But our mind frames weren’t there yet.
Through 28 going on 29-year-old eyes, maybe I was being hard on Beyoncé. As a fan since 1998, I was ready for her to be bigger than her career by 2003. One of the biggest pop stars and arguably the biggest Black pop star around, I dreamed of Beyoncé being a true leader of female empowerment. It is a slightly unfair responsibility to place upon an artist I don’t know personally. And it’s not like she never advocated a girl power lifestyle before (e.g. “Independent Women” with Destiny’s Child, encouraging me to make that bread before I even had a savings account). But I desired more. I believed that she was capable of being more than the “uh huh uh oh uh oh uh oh” R&B girl.
(Sidenote: the GIF above, from “Formation”, is stylistically similar to the supposed, fan made album cover of Rihanna‘s then-titled and nicknamed R8, that eventually became 2016’s Anti).
The music Gods must’ve heard my prayers. My life was handed to me when I viewed “Formation”, directed by Melina Matsoukas, with its abundance of support for Black Lives Matter, images of beautiful Black women of all shades and sizes, prominent Black hairstyles and lyrical notes to American Black culture and people such as “negro noses”, The Jackson 5 and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She also gave zero fucks with quick lines such as great sex equaling a trip to comfort foods stops such as Red Lobster (because after such an occasion, who really wants to go to a five-star restaurant. You want ol’ faithful). Beyoncé even included her beloved Blue Ivy in the video with a strong focus on her daughter’s kinky curly afro, an attribute that for a time was the focus of mean-spirited jokes online. My edges screamed because Beyoncé’s Pro-Black movement had arrived.
Collectively, I noticed that most other women of color were enthralled by “Formation” and Black-based publications like Essence and Huffington Post’s Black Voices were more than ready to eat up the Pro-Black sentiment. Beyonce’s sister, the underrated Solange has been heralding the celebration of Blackness for years now and is also an avid speaker about it on social media. It seemed we all were handed a message we know to be true but needed to hear from one of our biggest stars ever: black girls and Black, Southern and African culture are great.
I also adore when Beyoncé gets all Pro-Black on us also because the American media, often White-led, is forced to acknowledge the messages she paints. And how do they report on one of the biggest stars on Earth becoming a bellwether of womanist imagery? How can Glamour or Cosmo talk about lyrics like “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag” or how when she is dressed in tribute to Michael Jackson and her dancers for The Black Panther Party at Super Bowl 50 beyond who designed the outfits? (I’m aware that these publications, to the contrary have Black/POC editors on staff. I’m generally speaking). And speaking of those outfits, her Super Bowl performance was icing on top of an already delicious icing on the “Formation” cake. The beyhive leader led a group of Black women onto a field that carries one of America’s most storied pastimes, football, and delivered a magnanimous salute and dance to Black Power and Black womanhood. Lawd Jesus, my edges again. Bey is going all the way with this movement.
It’s all incredible timing as well considering it’s Black History Month, so my emotions on Black love and pride are higher than ever. Some have accused Beyoncé of riding the wave of Pro-Black which is a bit trendy right now (or in glamorizing anti-police propaganda, another sidenote: they’re reaching) but I don’t give a fxck because her contributions to the conversation of race relations and Black women in America, possibly across the world, is greater than her. Whatever Beyoncé says or does is already guaranteed press. Both the Black and White media discharge fan girl reactions when she merely walks outside of a hotel. So when she incorporates dynamic iconography of Black Power, Black Pride and Black women and dares to say that she just may be
“a Black Bill Gates in the making”
the world, the naysayers, and the critics that try to pretend as if Black heroines and heroes are not amongst us in spirit, in history and in modern times, has to be discussed in some matter and that is why I laud this latest chapter in Beyoncé’s legacy.