Beyoncé: The unrepentant Blackness of ‘Formation’

Beyoncé's new music video "Formation" serves as a political art piece unrepentantly celebratory of all things Black.


ATLANTA, January 7, 2016 — Beyoncé’s new music video for “Formation” is probably the most unapologetically black thing you’ll see in a very long time, and here’s why:

1 New Orleans. The video was shot in New Orleans, which has infamously served as ground zero for simply not giving a damn about black and brown bodies circa Hurricane Katrina 2005. With half of my family hailing from N.O., Hurricane Katrina will always serve as a traumatic time during my development.

It serves as one of the most devastating realizations of just how little value black lives have in America, especially in a city that has fueled the very heartbeat of American culture for centuries.

As Messy Mya asks at the beginning of this video, “What happened after New Orleans?”

It’s a million-dollar question that many wouldn’t even care to answer today. The fact that N.O. serves as the background of this video is symbolic in itself. The imagery of broken houses marinating in swamp water — complete with the video that begins with Beyoncé floating atop a New Orleans police car and sinking on it at the end —provides much more than stunning visuals.It sends a message. More on that later.

2 Natural Hair. The natural hair in this video is popping. Not only is it popping, but it’s rolling, swinging, and rocking recklessly from side to side. I saw wash and go’s, French braids, flat twists, cornrows and yes, baby Afros.

And can we give a steady Amen to the sistas dancing in the video? The dancing is aggressive, abrasive, coarse and unabashedly necessary to get into formation. “I like my baby hair with baby hair and Afros / I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,” says Beyoncé, and now I can go to heaven for several reasons. Did she say that? Yes she did! And I am here for it ALL. Her daughter, Blue Ivy, and her little ‘fro striking that pose ever so smugly just made my ovaries explode.

3 “More Than a Dreamer.” It was only on your screen for a good .5 seconds. If you think that the “I Have a Dream” speech is the one and only quintessential piece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s oratorical prowess, then my friend, you are sadly mistaken. Look. It. Up. Now.

4 #BlackLivesMatter. I was almost incited to join the chorus as I was watching that little black boy dance freely in front of that wall of police officers with THEIR hands up. When he first flashed across the screen, my heart skipped a beat. That, paired with the imagery of a wall with an inscription that read, “Stop Shooting Us,” almost had me running laps around the house.

The message was already there.However, if there was any room left for innuendo, those three words quickly cut to the chase that #BlackLivesMatter. I saw a vision of my son and my grandsons all in that one moment, moving freely and fearlessly. What a time to be alive.

5 F**k everybody that has a problem with it. Yes black is beautiful, and it is here to stay. So as Beyoncé says “Twirl on these haters.” People fear what they don’t know, yet will rape you for your richness—if you let them.

I am 1000 percent sure, like a paternity test on the Maury Show, that people will criticize this video from the back, front, and side. Beyoncé knows this.That’s the point of the song and video after all, silly rabbit.

People will say that you can have a voice, but it can’t be too loud, that it can’t sound like that, that it can’t have too much bass in it, or that it can’t be too black.

Black makes others uncomfortable after all, and people hate being uncomfortable so f**k ‘em.

Beyoncé’s political art piece gives the culturally unrepentant something to smile about and urges us all to get into formation with our attitudes, baby hair, Afros, Negro noses, collard greens, cornbread, hot sauce conveniently stored in our bags, country roots, slayage, bounce music, cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster, and black Bill Gates goals.

In her words, “You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation. Always stay gracious. Best revenge is your paper.”

Stay black.

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Aziza Jackson is a native Californian born in Los Angeles and raised in Los Angeles and Oakland. Equipped with her AP Stylebook, Aziza has braved the tough wilderness of rural Alabama, saving lives, and kissing babies all while writing about, advocating for, and connecting with east Alabama residents through the wonderful world of public relations and community outreach. She has served as a compelling storyteller, austere copy editor, social media guru, rigid gatekeeper, creative project manager, marketing whiz, and human encyclopedia in some special cases. She also writes for The Oakland Tribune, and in her spare time likes to write her bios in third person. Don't judge her, it's her journey. "Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light." --Joseph Pulitzer