As fate would have it, I was deep conditioning my natural hair when Beyoncé dropped her world-stopping single, “Formation.”
A link to the video quietly scrolled across my Twitter feed as my coconut oil set, and I was initially stunned into literal silence. Then, my Twitter fingers went to work, attempting to communicate all my emotions.
All I could muster was a bunch of words that amounted to YAS QUEEN.
The five-minute music video shows a black church service, New Orleans bounce references (see: Messy Mya and Big Freedia), Beyoncé atop a sinking cop car and, most viscerally, a black boy in a hoodie dancing in front of a police lineup with their hands up.
“Formation” is a brassy trap song with a multilayered social message, one it would take more than this article to unpack. What stands out, however, is Beyoncé’s unapologetic blackness and her ability to illustrate black feminism in a single flip of her waist-grazing golden braids.
Just because she’s one of the highest paid black women of all time doesn’t mean she can’t keep hot sauce in her bag (swag!) or ignores the social injustices black women still have.
If Black Girl Magic is the movement, then “Formation” is its anthem. Vulture’s Dee Lockett recently touched on the issue, calling the single “a new negro spiritual hymn.” Beyoncé celebrates our wins as black women, in a time where white feminism and mainstream media often dismiss them.
Being a black feminist comes with a host of unique obstacles white feminists have the privilege to ignore, like hashtags dedicated to sons slain at the hands of police.
Similarly, white women are rarely held to the same ass-backwards standards of beauty or ridiculed for their sexuality in the media. Beyoncé owns her black femininity and everything that comes with it, rubbing it in the world’s face.
Within the first minute of the video alone, Bey rattles off her southern negro roots and uses powerful imagery to praise black women’s beauty, like Blue Ivy’s afro and the Kool-Aid-colored weave around the 1:18 mark. Not to mention, she owns negro noses and “Jackson 5 nostrils,” black physical features that many still demean.
The submerging of a police car with Beyoncé on top of it symbolizes the role of black women, historically the forefront and backbone of political movements. Our strength and resilience — to the point that we’d lay our lives down for our black sons, brothers and husbands — is on full display.
In front of Hurricane Katrina waters, might I add.
With lines like, “Earned all this money but they never take the country out me” and an offer to buy her lover Red Lobster, Beyoncé owns what she and so many other black women are at our core: vibrant, country, colorful and confident.
Bey’s not stingy with her compliments, either. After first confirming that she slays, the singer adds that we all slay. She’s unifying black women. Politically, “Formation” is a black woman’s call to arms. It’s a moving assembly of ethnically authentic parts.
To be completely honest, I teared up by my third replay.
With the spiciness of her pocketed hot sauce, Beyoncé reiterates that to be a black feminist is to stay gracious, earn yo’ paper, feel empowered no matter who’s hatin’ and make no apologies for your blackness.
To be a black feminist is to slay all day alongside your sistas.
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