A celebration of black love. A celebration of black queer love. A celebration of self love. A celebration of carefree black girls and their magic. The ability to tap into culture effortlessly and fearlessly. The ability to capture what a song feels and sounds like.
The grass is sometimes greener. This grass has me thinking “should i drop everything and become an animator/comic artist/visual development artist who draws insanely fast, with the perfect balance of simplicity”.
Using footage from the 2013 New Orleans documentary That B.E.A.T as its backdrop, “Formation” is both a personal and political statement about repression and a celebration of black life in America. As a splendid videographic gumbo of New Orleans’s inimitable multiple identities of southern blackness told from Queen Bey’s perspective, we see black women front and center — from sisters with Afros in stylized Black Panther outfits to the several archetypical Southern black women Beyoncé morphs into.
Been trying to keep it together, but a couple weeks ago I lost my job & unfortunately I haven’t been able to secure anything else. I owe part of my rent still, and have back bills now for February. Asking for support, in whichever way it can be provided, in helping me through this rough patch.#InShallah
Also I hear honestly sad things like “she can’t afford the medicine she needs, right now it’s like $2,000 a month. So they’re trying to see which Republican candidate will make healthcare better…which is just a disaster.” Like no shit?! Republicans never cared about your meds my dude! It’s incredible but rich people really do hate queers and black people and immigrants more than they like getting proper healthcare
Beyonce Gets Political, and I Get Snatched Bald: An Overview of Themes and Motifs in the Formation Music Video
It is important that you know, I am not even a Beyonce stan like that. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the post I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced of Jacob Marley’s death before the play began, then there would be nothing remarkable about him showing up at his “business” partner’s house to bitch him out in the middle of the night.
It’s also important to note that Beyonce usually doesn’t go in for this sort of thing. She’s not really the Artist/Activist type. This video is the most political she has ever gotten, and I swear it took the convergence of Black Lives Matter, Black History Month, Mardis Gras, a Nat Turner Rebellion movie, the blatant disrespect of casting a white man to play Michael Jackson, and all the planets to bring us this blessing. Many have said Formation is the phrase, “I love my blackness, and yours.” given physical form. It is all that and more.
This opening line prepares us for the realness to come
Let’s start with the fact that Formation features a voice over by Big Freedia the Queen Diva of NOLA Bounce. If you don’t know Bounce music, or you don’t know Big Freedia–and if you don’t know Bounce, you won’t know Big Freedia–let me direct you to Youtube so you can educate yourself. I recommend you start with Excuse, and Y’all Get Back Now. Big Freedia also has a very nice feature in Ru Paul’s Peanut Butter.
All throughout this video we are treated to imagery from Black queer culture, from Big Freedia’s voice-over, to dancers, to queens just slaying in the beauty shop. Again, if you are unfamiliar with the richness of Black queer culture, I direct you to the internet, because there’s just too much to explain. Start with Paris Is Burning on Netflix and go from there I guess? Like, literal books have been written and it is too big an undertaking for me alone. But Formation is an anthem for Black Femmes as much as it is for Blackness in general.
Beyonce heard all y’all talking that shit about “Why is her hair always done, but she can’t make sure her baby’s hair is done?” Uh, because Blue is a child, and that is her NATURAL HAIR, and she clearly is ROCKING IT.
In fact, this video features A WEALTH of natural hair, textured hair, weaves, perms, braids, Black hair in general.
Note: Baby hairs are small, fine, wispy hairs on your hairline that your mother would brush or gel in a specific way. If you don’t know what a baby hair is, ask a Black person, or someone with “ethnic” hair (gag).
In fact, every single person in this video is Black except for the cops.
And let’s talk about that scene
A little black boy dancing his heart out in front of a line of cops in riot gear,
and the cops put their hands up. YES YES YES YES YESYEYSYESYES!!!!!
Please note the multiple nods to Majorette culture (okay ladies, now let’s get in formation, prove to me you got some coordination, slay trick or you get eliminated) which is very southern.
Formation is very southern
From Southern Gothic imagery
to people dressed for Mardis Gras
To the scenes with people dressed in 19th century Creole garb, in their parlors, with fans.
Now let’s examine some of the lyrics:
My Daddy Alabama, Mama Louisiana
This is more than a statement about Beyonce’s roots. The vast majority of Black Americans can trace their ancestry to the South, after many of us moved to northern cities in the Great Migration. To this day, the majority of Black people in the US live in the South. I’m a New Yorker for generations back on either side, but guess what? The family reunion each year is held in Virginia, because that’s where my people come from.
I like my negro nose and Jackson Five nostrils
There has literally never been a more full-throated, stalwart, stark as hell positive affirmation of Blackness in mainstream, popular media since the original Black Is Beautiful movement in the 60′s. Maybe not since the Harlem Renaissance? I predict In a few years, people will be inverting their contours and getting plastic surgery to achieve the coveted Jackson Five nostril. Only by then they’ll rename it something more palatable to the mainstream (Read: white people).
I got hot sauce in my bag
Let me tell you something about my septuagenarian Grandparents: they literally always have a bottle of hot sauce in their car. Like many retirees, they like to travel, take cruises, do old people stuff. Never have they ever gone anywhere without a bottle of hot sauce. Never has my grandfather been in a restaurant and not requested hot sauce–even though he always has his own.
As I type this, I have a bottle of hot sauce on my night stand, next to my bed. Why? Because I put that shit on everything, and it’s just more convenient to keep it handy. I put hot sauce on pepperoni pizzas. Sometimes I sip out of the hot sauce bottle like it’s a fine wine.
I make all this money, but they’ll never take the country out me
A reminder to never forget your roots, a statement about preserving your identity under the pressures of assimilation, or commentary on respectability politics–no matter how much money you make, how famous you become, you’ll always be Black to the powers that be? Trick question. It’s all three
BLACK AS HELL
Note: Red Lobster is known to be the de-facto Black date night restaurant. I have no idea why.
All of this culminates in Beyonce, sprawled atop a NOLA police car, sinking into the flood waters of Katrina. She metaphorically drowns the police in a flood caused by the colossal abdication of responsibility by those in power at the expense of the disenfranchised. She is prostrated on the symbolic corpse of the oppressor as it is subsumed by water.
I Literally Can Not.
Other images that made me want to praise dance:
Black man riding a horse down the street. Little known fact, Black people were some of the first cowboys in the American west. For the most famous example, see the actual man The Lone Ranger is based off of.
The newspaper with the picture of Martin Luther King and front page headline that read, “More Than A Dreamer.” A reference to the #ReclaimMLK movement, which is about countering the sanitized, white-washed, commodified version of his message with the reality of his radicalism.
The fact that the portraits on the walls of the mansion are of Black women
“‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ definitely is an acronym,” Monae explains during an interview at Fuse HQ. “It’s for those who are marginalized.” She says the “Q” represents the queer community, the “U” for the untouchables, the “E” for emigrants, the second “E” for the excommunicated and the “N” for those labeled as negroid.
“It’s for everyone who’s felt ostracized,” she adds. “I wanted to create something for people who feel like they want to give up because they’re not accepted by society.”
Please add books or essays written by Black and/or POC Queer and Trans* writers (fiction and non-fiction) and books or essays written about the Black Queer and Trans* experience.
Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology by E. Patrick Johnson (Editor), Mae G. Henderson
Aberrations In Black: Toward A Queer Of Color Critique by Roderick A. Ferguson
Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?”by Cathy Cohen(PDF)
Death and Rebirth of a Movement:Queering Critical Ethnic Studies by Cathy Cohen (PDF)
Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States (Queer Ideas/Queer Actionby Andrea J. Ritchie
Mutha Is Half a Word: Intersections of Folklore, Vernacular, Myth, and Queerness in Black Female Culture by L.H. Stallings
Black Queer Identity Matrix: Towards An Integrated Queer of Color Framework (Black Studies & Critical Thinking: Lgbt Studies)by Sheena C. Howard
Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African American Fiction by Don Weise
Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender by Mia McKenzie
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries: Survival, Revolt, and Queer Antagonist Struggle (PDF) A compilation of historical documents, interviews, and critical analyses of STAR, a group of street queens in early 70s New York City who self-organized for survival and revolt. Contained within are pamphlets distributed by STAR, as well as interviews with and speeches by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Additionally, we are excited to include a critical essay by Ehn Nothing on STAR’s legacy, the enemies of queer insurrection, and the war against gender.
Decolonizing Trans/gender 101 by b. binaohan A short, accessible disruption of the hegemonic and imperial aspirations of white trans/gender theory. it seeks to remedy the reductive (and, thus, violent erasure) nature of trans/gender 101s that seek to explicate (but really construct) a white trans/gender discourse assumed to have universal legitimacy. a legitimacy that has widespread implications and consequences far beyond the borders of whiteness.