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Many praise Beyoncé for embracing her race, and the power one can harness when making a name and legacy. Many believe that in the era of the movement Black Lives Matter, ‘Formation’ felt downright necessary and was deemed a powerful statement. This song kept hope alive in a time of need and allowed people to relate to a certain concept instead of feeling alone. Beyoncé’s video points out offensive stereotypes directed toward African Americans. Instead of hiding behind these stereotypes, she embraces them while encouraging others to do the same. ‘Formation’ declares the importance of owning one’s identity and being unapologetically black.
Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ was the leading single off her Lemonade album and was released on February 6th, 2016 through Parkwood Entertainment. After the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade album, her audience believed she became more human and more relatable. She is looked at as an untouchable figure, but after the release of ‘Formation’, people began to see that she has struggled with her race and identity like most people. Many believe Beyoncé’s lyrics lack sensitivity toward survivors and traumatic events based on her music video and the alleged anti-police stance. However, Beyoncé denied these allegations, and many praised her for embracing her race, culture, and roots which allowed her the power to encourage younger generations of women of color struggling with their identity. After her performance during the Super Bowl Half Time Show, dissension broke out, “primarily between black and white communities; people were calling it a ‘race-baiting stunt’ of ‘hate speech and racism’”. Many believed that the Super Bowl is strictly a place for football, not political messages. However, others disagreed and believed that Beyoncé’s message accomplished precisely what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for.
Under colorblind culture, the idealized demonstration of race moves toward “ethnic ambiguity” in both aesthetic appearance and cultural displays. The societal shift to “multiracialism is now so marked that some believe the time has come to dismiss race altogether as a useful social indicator”. One of the many offshoots of the “Black Liberation movement is an increased awareness of being black…turning attention to the complexities and glories of Afro-American history, probing the psychology of being black, and seeking the boundaries of black subculture”. The imagery and overtones of Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ and Lemonade album explore this very space by celebrating the application of black culture to appeal to black audiences. Beyoncé’s exaltation of black culture utilizes “what scholars have long referred to as black ‘signifiers’— vernacular and visual inclusions that are generally associated with black communities,” one signifier being the afro hairstyles seen in the music video. Beyoncé publicly embraced feminist blackness at a sensitive time, but revealed her dynamic of power, race, and gender through her lyrics and public appearance.
Beyoncé begins her song by addressing the idea that “y’ all haters corny with that Illuminati mess” about her popular conspiracy theories about the Illuminati. She goes on to say that “my daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana”, and does this in order to embrace her heritage, showing pride in being a black American whose roots stem from both Alabama and Louisiana. Each word in Beyoncé’s song relates back to her heritage, family and what her fame means to her. Beyoncé emphasizes black empowerment by embracing her African American “flaws” and accepting cultural differences.
In the music video Beyoncé is accompanied by suited black men, “the opulent, crimson interior of what looks to be a plantation house is undercut by the rhythmical bouncing of disruptive black bodies”, relating to the concept of slavery and African American’s fight for freedom. Beyoncé is then shown lying on top of a police car beside rising flood waters and sinking houses. 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 would lay our lives down for our black sons, brothers, and husbands – is on full display”. An African American child disarms the policemen through dance, and the camera shot shows a graffiti tag demanding that the police “stop shooting us’ as the boy raises his hands in the air while standing in front of the police (Ball). This imagery relates to the Black Lives Matter Movement by addressing the campaigns against violence and systematic racism towards black individuals.
The song in the video begins with the voice of Messy Mya, a figure in the New Orleans comedy scene, murdered at the age of 22, the question she asks is heard in several ways. The sample “has been construed to have said a number of things, from ‘What happened at the New ‘Wilin’s?’ to ‘What happened after New Orleans?’ emphasizing the concept of Beyoncé’s message about black southern pride”. Within the first minute of the video, Beyoncé addresses her southern roots and uses powerful imagery to praise colored women and their beauty. She uses her daughter, Blue Ivy as imagery with her afro and the Kool-Aid- colored weave. The lyrics “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros” suggests the idea of different black hairstyles and dress as educational technologies. Different hairstyle shown in the video varies from nappy hair, afros, extensions, perms, and cornrows. These hairstyles are meant to celebrate the sense of togetherness in ‘the absence of an organized direction of black political discourse’ where ‘the logic of style manifests across cultural surfaces in everyday life to reinforce the terms of shared experience”. She also owns negro noses and “Jackson 5 nostrils”, features that many still belittle today. Beyoncé expresses the strength, power, and beauty of black women through the lyrics “I dream it, I work hard I grind ’til I own it, I twirl on them haters,” she does this by emphasizing the “continuous life-and-death struggle for survival and liberation”. Beyoncé’s lyrics throughout the song is mostly a social justice anthem that empowers women to work hard in order to achieve their dreams and have pride while doing it. She encourages all women to “get in formation” and battle the sexism and discrimination used against them that they face every day.
While ‘Formation’ does not represent a perfect illustration of feminisms, it reflects the many ways feminism works in the everyday lives of feminist. Beyoncé has celebrated the wins of black women in a time where white feminism and mainstream media often dismiss them. Her recent ‘Homecoming’ movie that has recently been released on Netflix is a perfect example. Beyoncé owns her black femininity and everything that comes along with it while inspiring others to do the same. The use of Beyoncé’s lyrics “I slay, okay, I slay okay, We gon’ slay, slay Gon’ slay, okay We slay, okay,” unifies all black women as a call to arms, emphasizing the idea of a moving assembly of ethnically authentic parts. The album and its accompanying music videos lead to discussions of marriage, motherhood, reproductive justice, and queer and trans politics. Beyoncé’s ability “to create narratives and metaphors that hit home for black trans and women who came to slay but are still trying to break free from generational suffering caused by slavery, imperialism, and misogynoir” was a starting place for young black women to begin to unpack their traumas and articulate new black feminist politics. People argue that “black feminism should follow Beyoncé’s lead by recognizing sexuality as a resource to embrace rather than deny and offer space for black women to creatively reinvent our genders, pleasures, and alliances in unexpected ways”. Beyoncé reiterates that to be a black feminist a person has to “stay gracious” and that the “best revenge is your paper” by emphasizing the idea that you have to feel empowered no matter who tries to knock you down and never apologize for your race and gender.
Beyoncé is regularly looked at as a power icon and symbol for people of color. She does an excellent job of inspiring hope in people while portraying positive messages through her lyrics. Beyoncé is the epitome of black power, who can not only bring colored people together, but can hold an audience in front of all races. Beyoncé is fierce and powerful and the lyrics “I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making” indicate her wealth and enforce the idea that a colored woman can be as successful as a white man who is known as one of the wealthiest men in the world. She believes she has the power to change the world because she knows people are listening. Beyoncé considerably is one of the greatest pop icons of all time due to the creation and idea that women can and will run the world. She is continuously praising women and always acknowledging their strength, beauty, and integrity. Through her lyrics and messages while on stage, she supports and applauds the female community for being smart, strong, and independent.
Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ amplified the fact that she is a cultural force, artist and icon. She pays attention to her generation’s movements and is always aware of what is going on in the real world, unlike a lot of modern-day pop stars. She is affected by the events in the world and works hard to try and make a change, through her lyrics and performances. Beyoncé’s video amplifies her personal and professional success while emphasizing her ethnic-feminism, power, and identity through political instances.
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