A Non-Definitive, Unranked List of the Blackest Moments in Beyoncé’s Formation Video

 

“I did not come to play with you hoes.  I came to slay bitch.” -Big Freedia

If you don’t live under a rock, you are aware that Beyoncé just dropped a new song and video (the song is free from TIDAL). Smarter minds than mine agree that this may be her Blackest project yet. So I’ve decided to sit down and try to comb through the Blackness.

 

Image from Formation Video

Image from Formation Video

NOLA

  • No one can say that Beyoncé is not proud of her Creole heritage.  New Orleans serves as the backdrop of this visually moving masterpiece.  NOLA as a city, is Black as Hell.  We are reminded of this through Mardi Gras traditions, food, music, and their unique history. Beyoncé shows us this Blackness through numerous shots of NOLA’s people, and reminds us that it was the city’s Black residents that were left to starve and drown after Hurricane Katrina.
Image from Formation video

Image from Formation video

 

The Black Church

Image from Formation video

Image from Formation video

  • Needs no explanation.

 

The Plantation:

  • Slaves built America, and are responsible for much of the country’s wealth.  Despite this, the US government, acting as an arm of White supremacy, has systematically blocked Black Americans from accessing America’s bounty. Many Plantation houses still stand in the South, relics of America’s not so distant past.  Beyoncé and her legion on Black dancers stormed into this manifestation of White wealth and power and came to slay. I hope those slave owners are rolling around in their gotdamn graves over these fly ass Black women twerking in their damn house. *

 

The Wig Shop:

  • Now we know what happened with all of the wigs Beyoncé snatched when her surprise album dropped.  She put them in a wig shop in New Orleans.  She had those Black girls with fly weaves/wigs look at that camera and dare you to call them ratchet.  Dared you to say their hair was ghetto, while Kylie Jenner got to be a trendsetter.
Image from Formation video

Image from Formation video

 

Big Freedia:

  • Thank you Beyoncé for putting me on to Big Freedia.  When Big Freedia says: “I did not come to play with you hoes.  I came to slay bitch.”  I got my entire life.  Formation is a call to arms.  Black women have been the backbone of racial justice movements in America since Harriet Tubman.  Black women are not here to play games.  We are here to GET SHIT DONE. Further, queer Black people (men and women) have routinely been pushed further to the margins, so Black, cis, hetero men can be the focus of the movement. By using voiceovers from Big Freedia and Messy Mya, footage from That B.E.A.T., and by centering Black women and girls in her video, she tells us that she knows that the pillars of the movement who have been pushed to the side, and she is bringing us from margin to center (see what I did there).  And Big Freedia, I too like cornbread and collard greens BITCH.

 

This Man:

Image from Formation video

Image from Formation video

  • This man is familiar to us.  I see men just like him on Crenshaw, on Slauson trying to sell my father and I The Final Call (which we sometimes buy), sell us bean pies (which we always buy), and spread the word of Louis Farrakhan and the prophet Muhammad.  Black American life is intrinsically linked with Christianity, but we often forget the role Islam has played in the Black struggle.  In “Formation”, Beyoncé chose to recognize this influence and these members of our community.

 

…and of course:

Image from Formation video

Image from Formation video

 


 

It’s incredibly hard to put into words how much this video means to me, someone who has continually struggled with my Black identity and does not easily fit into cultural molds of Blackness. Maybe I will never be able to write an in-depth piece about the video.  Maybe I can write something truly amazing and it will be published.  In the meantime, here is Zandria on New South Negress, whose analysis I could never even come close to.

Beyoncé has been a part of my life since elementary school, when I brought my CD player to recess and me and my friends choreographed pieces to Destiny’s Child.  Over a decade ago Beyoncé was teaching me that I could slay.

 

* I do not know for sure if Beyoncé and her team shot at a plantation, but that is how I interpreted the imagery.

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