Beyonce’s Formation

Beyonce, Formation I don’t usually do blogs about famous people… unless something they say or do deeply moves me.  Like my post on Cosby.

I like Beyonce’s music. I wouldn’t consider myself a fanatic.  I appreciate her as an artist and have watched her grow from an amazing teenage performer to a self-actualized adult, business owner (she owns herself- all artist/performers don’t own themselves or their work), wife and a mother with her own voice, identity and vision.

After seeing Formation, I was bothered by the discussions surrounding the video.  On one hand, I hate that people are planning boycotts of the NFL for her performance… While not even mentioning, much less boycotting the NFL because it withheld that it has known for years about concussions players were receiving… Which ultimately ruined a lot of lives.  This was my first response.

On the other side of the coin, every woman; black, white and whatever was singing Beyonce’s praises.  I could hear the video playing wherever I went that first day it was released.  The video requires a few views to fully digest it.  Because I don’t watch sports, therefore don’t follow the Super Bowl, I was intrigued when I found out Beyonce was performing at half time.  I was so intrigued, I was having all these discussions with friends who follow sports and asking “didn’t she perform last year?”

I thought I remembered something about what was required for her daughter during her performance…  A heated room and special crib or something. But her daughter is four so maybe it’s been some years. I should also mention I don’t watch T.V.  I still don’t know what teams were in the Super Bowl or the outcome of the game.  But you better believe I’ve seen Beyonce’s halftime performance, a few times.

In any event, as soon as I was sure she was performing my initial reaction was, she’s not going to perform that song.  I thought it would be courageous of her to sing those lyrics in front of all those people.  The fact that she used the word “Negro” was already buzzing on the internet with various reactions.  Not to mention, we’re not just talking the audience there, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest marketing opportunities in America.  Companies pay millions to have their commercials played during the game.  In addition to that, these commercials sometimes have small movie budgets.  So it was a huge deal that she would sing anything relative to the struggles of being a black woman in that space.

Then she did it… I didn’t even know I could be so proud and pleased with a complete stranger or a piece of art… She put the black struggle on the map by simply discussing her own life and concerns.  And I’m also aware that in referring to her expression as art I’m in many ways objectifying her… Making her a commodity… But the reality is, that’s what she is.  And if you recall the end of her video, she seems to have made peace with that by making a good living.

First, let’s define what the purpose of art is.  I think the purpose of art is to inspire, inform, support, anger, sooth and/or reflect the perspectives of the artist and/or time in which it was created.

I didn’t always believe this.  As an artist, I’m always worried about how what I create will be perceived. Recently, I released a collection of poems on love, seeking love and not necessarily love poems, though some are included. I considered writing more poems to balance out the collection. I definitely worried about what I was saying as a black woman about sex, dating and about what I learned about sex… from a cultural perspective.  I definitely contemplated how I would be perceived and judged.  I don’t know it all and definitely felt inadequate selecting poems.  I’m no psychologist, therapist or even someone who has done extensive study on love.  I only have my life experiences.   

Over the years, realizing I am just one voice and feeling my connection to everything and feeling small in that connection I’ve hesitated or completely stopped creating was on my heart.  I had to accept, I, as an artist couldn’t speak for all people, my culture, sex, orientation or even my own family… I accept, I am one voice of many.  Our voices together create a full picture… I also came to the conclusion I needed to speak up or shut up about not seeing myself. I’ve only recently realized how important it is to see myself reflected.

Blue Ivy in her mom's video. Rocking her afro after Beyonce was criticized heavily for not straightening her daughters hair.

Blue Ivy in her mom’s video. Rocking her afro after Beyonce was criticized heavily for not straightening her daughter’s hair. In fact people would say her daughter’s hair wasn’t combed because they don’t understand black hair.

With that being said, I read a lot of period pieces.  I read about the 1800’s and then the 1900’s.  Sometimes I’m comparing fiction written from the 1990’s compared to fiction written as recent as 2015.  Due to technology, communication has changed so drastically it alters how we date, define quality time and accomplish our life goals.  You can go to college online! You can also pay bills, grocery shop and buy everything else without ever leaving your house.  You can even have an office at home and telecommute.  Which keeps us from the break room at work or running into each other at the phone company or mall.  Which keeps us from face to face interactions.  So now people are building meaningful relationships online.

No one book covers all the things going on in the 90’s or 2015.  Each book is a window in time based on those characters, people and that writer.  Through reading, I’ve come to the conclusion that an artist’s responsibility is to speak their own truth and as a collective of artists from that time, they speak the truth of their lifetime. With that being said, I don’t expect any artist to tell all of a story or even my story.  Which in itself is a huge thing, because in so many circles we discuss the need to have more people of color, more women, more LGBT, more full figured women, more immigrant and etc stories be told.  I took on the responsibility to tell my own story and tell the stories I think need to exist…

From a critical stand point, I view artists as spirits first… We are all universes within ourselves… Dealing with our own issues and weighing them within the context of our life experiences and knowledge.  One of my favorite quotes is, “What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.”  We are all growing and in different stages of life.  What speaks to me may be ignored by someone else.  

I was really proud of Beyonce when I saw the video.  I didn’t even know how to respond there were so many things I loved about the video.  In order to fully appreciate this work, one can’t come with all of their expectations.  I didn’t bring all my issues as a full figured, black, queer, female artist.  I didn’t bring all of my needs as an activist.  I came as a person who loves art and is always seeking inspiration, a new thought, a new awareness, information, affirmation, motivation, meditation… But I don’t expect any one piece of art work to be all those things… I’m grateful if it’s even one of those things.  When a piece of art is neither, I often ask myself who does this piece of work speak to, for?     

From a critical stand point, I recognize artists are human.  Limited in their own perspective. I include myself in that… With that being said, how could Beyoncé say or create anything that was not sobered by her own life experiences? She speaks of and sees herself as Creole and black… Another black woman expressed disappointment regarding Beyonce’s ethnic/racial history.  Whether the way Beyonce identifies herself is problematic for another woman of color or not, it is still Beyonce’s truth. However one feels about someone’s truth, is their own issue.  No matter how they justify it.

Beyonce often catches a lot of flack for being a black woman at the top of her industry. She is often portrayed as someone who has abandoned black people and their issues to avoid controversy and remain famous. So this portrayal of herself and her view of the world in this song and video is revolutionary… It is so revolutionary, she is being boycotted… and again, thrown under the bus.

I feel like no matter what, she can’t win.  She mentions Black Lives Matter, and it becomes a marketing ploy… But she is a black woman and that movement belongs to her, too.  Her relationship to it is her own.   No one can say how she should be an activist.  It was refreshing to read stop shooting us… and to see a child in a hoodie dancing before the cops.

Sidenote: If we stopped focusing on how other people are activist and considered how we could use our own gifts we’d all be that much further as a community.

I think all art even in it’s hatred, love, ignorance, support is beautiful… All art is reflective of the time and the life span of the people who lived when it was created.  Artist simply need to create. As artist, if we see a void, we balance the perspective by creating more art to add to the over all conversation… I’m kind of grateful that she used her influence to speak about racism and the condition of black people here in America, to an international audience. I am grateful that this video will become part of the overall discussion on the treatment and view of black people all over the world.

Here is the video, which I’m sure you’ve seen, and the lyrics below it.  I always read song lyrics when I love something. I want to know if it aligns with how I’m feeling the beat. Just being real.  If the beat doesn’t move me, I’m less interested.  In fact, I love so many instrumentals and jazz tunes, which have no words.

I think it’s important to think about how black women and women in general are considered commodities in the music business.  There is a song that actually says, “I want the money, the cars, the clothes, the hoes.  I just want to be successful.” So when Beyonce talks about taking a man shopping for giving her good sex… She is owning her own sexuality. She is reversing the roles… I don’t know that matriarchy is any better than patriarchy but it’s definitely a break from business as usual.

[Intro: Messy Mya]
What happened at the New Orleans?
Bitch, I’m back by popular demand

[Refrain: Beyoncé]
Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess
Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh
I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress (stylin’)
I’m so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces
My daddy Alabama, Mama Louisiana
You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama
I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros
I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils
Earned all this money but they never take the country out me
I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag

[Interlude: Messy Mya + Big Freedia]
Oh yeah, baby, oh yeah I, ohhhhh, oh, yes, I like that
I did not come to play with you hoes, haha
I came to slay, bitch
I like cornbread and collard greens, bitch
Oh, yes, you besta believe it

[Refrain: Beyoncé]
Y’all haters corny with that illuminati mess
Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh
I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress (stylin’)
I’m so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces
My daddy Alabama, Mama Louisiana
You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama
I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros
I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils
Earned all this money but they never take the country out me
I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag

[Chorus: Beyoncé]
I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it
I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it
I twirl on them haters, albino alligators
El Camino with the seat low, sippin’ Cuervo with no chaser
Sometimes I go off (I go off), I go hard (I go hard)
Get what’s mine (take what’s mine), I’m a star (I’m a star)
Cause I slay (slay), I slay (hey), I slay (okay), I slay (okay)
All day (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay)
We gon’ slay (slay), gon’ slay (okay), we slay (okay), I slay (okay)
I slay (okay), okay (okay), I slay (okay), okay, okay, okay, okay
Okay, okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Prove to me you got some coordination, cause I slay
Slay trick, or you get eliminated

[Verse: Beyoncé]
When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay
When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay
If he hit it right, I might take him on a flight on my chopper, cause I slay
Drop him off at the mall, let him buy some J’s, let him shop up, cause I slay
I might get your song played on the radio station, cause I slay
I might get your song played on the radio station, cause I slay
You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making, cause I slay
I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making

[Chorus: Beyoncé]
I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it
I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it
I twirl on my haters, albino alligators
El Camino with the seat low, sippin’ Cuervo with no chaser
Sometimes I go off (I go off), I go hard (I go hard)
Take what’s mine (take what’s mine), I’m a star (I’m a star)
Cause I slay (slay), I slay (hey), I slay (okay), I slay (okay)
All day (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay)
We gon’ slay (slay), gon’ slay (okay), we slay (okay), I slay (okay)
I slay (okay), okay (okay), I slay (okay), okay, okay, okay, okay
Okay, okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Prove to me you got some coordination, cause I slay
Slay trick, or you get eliminated

[Bridge: Beyoncé]
Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, I slay
Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation
You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation
Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper

[Outro]
Girl, I hear some thunder
Golly, look at that water, boy, oh lord

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