Okay Ladies, Now Let's Get In Formation
Beyonce stopped the world right on its axis this weekend with the release of her single Formation engulfed in self-love, blackness, and revolution. These major themes are then reinforced by the Superbowl’s 50th halftime performance which, coincidentally, aligns with the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Black Panther Party. As her dancers stomp across the grass with vigor dressed in black berets and black militant outfits to match, Beyonce instructs them to get in formation as it is time for us to become “young black bill gates in the making.”
Now that we’ve had time to recover, it is only fitting that we take a look at 10 important moments we might have missed that made the video to Formation revolutionary.
1. Beyonce embraces black queerness with the inclusion of Messy Mya and Big Freedia
The track opens up with a spliced version of a video of New Orleans' very own Anthony Barre aka Messy Mya a genderqueer person who asks the question, "What happened at the New Wil'ins?" Here we see the late Mya asking the question of what exactly happened in NOLA as all the black members of the community were left to fend for themselves after Katrina.
The interlude splices together another Messy Mya soundbite as the don dada of NOLA Bounce music, Big Freedia is introduced delivering perhaps the most memorable line of the record (I didn't come to play with you hoes/I came to slay b****).
As the video focuses on blackness through the lens of the South and New Orleans it's admirable for the Queen to make space for otherwise marginalized groups that are from the very town she chooses to pay homage to. While simultaneously honoring her own culture ( her mom has ties to Louisiana) she makes sure that when she creates spaces to speak about blackness and all which that entails, she makes sure to include all black folk. That is to be celebrated.
2. The MLK Newspaper
There is a brief moment in the video where a man holds up a paper dated January 26, 2016 and reads: "The Truth: More than a Dreamer- What is the real legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and why was a revolutionary recast as an acceptable Negro Leader?"
This opens up spaces for discussions on the facts often left out when we speak about MLK every year ( FYI: The government killed him. They were tried and convicted of his murder. Look it up).
3. Introduction to African Designer Loza Maleombho
The world is introduced to the Côte d'Ivoire designer Loza Maleombho as the background actor in one of the scenes is donning the creations of the lovely designer. There are not nearly enough African designers who get their due diligence in the high fashion circuit. Hopefully, Loza's garment placed in Formation opens up the door for non-white designers to gain some traction in the fashion industry.
4. Representation Matters
Bey meticulously features a wide array of dancers in her major dance shots of different skin colors ensuring that all the little black girls who will in turn watch the video get a chance to see themselves in the video. This phrase that is often thrown around a lot in the media space, representation matters, isn't just a hashtag. It is important that people of all colors, shapes, creeds and religious affiliations see themselves represented in mainstream media so that they too may be reminded that they are first class citizens of the world.
5. Black Women in the House
Bey alongside director Melina Matsoukas concocted a shot in which Beyonce is sitting in what appears to be a plantation style home alongside a few other black women. Perhaps Bey is reclaiming the idea that black folk belong in the field and not in the house... hmm?
6. Cop Car Drowning
Throughout the narrative you see Beyonce perched atop a NOLA police car submerged in water. Again, you have Beyonce pointing out that as New Orleans, particularly in the ghettos of the city, suffered as the government did little to help those in need. The final shot is perhaps one of the most visually jarring as we see Bey lay on top of the car as she slowly drowns in the waters around her.
7. The B.E.A.T documentary scenes
Almost immediately after the release of the music video on the interwebs, director Melina Matsoukas is accused of stealing footage from Abteen Bagheri's 2014 SXSW selection entitled, The B.E.A.T. that highlights New Orleans' queer culture and bounce music. The producer of the film Chris Black claims that Bagheri never gave any sort of clearance to use the shots which include the home submerged in water, exterior shots of NOLA, and bounce dancers, which can be seen in Formation. All is resolved when Bey's camp releases a statement saying,"The documentary footage was used with permission and licensed from the owner of the footage. They were given proper compensation. The footage was provided to us by the filmmaker’s production company. The filmmaker is listed in the credits for additional photography direction. We are thankful that they granted us permission."
Hey, all this mix-up made us watch ( and fall in love with) Bagheri's film.
8. Beauty Supply Store
Nothing brings more joy to a black girl than seeing these black girls shopping in their local beauty supply store rocking rainbow colored hair looking unbothered.
9. Little Boy in Front of Cops
Let us just take in these images. Here we have a little boy wearing a hoodie a la Trayvon Martin dancing in front of a full on squad of police officers who do not go and shoot this young boy but, in turn, put their hands up. And if this imagery is lost on you we have the brick wall spray painted with the phrase, "stop shooting us." I mean. ALL THE FEELS. AT ONCE.
10. Blue Ivy
"I like my baby's hair with baby hair and afros." Enough said.
What was your fave scene from the music video? Any moments we didn't point out? What feelings did Formation bring up for all my black women reading?
Comment below or tweet us at @wowiwrite with all your thoughts :)