Music is nothing without meaning behind the message. Music is a display of an artist’s ability to showcase the world a bit of what’s happening in the current time. The day before her Super Bowl performance this past Sunday, Beyoncé broke the internet once again with her latest video “Formation.” With it being Black History Month, it displays some of the harsh realities of African Americans from the past few years. What’s also important to note is the day would’ve been Trayvon Martin’s 21st birthday and also the day before Sandra Bland’s birthday.
“Formation” visually takes place in Louisiana where Hurricane Katrina took place. The video shows Beyoncé’s daughter rocking an afro hairstyle. She mentions she likes her daughter’s hair in that manner saying “I like baby hair, with baby hair and afros.” I think it’s important to speak up for how she sees her child. Not that she has to say anything to anyone about how she chooses to have her daughter’s hair. But, she has never openly addressed the public about criticism of how she does her daughter’s hair. Even when at some point, an online petition for her to comb her daughter’s hair came out to the public. The afro hairstyle is portrayed a bit further when her backup dancers rock the same hairstyle while dancing in an empty swimming pool and street.
The video shows a black boy wearing a hoodie and dancing in front of police officers. A reminder of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice who was gunned down by police officers because he threatened his community playing with a toy gun. In the background is writing on the wall with a statement all too common to the African American community as of lately: “Stop shooting us.” The message is one of the key messages of the movement “Black Lives Matter.” A movement asking for justice of unfair killings of African American men and women by the hands of police officers. The video shows multiple scenes of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Ending with Beyoncé being completely “drowned” in water, a message possibly hinting at the lack of help from the government following Hurricane Katrina.
What’s just as powerful as the imagery in the video are the lyrics. The song opens with Beyoncé boldly calling her haters out saying, “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess.” Beyoncé has been called out on more than a few occasions about being a part of the Illuminati. She even refers herself as being a black Bill Gates in the making, saying “earned all this money but never take the county out me.” All too many times I hear of celebrities becoming rich and they lose the sense of who they are as a person.
She makes a reference to Red Lobster, maybe another double meaning of Louisiana’s culture. One of the best lines of the song is her reference to what she is mixed with. She says “my daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana you mix that Negro with that Creole make a Texas mama.” These are powerful words because during the 60s all three of those states were key racist states. and because during that time period African-Americans struggled with gaining equality when white prevailed at that time.
“Formation” couldn’t have come out at a better time than in Black History Month. Beyoncé is far from what you would call an activist. But hopefully this song does open up some important discussions –a discussion about the unfair treatment of African Americans when it comes to police officers. We are a long way from any real change if only once in a while a song can display some of the harsh realities of the times. More people from all around the world need to speak up about what’s going on right now in the now. We shouldn’t have to wait for a song to display important messages that are being lived every day. “Formation” is four minutes of what is 24 hours of a day for an African-American man and woman. “Formation” can’t form a change in just one day, it takes the collection of all people to make a true difference. Happy Black History Month to all!