Beyonce just dropped a new single the day before her Super Bowl performance, and the music video for the hit entitled “Formation” does not disappoint. Bey is back on her throne and proclaiming a message of unapologetic blackness that has the Beyhive and the internet fired up.
Set against a backdrop of a flooded New Orleans that conjures up memories of Hurricane Katrina, the video features an all-black cast, all natural-haired dancers, a spray-painted wall reading, “Stop shooting us”, and an intro by Messy Mya and Freedia, who expound on their love of cornbread and collard greens. It goes without saying that the styling and storytelling of the video are complex and powerfully symbolic.
The backdrop of the video itself is significant. By using New Orleans as the setting, she tells a story of rising from disdain to a position of prominence. It is not just the story of New Orleans. It is her story. It is also ours—the story of every black man and woman.
We have come so far as a community. Who knew that our culture would ever become mainstream; that it would eventually inspire mimesis, the highest form of flattery? Remember when only people who were actually from the hood spoke like they were from the hood? Remember when it took a boycott of the Grammy’s by Will Smith and other black artists for Rap to become a recognized music category?
Who knew that Givenchy and Jean Paul Gautier would send baby hairs down the runway as the newest haute couture trend for Fashion Week? Or that Prada, a notoriously whitewashed label would choose black women as the faces of their campaigns two years in a row (Lineisy Montero 2015, Yasmin Wijnaldum 2016)?
We have risen, and we are thriving. We have been defiantly unique, until the world accepted us exactly as we are; until our critics sought to imitate us due to the admiration of this obstinate individuality. This is Beyonce’s proclamation as she sits atop the NOLA police car, surrounded by the dilapidated homes of a city that no one thought would recover from the hurricane that swept it.