Beyonce's Return is a Call to Arms for Black Empowerment
After a year of continued clashes between Black Lives Matters protesters and police, it looks like 2016 is the year that black celebrities are starting to rise up and speak out loud and proud in support of their blackness. In the past few weeks, Usher released a politically charged video with Nas and Bibi Bourelly called “Chains,” and Daye Jack released a video with Bernie’s BFF Killer Mike called “Hands Up.” Both songs contain striking visuals that deal with the epidemic of police violence against people of color. Now, it’s Beyoncé’s turn. In the same weekend that we struggled to get out of bed and do anything productive besides watching the Super Bowl, she slayed the game and started a new movement. Two years after proclaiming her feminism, Queen Bey threw up a middle finger to internalized racism and all criticism against her with her black empowerment anthem “Formation.” From a groundbreaking video to her appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show, Beyoncé has, in one swift moment, reminded the world that black is not only beautiful—it’s also incredibly badass.
Beyoncé’s video is bona fide proof that she’s not fucking around this year. The anthem opens with Messy Mya asking what happened after New Orleans and, judging by the remainder of the video, the answer is a whole lot of shit. Images of a child dancing in front of a line of heavily armored police officers is interspersed with clips of Beyoncé lounging on top of a New Orleans police car that’s slowly sinking into the water. There are shots of her in funeral garb throwing up middle fingers, shots of backup dancers lining up in formation to reassert their black power, and a few adorable shots of Blue Ivy that prove she’s destined for greatness and expert levels of sass. Throughout the song, she sings about “baby hair and afros,” “negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils,” liking “cornbreads and collard greens,” and being “a black Bill Gates in the making.” It’s groundbreaking, a call to arms for Black Lives Matters protesters, and perhaps most importantly, an anthem for black female beauty. As if the powerful video weren’t enough of a shock to our systems, the very next day we were treated to a live appearance by Beyoncé at the Super Bowl that saved the halftime show and continued the call to arms for radical black activism.
In some dark office in an NFL boardroom, the decision was made to have Coldplay—a band with good intentions that still seems to excite only the most granola Birkenstock white boys—perform at this year’s halftime show. Luckily, the NFL execs realized their mistake and added Beyoncé and Bruno Mars for some surprise appearances, culminating in a major moment in black pop culture activism. And yet despite Coldplay and the stubbornly undying force of Bruno Mars, the night was all about Beyoncé. She may have only gotten to perform a few lines of “Formation”, but she still slayed, as did her looks and background dancers. Paying sartorial tribute to Michael Jackson—she wore golden bandoliers similar to the ones he famously wore for his halftime show performance—Bey got her ladies lined up in formation for a shoutout to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers. Clad in all black with striking berets, the women left the rest of the performers in the dust and proved once again that girls run the world.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Beyoncé coverage.