‘’You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation’’.
Beyonce, whom I have never cared about before Sunday the 7th of February 2016, says this sentence in the penultimate line of her latest song, the internet-breaking, think-piece-detonating, black-blood-sanctifying anthem ‘’Formation’’. I am not going to try and convince anybody who doesn’t get the hype, or like this song and those who are critical of the video to like it because I’m deeply lodged in the formation and I don’t care. I don’t care because I’m twerking. I’m twerking in my underwear, twerking in the bathroom, twerking in the kitchen, I’m using walls to support me while I take twerk breaks on my way to twerking in my room. Since this song and music video rinsed my spirit last Sunday, I have been watching myself twerk in front of every reflective surface I can find because for the first time in my life, I have surrendered my prior judgments and dedicated dismissals of Beyonce – to dive into and do manifold laps in Bey Juice. This might be a short-lived moment because she might return to the part of my brain that is indifferent to her on any other day but for the moment, I am fully embracing this cultural moment and a song that makes me flare my nostrils with pride the more times I listen to it.
As a black woman, I personally needed the world’s greatest pop star to amplify the conversation on blackness, black beauty, black feminism, black history and to choreograph a confrontation of white supremacy to a sick beat. After watching it for the first time, I didn’t think anything, I just felt an indescribable joy that resides somewhere and everywhere in these four words: Thank God I’m Black! I’m not even African American. I’ve never had Red Lobster, my hair isn’t soft enough to have baby hairs and I don’t know what a bama is but I’m drinking that Kool-Aid because I’m black and I happen to live in a society that doesn’t like it when black girls get together to celebrate themselves alone.
As a columnist, I don’t quite know how to write about Beyonce because until this point, I have not paid attention to her music nor found a place for her to fit into the things that I care about – feminism, deconstructing racism and cultivating alternative economic models to capitalism. As a person constantly pre-occupied with the many ways black people and women are molested in the world — this song and video offers respite, a window of fresh air from the suffocating prism of being woke. It allows me to rest from intellectualizing every element of life so that I can participate in it.
It’s tiring to write about feminism in a society that hates feminism. It’s tiring to write about racism in a society where many people do not truly understand what racism is and how it functions. That doesn’t mean that all caution should go to the left, but just for moment, I’m selfishly enjoying the new sensation of diverting my attention from convincing black people to love their hair and I’m choosing to get into the black girl magic formation and rejoice with those who already do. It’s a matter of survival. Before you develop the armour to fight against those who hate your blackness, you have to learn how to survive in your blackness. For me this song reinforces the self love needed for that survival to flourish.
Those who are, aren’t only losing their minds about this song and video because it’s a work of art and a game changing political statement, at least in America – people are losing their minds because black people around the world really needed this moment to rejoice within the parameters of fighting. This song and video is a pop culture rally, an international toyi-toyi for blackness to keep toyi-toying. In addition to what African Americans are getting from this song, those of us who are the victims of African American culture’s aggressive imperialism on global blackness can embrace this moment because our struggles against racial and economic domination may be different, but our experience of them is the same.
For the students running the F*** Campaign at Wits, the black women who are tired of patriarchy in the student movements, for black people in South Africa in general but especially in the first three weeks of January 2016, for the immigrants suffering in racist attacks in Europe, for the little black girl who doesn’t like her hair, for the guy who uses skin lighteners and is considering rhinoplasty – this song and music video is a powerful homage to the black struggles for mental, spiritual, social and economic liberation. It’s a nod, an ‘’I get it’’ from someone powerful in enough to turn our daily meows against all this shit into a reverberating roar.
Of course the song, the video and the artist are certainly not without their problems. But I am not signing up for the critical thinking lesson on Beyonce today. I am not going to look for a bell hooks lecture on Beyonce’s terrorism to try and deconstruct this moment. I’m tired and I needed a song about pays homage to why I’m tired. I don’t plan to read any of the think pieces out there because I do not believe that this is not a time to think. I’m too lazy and too happy to problematize my enjoyment of this moment. It feels good to take this for what it is – a gift from a pop star, not the answer to our problems.