I really tried to avoid this, but you all have left me with no choice.
As you are probably aware, Beyoncé released “Formation” this past weekend (at 4 pm on a Saturday), and forever cemented the fact that we will never be able to sleep soundly as long as she is around as she could release a gahtdambt album at any. gahtdambt. time.
Since this fateful Saturday and as Beyoncé predicted in her own song (“You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation”), many a writer, scholar, and Hotep has embarked on writing their own think pieces and leveling critiques at Bey’s newest piece. Some have been hits. Some have been misses.
However, we are gathered here today because one of them in particular, Black Girl Dangerous’s latest piece (which I am not linking here because it is such a reach that it could potentially be in another galaxy) was a huge miss. And we need to talk about it.
We need to talk about this obsessive criticism that surrounds Bey regarding the images of New Orleans and the separation of the lyrics of the song from the video.
Katrina is the single biggest tragedy and reminder of Black trauma and pain, in recent memory. We ALL share in that pain, none more than the natives of my beloved city. It’s why, while we don’t fuck with Kanye and his anti-Black woman ass anymore, him saying that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” back in 2005 was poignant. He didn’t say that Bush doesn’t care about Black folks in New Orleans in particular. It was Black folks, full stop. And you know, if you replace that “George Bush” with America, that particular criticism still rings true.
I need everyone engaging in this discourse to remember that we cannot talk about the environmental racism in Flint without talking about Katrina, which leads to the question, which one of these critics was revisiting the aftermath of Katrina a decade later, prior to the release of “Formation”? Who? Which one of you scholars that are surgically dissecting this video was doing it?
Do I even need to mention the fact that the footage was legally obtained from another documentary (which was not produced by artists native to New Orleans), is there a hypercritical lens for that? Who criticized Spike Lee in this manner? Did he have more of a right to tell your stories than you? How can you honestly deliver a criticism rife with strawman arguments to center yourself in a discussion about all of our Blackness, all of our pain, all of our tragedy? Do you understand that by your logic non-Flint residents cannot speak about Flint because that isn’t their story to tell either?
The imagery in “Formation” isn’t meant to make you feel good about Katrina, or Flint, or the gruesome violence committed by the state. It is meant to start a conversation about the people who watched their entire world sink into the deep abyss, it’s about residents that starved after the storm passed, the ones that are still displaced, that have been forgotten. It is a criticism of the state’s continual abysmal failure to protect Black residents from preventable tragedies, ALL OVER THIS NATION. It is a criticism of state-sanctioned violence, of its’ impunity at every turn. Yet many of you seemed to be making leaps and bounds of mental gymnastics to see a small part of the Black tragedy as it applies only to you and not the whole. Katrina is a collective tragedy on Black conscience, the heartache of which is felt today, but since it’s business as usually this Lent, there seems to be no discussion other than your shitty critique of a socially conscious Black woman.
As for the lyrics of this dope ass track the do not need to be and cannot be separated from the video. The release of the video ensures that it will be forever ingrained as the anthem of Black people being their best Vanta Black selves. It is meant to be seen this way.
In fact, “Formation” above all is a celebration of Black southern culture. There is absolutely no way to celebrate Black southern culture without including New Orleans.
And by that same vein, there is no way to include NOLA without pointing out the injustices done to them via Katrina. Anyone arguing otherwise is being disingenuous and grasping for straws.
Don’t mind me, though. I’ll be in the corner minding my Black ass business, playing “Formation” for the 2,012,978,317th time.
Images From: Lipstick Alley, Tumblr, Storify, Giphy, Zimbio
***Wicked Womanist is a guest writer. She is a former virgin, c-span addict, avid reader, die-hard Saints fan, and a lover of caffeine, chocolate and booze.
***Written in conjuction with Lex Luther.