How Beyoncé Slayed Black History Month: A Visual Analysis

If being that bitch is defined by “causing all this conversation”, Beyoncé is most definitely that bitch. Conversations on SNL, in comment sections, from Rolling Stones to Wendy Williams, Bey is a hot topic since the eve of the Super Bowl when she released her new hit single “Formation”.

At this point, unless you have been living under a rock- or are a grad student who never sees the light of day- you must have heard all kinds of conversation around Beyoncé’s “Formation”. “It’s racist”, “It’s the second wave of Black Panthers” “it’s uncomfortable to listen to it” “it’s feeding into black stereotypes” (re: “I like corn bread and collard greens bitch oh yes! You best a believe it!”).

I must confess, I have never been much of a Beyoncé fan at all. I have always argued that she was simply a business woman and entertainer who stood for nothing. She sang about feminism, or any other political issue only if it brought in the dollars, but never really believed for anything outside the studio. While this song still remains in the confinement of the studio and the stage, let’s assume that Bey chooses to stay in her lane and stick to what she is good at, i.e music, to take a stance. So here is how in 4min 53 seconds, Beyoncé wove messages into her music, making a statement of over 50 years of black history. OK ladies (and gentlemen), now let’s get in formation.

All black

Black Panthers 50th Anniversary: In October of 1966, in Oakland California, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Beyoncé replicating their all black attire in addition to berets and the Black Power fist at the Super Bowl performance and simultaneously mirroring the gold embellishment across the front in tribute to Michael Jackson was a tribute to black excellence over the last five decades – and overtone overload.

Panthers on parade at Free Huey rally in Defermery Park (named by the Panthers Bobby Hutton Park) in West Oakland.beyonce

Black Culture

The beat drops to begin the song at a quick glance of a man with lit grillz, shortly followed by another twerking in front of a mirror. Throughout the video, we see. Bey is reclaiming black culture and owning it. As Hunger Game’s Amandla Stenberg put it, “What if we [Americans] loved black people as much as black culture?” After the fury over Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift using black women as twerking props in their music videos, and other non-black artists and celebrities such as Iggy Azalea and the Kardashians robbing black culture at their convenience, Beyoncé reclaims the braids, the afros and even the wigs at the hair shop.

music video beyonce formation

Black Stereotypes

So now that Bey has claimed them, there is no using stereotypes of black culture to offend black culture. Get it? If someone says “you have a large nose, “and you already know and accept the size of your nose, the intended offense is lost. Bey showed the ratchet, the classy, the classic, the modern. She discussed the hot sauce, the nostrils, the baby hair, Red Lobster, Jordan’s while showing Mardi Gras festivities, black churches and basketball players. While I’m sure you can think of a lot more stereotypes.

Black Lives Matter

Mic beyonce identities poc black lives matter

This is the part that had me choked up. Overall the video theme is questioning what the American government did for the people of New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina. Furthermore, the little black boy dancing innocently in front of a row of police officers, and the officers raising their hands along with the boy suggests peace – not violence – between black civilians and police officers. The camera then glances over graffiti Stop Shooting Us. Is that too “outrageous” to ask?

Perhaps the sinking police car isn’t an insult to the police departments, but instead a demonstration of us all going down together if the violence persists. Note Beyoncé herself subsides with the vehicle at the sound of gun shots at the end of the video.

Black Empowerment

The video takes everything “negative” about blackness in mainstream media and affirms it with a black voice, asserting black identity in America. With this video, Bey conveys that this is how some black people may look and dress and talk and act, but we are here to get what is ours. African Americans have the right to pursue the American dream, and they too work hard (“grind”) until its theirs. What’s so uncomfortable with having the next Bill Gates be black?

The TimingFormation_BlackPanthers-DailyMailUK

Why the Super Bowl? You ask. No better time, I say, for her to perform her politically-entrenched hit when the world is watching. This left the message with the black and non-black alike, enclosed in the gift of half-time entertainment. Another great thing about the timing? It’s black history month, so hey!

The Conclusion

Beyoncé wins black history month, addressing the political, cultural, historical and contemporary state of blackness in America in less than 5 minutes. Bow down bitches.

And if you haven’t seen it, watch the music video below and then go back and reread this article.



Did you like this article? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Are you following us on Facebook yet? Please do so we can keep you updated on everything millennial and youthful and cool. We aim to inform, entertain and inspire and you can find all those goodies on my Instagram and Twitter too. See you there 🙂

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest twenty-something tips and tricks right to your inbox.

I swear you're going to love us. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.