My (Apparently) Obligatory Response to ‘Formation’: In List Form


Our obsession with Black celebrity–and our need to defend it–is undermining our movement.

1. I have actively avoided saying anything about Beyoncé’s new song and video. I don’t think they are interesting, important or deserving of my commentary. That as a Black, queer person I have, in the last week, been expected—and, at moments, obligated—to respond to them is insulting and infuriating.

2. Big Freedia is a force. She was used in this project, barely cited and never seen. Black, trans women have given more to popular culture than almost anyone realizes, while they continue to endure inconceivable violence in obscurity. Sampling their style for aesthetic purposes without attaching their faces is not revolutionary. It isn’t even original.

3. As other queer, southern forces have pointed out this week, Hurricane Katrina is not a sexy backdrop. It was a moment in which this country watched a city of poor Black people drown and stood idly by. It was—eerily like the halftime show—a demonstration of our nation’s capacity for mistaking passive consumption of Black struggle with active participation in Black struggle.

4. Straight, cis people saying “slay” falls on my ear in exactly the same way as white people saying “trill” and “fleek.”

5. Bill Gates isn’t just a rich, white, man. He is one of free market capitalism’s most powerful advocates. His foundation has supported multiple projects that undermine unions, affordable education and public schools. His wealth has worked to privatize and gentrify Black communities across this country. Lyrically lauding his achievements is at best thoughtless, at worst sinister.

6. The appropriation of queer and trans genius by straight, cis people is real. As a queer Black person I feel betrayed by straight, cis, Black people who are celebrating this video instead of defending queer art and culture from corporate ravaging.

7. Backup dancers in pseudo Black Panther garb rang as a flippant, even exploitative play on dated Black power movements. It was an insult to our ancestors, and an inability to recognize the current face of Black power.

8. The racist mayor of Chicago has yet to resign. The people of Flint continue to pay for poisoned water, and face a growingly unchecked police state. The officer who killed Quintonio Legreir is suing his estate for emotional distress. Every new think piece about a music video—including this one—deflect energy and attention away from the demanding work of abolition, adding to our complacency with the structures bearing down on us.

9. Misogyny and racism are real. Beyoncé faces these things. She’ll be okay. She has private security, personal transportation and a ton of money. She doesn’t need us to defend her. But we need to defend each other.

10. Celebration and distraction are not the same thing. Taking time to step back from our difficult realities to rejoice, heal and love together is crucial. Investing in corporate fantasies and confusing them with our movements is detrimental.

11. The image of backup dancers holding a sign for Mario Woods was made possible because Black Lives Matter activists ran onto the field and handed the sign to them. The closest thing to an actual solidarity statement happened because local organizers broke through the spectacle of the Super Bowl, not Beyoncé.

12. Non-Black people cheering the corporatizing of Black power may not understand the urgency of the moment we are in, the need to stay vigilant against the diluting of our movement, and the implications for Black communities if our efforts are overtaken.

13. There is a long history of Black celebrities advocating for Black movements. Eartha Kitt, Muhammad Ali, Lena Horne are folks we think of first as athletes and movie stars, yet who used their celebrity to publicly defy the state and advocate for Black communities, at times at great personal risk, and to the detriment of their careers. Do not compare them to Beyoncé basking in the publicity of a halftime show.

14. Beyonce appeared in a straight-up racist video about a week before ‘Formation’ came out. Yes, anti-Blackness is a real issue in Desi communities. So is orientalism in Black communities. Complex though the interplay, the outcome is the irresponsible treatment of South Asian culture and people. There is nothing defensible about that, and nothing new.

15. The Super Bowl—the same as any high corporate festival—displaces the poor, and leads to heightened policing. This year’s Super Bowl was actively protested by San Francisco’s homeless community. Black, queer organizers who shut down the Bay Bridge in January made active connections between the revenue generated for the city by the Super Bowl, and the need to interrupt its flow. An advocate for Black power would have refused to perform, help shut down the event, or raise up the demands of community. Instead—I don’t at all doubt—Beyoncé was invited in no small part to dissuade the protests city officials feared would disrupt the event.

16. Beyoncé is light-skinned, skinny, cis, has a whole fleet of make up artists, personal trainers and professional photographers. Her team has relied on white passing to bolster her image before, and ‘Formation’ had plenty of its own colorism issues. You don’t need her to tell you to love your nose.

17. Beyoncé is rumored to be in final negotiations to perform in Tel Aviv, even as a growing number of Black musicians, actors and writers refuse to appear in Israel in solidarity with the people of Palestine. This possibility is in no way incongruous with Beyoncé’s political past–including her halftime performance. It should not surprise anyone.

18. If I learned one thing this week, it is that we are starving to see ourselves in power. We yearn to celebrate the vision of it–even when we know it is a ploy, a hologram. Our hunger, no matter how potent, no matter how righteous, cannot transfigure pop stars into revolutionaries. It cannot supplement community power with what it manages to extract from corporate media.

19. In no way is this pop cultural propaganda about an artists’ political growth, for Beyoncé is not an actual artist. It is about corporations finding creative ways to profit off a popular movement. It is an affront to Black organizing, and an offensive caricature of our history.

20. The state has many tools to break up a movement. Scripted messaging and infiltration are key ones. If we invite corporations to take over our movements, look to network television to instruct us in our successes, we give up our power without so much as a fight. We hand it over to the exact bodies that are trying to destroy it.

21. Beyoncé is a logo. Beyoncé is a commodity. Beyoncé is a production. Beyoncé is a distraction. Beyoncé is a ruse. Beyoncé does not actually exist.

22. You–not her–are the Black visionary, the budding potential for revolution.

123 responses to “My (Apparently) Obligatory Response to ‘Formation’: In List Form

    • A lot of your comments sound cogent and aware, yet they are in actuality largely exaggerations. For example, to say that she is ONLY a commodity and not an artist is definitely an exaggeration. You seem to think in somewhat limited black-vs-white, good-vs-evil terms even tho you are clearly more educated and aware than many others who frame their views in this way.

      • Cool story, bro. People are entitled to think as they want to think or feel how they feel without having to explain themselves nor expect that others will agree with them as their thoughts and ideas are their own. If the writer were speaking for a group of people, then sure.. I could see how it would warrant some kind of scorn as one should never speak for others but themselves. However, this is not the case. Instead of focusing on what you perceive to be exaggerations by the writer, why not offer your own opinions on the points that the brings up (which are actually quite valid) and not some lame observation which amounts to a whole lot of nothing?

      • Corporate entities don’t spend millions of dollars to roll out new “art.” They invest in commodities that they know will bring a return- they do their homework and if anyone strays from the master plan (make money) they will yank their support. Being a mainstream pop star in the current environment of consolidated media and being an artist should probably be seen as mutually exclusive until someone proves otherwise in a big, embarrassing (for the executives) way.

      • I can not begin to explain how powerful this piece is…I feel as if my words were stuck and you wrote them for me…you are insightful, thoughtful and honest…Thank you 🙏🏽💛 I will be following your page

      • Thank you so much for writing this! I was walking around all annoyed and this piece just put me at ease. All I can say is, exactly!

      • Well, I thought it was wildly refreshing. I didn’t realized how starved I have been for independent, original thinkers. And really doesn’t matter if I agree with everything you said. But as a writer and one who more often than not, finds herself swimming “upstream, ” I thank you. Kudos, bruh!
        Lisa Seward-Partee

      • hi rad! . all the way from cape town south Africa. very thoughtful piece. a lot of what you touched on made me think about social proof and how many beyonce fans are die hard because off social proof

  1. Hi Rad Fag – I’m so glad you wrote this and that I got to read it. I would appreciate your thoughts on a question I’ve had: Let’s say that Beyonce wanted to show solidarity with BlackLivesMatter through her music. Well for one I feel like she and Jay Z have, for the past 10 odd years, completely distanced themselves from the plight of Black Americans and that this *desire* is long overdue. This article clearly articulates things she could’ve done better/shouldn’t have done at all – but what do you think would’ve been a more genuine or appropriate way for her (as the biggest superstar in the world) to go about showing that support?

    • I don’t think I have much to offer other than what is already listed here. Once you have become a celebrity–and a business person–to the degree that Beyonce and Jay Z have, you are removed in many ways from the struggles and available tactics of the larger community. If they want to help us shutdown police stations and prisons, actively disrupt the flow of capitalism, I welcome it. I just believe they are too invested in the system–benefiting too much–to actually threaten it. Until they are able to denounce capitalism, I don’t know of how much use they can be to us.

      • There’s only one way I can see they could “redeem” themselves and helping the BLM movement: Giving away their fortune to help in the legal expenses of the comrades that are facing fines and/or prison for their activist participation, to build a better network of solidarity in the communities and to help black communities. Imagine for a moment what the BLM movement could do even with a 20% of Beyonce / Jay-Z fortune on their hands. Instead they’re making money FROM the image of the BLMM and getting more famous just for doing some spectacular performance in the modern day Colosseum.
        But hey, I am a half latino, half white male who lives on the other side of the world so maybe my opinion is biased and is not what black rich people should do to help black oppressed people and I’m just talking from my privileged perspective.
        I really enjoyed this article. I express my solidarity with the BLMM and with all the oppressed people in US that is fighting against racism, sexism, transphobia, police brutality, capitalism, and statism. Stay Strong. Stay United. Fight Back.

      • I would agree, to a point.

        There are multiple fights, horizontally and vertically. There CAN be multiple levels of involvement. Not everyone can shutdown police stations and prisons. However, there is productive involvement, and unproductive involvement that leads to everything stated in the article about the performance.

        Co-opting a movement, a struggle for personal fame and monetary gain is counter, and an insult, to that movement.

        Someone like Beyonce has enough wealth and money that she could, as others could, withhold her talent in protest for specific changes.

        Lastly, what matters most is what organizers, activists, and leaders do with the moments that allow for a reaction to someone else’s action. How can, if at all, this performance and the reaction within different communities be used and not used to further the cause of the movement? Is there a way (maybe not) that celebrities and people with power and wealth can be used BY the movement, instead of the movement being used by the celebrity for personal gain and fame?

      • I would think that Beyonce was in fact threatening the system, just look at the back lash of that performance. I think that spoke for itself. The fact that she took a carefully plotted step in the right direction, finally i agree she took long, you are going to blow it up? What use would she be to any movement if she wasn’t that famous, I mean that is why we have such a buzz about it its because she is famous. People are brainwashed and sit there and talk about the reasons why things are the way they are but can you get them to rally if there isn’t a famous backing its sad but its the reality. Most of your points are valid and i agree others just sound like fluff to your argument. I’m not a beyonce Fan Yes sorry Beyhive. But i appreciate her taking a stand at a place where so many people were watching and she has sparked so many discussion. Its about time things change.

  2. Learned a lot here. I so appreciate you putting this out here to educate and expand our collective perspective. The struggle is exhausting and it’s easy for many of us who don’t live it constantly to get sucked into the machine and not realize what we are seeing. Thank you. Your voice is crucial!

  3. You have said everything that needs to be said …. Now how to get other people to actually pay attention?

  4. I really really appreciated your critic and amazingly agree with almost everything. The ONLY thing I don’t think hit EXACTLY on point was and don’t get me wrong it was believable. It was a fake news site that put out the Beyonce going to Tel Aviv. She made statements to the affect she never has been and is not negotiating a trip to Israel. I fact checked the Site it is a fake news site sadly it was perpetuating a false hood for as far as I could tell click bait.

    Your over all complete analysis otherwise was so spot on I praise your sharp and piercing political analysis. Thank you.

    Lastly I am not Defending Beyonce I don’t like her music ad I m not a fan of that type of Pop at all. I am proponent of fact checking is all.

    • Thank you for that. I actually had a hard time confirming that, though I did try to do some fact checking. The only records I could find of Beyonce not performing in Israel are from 2014. The same fishy reporting could be happening again, but I still felt it important to include.

  5. I’m really glad you mentioned the Cold Play/Beyonce music video fiasco. She released this song and video a mere few days after that one came out and it was like everyone stopped caring that Beyonce can fuck up. As a Desi woman, that was cutting. People simply forgot.

      • Your comments were interesting, but the post about the coldplay video made me go …what? Lol. I am an Indian woman. I was born there. I was raised there. and I immigrated later to the states. There wasn’t anything that I registered as being ‘racist’ in that video. What I did find offensive was how “indian culture” was shown in a video by Iggy Azalea and Major Lazor’s lean on. — Actually, in short, I know you didn’t want to comment on anything that didn’t apply to you, but since you don’t identify as someone from the Indian diaspora, kindly refrain from saying something is “racist” since as stated, it doesn’t effect you.

  6. I think you oversimplify the historical relationship between queer/trans culture and black cis female culture. From my perspective ‘slay’ and similar terminology arose from intimate and symbiotic exchanges between black femmes of all sexes, genders and orientations, as did much of what might fall under the headings either of ‘black genius’ or ‘queer genius’.

    • I appreciate your point, and the idea of solidarity between femmes writ large. Yet I also think there is power inherent in any exchange. Meaningful exchanges happen when we can acknowledge the powers and privileges we bring to the table, and be accountable both for what we give and what we take. I often feel things are stollen from me as a queer femme by cis and straight femmes in ways I have no control over, and little power to speak up about. Seeing a Black cis women using the slang and aesthetics of my community in multimillion-grossing music video did not make me feel empowered or visible. On the contrary, it made me feel covered up and bowled over.

  7. My only issue with this is she actually didn’t get paid to perform. They do it for free because of the free publicity it gets you which is also messed up. I applaud your writing tho! Very well written.

    • She got paid simply by appearing – that kind of publicity is worth milllions to a staunch capitalist – which is why her video dropped the day before and her tour was announced the day after. Now, what’s Chris Rock gonna do at the Oscar’s? Stay home or do a Brando? I doubt it.

    • There may not be an outright cash payment for appearing on the Super Bowl but unions exist for television that assure people who appear on television in any capacity receive royalties. There are also obligatory payments for content like music, and companies like ASCAP and BMI that collect that money and make sure publishers and songwriters get it. Trust that Beyonce unquestionably made actual outright cash money for her performance, even if not directly paid.

  8. Pingback: “Beyoncé is not an actual artist.” – A Response to Radical Faggot | le tender sigh·

  9. Thank you for your perspective here; it’s super important and I’m really glad I got to read and share it.

  10. Pingback: ESSAY // “Beyoncé is not an actual artist.” – A Response to Radical Faggot | le tender sigh·

  11. Thank you for your thoughts rad fag but I’m very conflicted. If we are going to live in a society that is dominated by capitalism and a free market economy and we know these structures are the determining forms of power then there has to be room for activism within that. I don’t think the solution is to encourage people of color to “struggle” the way you’ve defined it here in order to obtain power. Because then you must be talking about a different form of power, which is fine, but will never really compete with power defined by wealth and status in the context of this society. We need artists like Beyonce who can build a bridge between what you’ve essentially defined as a separation between “we the activists” and “Beyonce.” If not, we are preaching to ourselves and our movement will quickly burn out. Throughout history, there have always been model black activists who bridged this gap. Even the ones you named as being exceptional to Beyonce. Not only can cis gender folks contribute to this movement black lives matter, but they must. I don’t know how useful it is to create a divide between activists. Everyone can make their unique contribution. The black lives matter movement is not about personal entitlement to struggle but a collective move towards a freedom that is bigger than ourselves.

  12. Beyoncé is also a neoliberal capitalist, who through her clothing line outsources labor to sweatshops in south east Asia where human beings are being brutalized every day. Not sure why those lives don’t matter. Thank you for posting.

  13. No one obligated you to respond if you didn’t feel it to be necessary. You did that yourself. Clearly you’re not a Beyonce fan. Black celebrities are always bashed on all sides and can’t please everyone…that’s why some take the money and don’t get involved with political/racial issues. This article expresses your opinions, and Beyonce has expressed her opinion through performances and philanthropic donations that are going to be helpful to the communities she supports. Even as she is hated on she gives visibility and finances to people struggling in ways she could comfortably ignore. While in the gay community the struggles of black women are often ignored and degraded by the misogynistic behavior of their “allies” even as we stand for equality for all. SMDH… As far as your being offended by her using “slay”… the gay community refers to women as “fish”. When is the gay community going to put that played out misogynistic reference down and lay it to rest or “slay” it? That and the word “cunt” being used as an insult. I appreciate Beyonce’s effort. And no I’m not a Bey fan, just another woman that’s proud to be black and not afraid to say it. Cute article though…

    • I would like to give Beyonce the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of her intentions. Her actions afterwards will help clarify her intentions. And certainly she helps give voice and hope to certain oppressed.
      Still, I think the author does point out very valuable lessons. Even if Beyonce’s intentions were good, she herself has microaggressions against the trans/queer communities. It is healing they call her own it. A true activist is always learning and (ideally) shouldn’t mind being called out on their own microaggressions… though it is always embarrassing. That’s the price of learning and becoming a more empathetic person.
      And it’s certainly true that celebrities are caught in damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-do web.
      Still, they use their celebrity to promote themselves and their issues… they should be okay with this opening up others to put our their own truths about oppression as well. The only way we can really solve this unraveling sweater of microaggressions is to keep pulling– to keep talking with respect to one another. Maybe one day we’ll get to the bottom.
      And goodness knows there is oppression within the gay community– like everything else, one must speak up to fight back. Thank you for that.

  14. Would you mind if I make a photo set to share on tumblr with some excerpts from this post over some screenshots of Formation? (3,21,22 and some other bits I found to be especially eloquent.) I will put your name/url in the corner and link to this page of course!

  15. Beautifully written, one has to ask why has she chosen to support the plight of African Americans at this time? The timing is a little too convenient. I am not sure if you have seen that she and Jay-Z are donating $1.5 to Black lives matter. A good thing on the surface but a paltry sum based on their cumulative wealth. I suppose the only good thing is that her video has sparked mainstream conversation on race. I am not African American (just African) and I am completely offended by this propaganda. And on a completely irrelevant note the song is not even that great.

    I really love your perspective and more so your bravery. Beyonce fans are bullies.

  16. Excellent article, but the Black Panther Party, their objectives, their tactics, are not ‘dated’. They are as relevant today as they were in the 70’s.

    • Thank you for that, I totally agree. I meant to imply that imagining Black power as stuck in a cartoonish version of our predecessors not only trivializes them, it leaves out the Black power of now.

  17. Excellent, thoughtful.
    I note the director, Melissa Matsoukas, “…continues to direct high-end commercials for global clients such as Nike, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Diesel, DirectTV, Lexus, Toyota, Rexona, Target and Absolut to name just a few.” (from Prettybird, “…a creative think tank that provides clients with distinct visionary work across an ever-evolving entertainment and branding landscape.” ) QED.
    Carry on, my friend!

  18. Well having read this piece I can honestly say i have been educated and edified enormously. It appears now, based on the narrative above that more than anything the move (video) was more of a money generating ploy than anything. very interesting

  19. lovely article and I will be sharing it soon. I see someone addressed the Tel-Aviv. I am a fan of hers and of course there are things that she could have done, not have done, or maybe will do, or have done so privately . I do disagree and this is a very small point and it’s only personal to me because I am a singer and I do find that to be an art form that I continue to work on . Vocally she and many many other can do things with their voices that I cannot. Well at least not yet. In any case I disagree in saying she isn’t an artist. Singing isn’t as easy as some would think.

  20. It is refreshing to read level headed discussion coming out of this issue. I watched this half time show and was baffled by the acceptance Beyonce seem to have with this half baked attempt at black empowerment. Don’t get me wrong the media’s reaction to it was just as baffling, going on and on about how it isn’t appropriate to have racially driven half time shows at the super bowl blah blah blah. Although I haven’t read anything else from you and thus have no idea if we connect on any other level. It is nice to read an article from someone who has seen through the gold filigree (or rather black filigree) lined shell of a performance.

  21. 1- This was the only anti-Bey essay I respected so far.
    2- Big Freedia paycheck ( and royalties) and the presence of his unique voice is a huge achievementt to his carrear ( I bet he is happy! ), and is too soon to know how much else he gonna gain from this collaboration, the track is out less than a week , c’mon!
    3- We’re still talking abut the hurricane, Beyonce’s family has a personal relationship with New Orleans, getting married there, spending every Mardi Gras, being PRESENT. The backdrop looks like a representation of forces of nature destroying police brutality, from my naive point of view.
    4- Bey is a Drag, so she has the pass to use the ‘Slay’ word.
    5- Bill Gates changed the world empirically, if a black woman aim to do the same, I’m down.
    6- Queer Culture is made by visionaries, therefore trend-setters, that’s what is supposed to happen, to influence the culture so much that, for exemple, corporate mainstream has a Drag Race as top TV show. This is caused by our human nature. Let’s celebrate it, can we?
    7- Former Black Panthers had sent messages about being happy with this.
    8- The Formation Tour will support Flint water crisis. People are able to pay attention in different subjects, this assumption of deflection of energy and attention is on offense to human capacity.
    9- Bey is fine, truth, she is the one defending us in her corporate world. As Henry Belafonte asked them to do so. Jay didn’t listen but Bey did, hurray!
    10 – Well, this is true, bitter and hopeless, but truth.
    11- Hurray for BLM.
    12- the black movement is real, vigilant and is causing this effect.
    13- “Beyoncé basking in the publicity of a halftime show” is an evolution, period.
    14- POC are everyone but WhitePPL, we are bonded by racism, all of us.
    15- This was delusional, there’s possible actions or idealistic ones, I stay with the first.
    16- Colorism has to be faced as well, the discussion is valid.
    17- Until this show is confirmed, I’m absenting from comment.
    18- Yes, we can!
    19 – Beyonce is not an actual artist???????????????????????????
    20 – Nobody is ‘inviting corporations to take over our movement’, No One.
    21- Beyonce is a very powerful pop art piece created by an artist.
    22 – Yes, we are.

    Thanks for this article, I salute your thoughts!!!


  22. Hi, I really liked reading this article. I like Beyonce but I don’t idolatrise her and is great to hear a genuine voice on the matter. What I don’t understand, and I tried to look for it, the profound meaning of slay. I don’t know if this is the best place to ask for the cultural implications of the word, but I don’t understand, maybe because English is not my mother tongue.

  23. Your article stirred a lot of thoughts in me. You are free to have your perspective, which by necessity will be different than mine. I am White and queer, English is not my first language – I will not spot appropriation of words and culture as readily.

    One thing that stands out to me though, which happens in all kinds of activism, is how much we cut each other down. If someone doesn’t perform your politics exactly and to a tee, they’re not good enough. Roxane Gay wrote about this in “Bad Feminist”: we pick our battles. We do stuff we are comfortable doing. We create change insofar as we can. Chances are that Beyonce is not into dismantling capitalism: she is succeeding in it, therefore it is not her thing. Injecting cultural Blackness into mainstream dialogue is still not a bad thing to me, even if you feel the message is not good enough. It’s a fair point to talk about cultural appropriation and I am not denigrating that, as I mentioned I can’t really comment (not enough knowledge).

    Ultimately, we all judge, and sometimes I wonder how the authority is assigned. I learnt a lot from Formation itself, as well as the discussion surrounding it. As a White person I’m not the primary target of this message, however a lot of Black folks expressed joy and pride following the video and Superbowl show. Are they wrong to do that? You’re basically saying they’re stupid to do so, they’re falling for capitalist lie. Within your political beliefs this is definitely not good enough, but who gave you the right to judge their emotional response? Yes, perhaps it’s lack of information, but it doesn’t have to be – it could be a difference of opinion. You also say that Beyonce is not an artist – that’s a judgement that actually makes no sense. She is an artist – she creates artistic output. She’s not good enough by your definition. That’s fine, too.

    Engaging with content does not have to equal appropriation, though we now often question who has a right to say what – and why. Again, I can’t comment on that; I encountered opinions that the video should contain a trigger warning, as well as that she engaged with Southern Blackness and worked through trauma of Katrina. To me, the diverse opinions and conversations are a mark of an artist who prompted them.

    And yes, someone above noted that Beyonce and Jay-Z are donating money to the movement; I read somewhere today (forgive me, I read a lot about it today ;) ) that they have been doing that for a while, sponsoring travelling activists. In many ways, it’s difficult for a celebrity to engage: if they do it publicly, they are accused of furthering their brand, if they are quiet, they are accused of not doing enough. If they give money, it’s still not enough.

    Thank you for your comments and food for thought of this thread.

  24. Excellent points. Thanks for writing and providing this thought provoking narrative. As a cis individual, I learned from it.
    My only comments would be in regards to #9– though she is rich, we do have an obligation to speak up if someone is slamming her for something beyond her control. We can’t base our advocacy on wealth.
    Thank you and have a great day!

  25. As a 59 year old white woman and educated liberal, I am thrilled this list was posted on my FB. Thank you for your thoughtful and timely opinion. After B’s performance I had one posting from a relative stating disgust for the “anti-cop” message in her half time gig. Confused – I only saw the cool dancing and love theme with the three performers- I pulled and posted the lyrics for Formation. My response: as human beings, can’t we do better? Let’s not mistake the power of money for a powerful social statement. Celebrities and their handlers live in a very, very different world than we plebes. I always vote for compassion and love, especially toward those I do not understand. I’ll be posting your piece gladly.

  26. i’ve always found Huey P. Newton to be one of the most important figures in US History, and i wondered during the half-time show how he would have felt, especially as he had lost many of his friends to police violence while trying to protect his community… i feel weird even commenting because it isn’t my culture, etc, but I don’t think Huey would appreciate this, as he actively sought to seperate the BPP from Anti-War college students and the media who wouldn’t understand the cause, but then again did when his trail was on live television but this was ideally to have more people join to project the black community from harm… Also as a fashion designer all the clothes for those uniforms were made by white designers, the fashion community hardly supports black designers and this is another detail that i thought slipped away from Beyonce paying homage.

    I enjoyed reading your piece,

    I also wanted to agree, beyonce doesn’t write her songs, a team of 60 people do… and tehy’re primarily looking to market

  27. Hi there. Thank you SO much for putting this out there. Yours is a voice I’ve been waiting to hear. Thank you. I hope you keep spreading your powerful, much needed message.

  28. I mean…. 13. There is a long history of Black celebrities advocating for Black movements. Eartha Kitt, Muhammad Ali, Lena Horne are folks we think of first as athletes and movie stars, yet who used their celebrity to publicly defy the state and advocate for Black communities, at times at great personal risk, and to the detriment of their careers. Do not compare them to Beyoncé basking in the publicity of a halftime show.

    What exactly is the difference? What exactly is she supposed to give up? How, in this climate of gas lighting and hatred of the black body and spirit, is Beyoncé not putting herself at risk with her decidedly pro black message. Where were the dissertations about J. Cole’s video? Basking in publicity? I agree that no movement should be corporatized but really? Beyoncé is in control of all this? She’s part of a corporate establishment, but at the same time personally responsible for all of these changes, which one is it? How is she using Katrina as a ploy? If anything, she brought the stories back to life, for those in the American public who forgot about the lives lost and the city destroyed. Also, I disagree with this notion that she – herself, didn’t acknowledge Big Freedia and Messy Mya’s presence. I have Brazilian articles about Messy Mya floating on my timeline. I didn’t know who Messy Mya was before the video. She didn’t bring them a larger audience?

  29. I just finished reading this piece after my daughter. who is gay, posted it on Facebook. Wow! I am mostly proud of her for having the perspective that led to her reading and post of your article. I am also impressed with the scholarship and point by point case for americans to remove themselves from the cults of personality and corporate worship. I will be following you going forward. Thanks

  30. this is the most brilliant commentary i have read about anything anywhere in a very long time. i say this in all seriousness, you should make it into a video, something that can visually and through it intellectually reach the many young people who probably won’t get to your piece and all the points otherwise. almost every number has 100 images brought to mind and the soundtrack is obvious. thank you for writing it. it was most def not a waste of anyone’s time.

  31. Nice post. I am a supporter/advocate of the Kurdish movement and when I saw all the BS articles about the YPG’s women fighters and H & M hocking clothes based on their look a couple of years back I really couldn’t believe how quickly and cynically the corporate media could take advantage and turn a movement into their aims. Two years later and the Kurds struggle continues with little help from the millions who thought women fighters were “rad” back then. I think if Beyonce was sincere she’d announce she was going to take a year off and go out to rallies as a Black Lives Matter spokesperson. Or even better. Just start doing it. Unfortunately, I think she is simply another popular star that uses other people’s suffering as a fashion statement.

  32. Thank you for this article, you put words on so many things I wasn’t able to. I’m torn – is there use in still working within the system to change it or is it always counteractive? I agree with everything you’re saying, but is there a benefit to having a “watered down” version for the mainstream to digest a bit better?

  33. It has been said many times in this comment thread already, but I also want to sincerely thank you for collecting and presenting your thoughts on this matter. They were absolutely illuminating. Thank you so much.

  34. Pingback: TGFI: vol 6 - Meg Worden·

  35. OMGGG!!!!!!!!!!!! #1 I never EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER comment on things I read online, but you MUST KNOW how wonderful this piece is. Superbly written, and oh so necessary. Thank you for being brave enough to write this (it’s sad that in this day and age people need to build up the chutzpah to critically examine and critique that which is put forth by a celebrity). Thank you for writing this with such thoughtfulness. Thank you for writing this while being grounded in that which is historical and *truly* fu****g matters. Keep writing, the world needs to hear your voice! (I promise I’m not crazy, though the tone and style of this comment betrays that fact lol your piece was just THAT DAMN GOODT!). B R I L L I A N T!

  36. Pingback: Politics, the Super Bowl, and, of course, the Children – the becoming radical·

  37. YOU are amazing! I posted something similar on facebook (not as well informed and as well written) and some of my friends got very angry. Thanks! It now comes from a legit source:)

  38. I can’t imagine how much time it took to put your thoughts into such an eloquent work. I love this piece, and I thank you for putting your thoughts into words.

  39. Pingback: My (Apparently) Obligatory Response to “Formation” | Unchain the tree·

  40. Pingback: My (Apparently) Obligatory Response to ‘Formation’: In List Form – Engineer Marine Skipper·

  41. You have made some good points. We must not get confused and start taking what these people say as gospel. She has an opinion and we all should have opinions in regards to our youth. I do not agree with the BLM at all. If we are going to truly care about our lives we must address the main problem. Our households need some Spring cleaning. We need to filter out the negative and pour on the positive. We had a little girl missing in our area last year, I couldn’t get BLM to tweet one darn thing.

    In my opinion, we have too many people wanting to chant, but they have no idea what they need to be chanting about. I want to hear us talking about removing drugs,bringing fathers to the table, teaching our kids to be respectful, and taking the time out to go talk to teachers. Black lives on matter when white people are involved. What about us? We need to value our families, we need to teach unity, and our lives need to matter first, in the home.

  42. Pingback: My (Apparently) Obligatory Response to “Formation” – Yana·

  43. I would like to congratulate everyone who has posted here for the respectful tone and thoughtfulness of the comments. Truly noteworthy, considering how often comments get insulting and mean. I just kept reading in increasing delight, appreciating the points and the respectful give-and-take of disagreements, and the continuous appreciation of the original post and its author, even by those who disagreed. If only the rest of the internet would follow suit! Actually, I’d settle for activists and progressives doing so. Fear of being personally attacked often keeps people from offering valuable dissenting views like this, and and from thinking well together about them. Here’s to folks following the example of both the original writer and the commentators!

  44. I like your piece, not because I agree with everything, but simply because it’s so well written. However I do have one question. If Beyonce cannot represent ‘the people,’ because she is ‘in bed with the enemy,’ sort of speak, shouldn’t you have a longer list then just Beyonce?

  45. Pingback: Our Obsession With Black Celebrity Is Undermining Our Movement | Social Page Mark·

  46. The points that are facts are valid.. However, we can only know about Beyonce what is observed in public. To say that she is or isn’t doing XYZ or is not artist is to imply that we know 100% of her being. We can’t know the author’s intentions unless we observe them or we ask her.

  47. Bravo! I read two responses: NYT and Fader and was amazed by their lack of criticism. While we don’t have to like our culture’s celebrities, we have to push those around us to look at them critically, especially when they use their mediums to push ideas that maybe harmful to us.

  48. Pingback: The Best Critique of Beyonce’s “Formation” Thus Far | African American Literature and Culture·

  49. Pingback: HYPEBEAST: @MissyElliott Gets Us HYPE With New Release #PEPRALLY – popular magazine | Pop Culture When You Want It! #PositivePlug·

  50. Pingback: Link Round-up: Beyoncé’s “Formation” Of Cultural Perseverance and Historical Trauma | Beyond Victoriana·

  51. Pingback: Dear White Reader, here is your weekend Beyoncé reading list·

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  53. You provide a litany of evidence to support the assumption that Beyonce’s message in Formation isn’t worthy of being called political or activist. The fact that she hasn’t been too political in the past doesn’t mean she isn’t becoming radical and that she isn’t fed up and trying to provoke change and thought and discussion. People are talking about the video, the song, in both positive and negative ways. I think Formation is doing something. And I think it is something positive. Yes, Beyonce grew up being groomed to be a pop consumption, but in the process she has emerged a pretty solid artist. She makes tons of money. But why disqualify artists who do?

  54. Pingback: The My-Stery: “Get In-Formation: Black Performance, Black Code and Black Spies” | Aker: Futuristically Ancient·

  55. I’ve read this piece twice and read through all the comments here as well as on my Facebook feed. I’ve really, really enjoyed the level of nuance and kindness in the comments. The piece is, I think, deeply flawed, and yet I can’t deny, you have done your job as a cultural critic. You’ve inspired serious and fruitful discussion. Thank you for that. At the same time, the very fact that we all are talking like this also proves that, as a pop star, Beyonce has done her job, too. It has been a long time since a pop icon used her position in a truly interesting, genuinely provocative way. We deserve pop stars who do that, and it makes me terribly sad that they are so rare these days. I have the feeling this moment may ripple out for years to come and inspire a future generation of young girls, and boys, to push further. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, you know.

  56. Pingback: OUR SUNDAY LINKS | GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine·

  57. As a member of the #Justice4MarioWoods coalition I welcome the spot light #Beyonce & her dancers have placed on our movement & our struggle for justice. Beyonce is a Black woman 1st before she is an artist or peformer & has every right to use her platform as an artist to bring light to our current struggle. We need our artist & icons to do more of this. Not sit in some back balcony section as if their opinions & ideas are no longer valid because they sell millions of records or movie tickets. We need to embrace this power not relegate it to the side lines. Beyonce & JZ are contributing to the struggle financially & artistically & id actually would like to see more done. Every one has an obligation to fight in this our neo civil rights movement. Artist have played huge roles in struggles for equality. James Browns “Im Black & Im Proud” was radical when released & only sounds quant now becuase of the little progress weve made in American race relations since its 1968 release. Either you respond to the call or you turn a deaf ear to it & it seems at least Beyonce has taken steps to support her people’s struggle. My take on the significance of her 1/2 time show is here

  58. Excellent article. Could you explain #17 more? I’m curious about why Black artists, musicians, and writers are supporting Palestine. Thanks! Your commentary was extremely eye opening.

  59. Pingback: TRIBUNE – Ma réponse (apparemment) obligatoire à « Formation » : petite liste – L'Afro – news, enquêtes, reportages·

  60. I agree with a lot of the statements here, one of the exceptions being the description of the Coldplay video as racist. It may have an Orientalist tone, but that doesn’t qualify as “straigh-up racist”

  61. I want to say thankyou for sharing your thoughts and ideals. I applaud you, truly. While I may not understand everything you said (because I’m totally out of the loop on some of the words you used lol) I also agree. The struggle of any unique group should not be trivialized by using it as a means to financial gain or social prowess. I cannot relate to your specific struggles, but I have my own, and to be heard is life changing. Thanks for giving me something worth reading. 💜

  62. Pingback: Looking Otherwise | The Ploughshares Blog·

  63. This was one of the most eloquent and well thought out responses to the video I have ever read. Thank you for sharing this.

  64. Amen! I have long felt like a minority of one when it comes to Beyonce. I do not qualify her work as art. Rather, it is my opinion that she is a culture vulture, much like Madonna, who scours and studies the truly original art of others and reformulates and brands it as her own. Our culture is woefully mesmerized by bullshit.

  65. Pingback: Sweet, Ferocious, Refreshing & All For Me – Some Thoughts On Lemonade & Cultural Appropriation | Outside The Box·

  66. Pingback: Beyoncé’s Bittersweet Southern Lemonade - Culture Stories·

  67. Pingback: Is ‘Formation’ the New Civil Rights Anthem? – Platform Online Admin·

  68. Wanted to see if I would still agree with your comments so I came back months later to read this again. I still love what you said and how you said it. With one exception #4 “Slay”. That point diminishes the strength of your point for me. I am pretty sure the LBGTQ community didn’t coin that phrase anyway. The less hip and common use of “you slay me” was around forever and used by anything but the LBGTQ community just about. So, the term “Slay” was just a matter of time until all the other ways of saying the exact same thing wore off. Not to mention knit-picking on slang vocabulary isn’t the strongest of the arguments here over-all. It minimizes the danger of holding up Ms. B as a cultural icon. Still 99.9% greatness here, thanks for writing it.

  69. Pingback: WEEK TEN: REBIRTH AND TOURISM | NOLA Divided·

  70. Pingback: Formation & Media Literacy | Association for Media Literacy·

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