A year ago today, on a cold Saturday in February, Black America was in serious need of some healing. The day before would’ve been the 21st birthday of Trayvon Martin and police were still trigger happy across the nation. The mandarin trashcan was gaining momentum in the polls. This was all during Black History Month. It had been over two years since Beyoncé released an album or any type of solo music. She guest-starred on a few singles, but nothing major. We heard that she would be performing at the Super Bowl the next day, but with no new music, we were unsure of what she would perform. Well, she may not come when you want her, but she’s right on time. That day, news hit twitter that Beyoncé had released a new single and video on her website titled “Formation.”
At this point, surprise Bey releases weren’t a surprise anymore, but it was still news. I was sitting snugly in my apartment when the news came, and my heart started beating double-time. Immediately, I took my phone out and beheld the glory. I was greeted by the voice of the late Messy Mya, a NOLA legend, and Bey stooping down on a sunken NOLA police car. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew my life was about to be changed. This video had everything. Images of black excellence and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina flashed before me. Beyoncé resembling the next black Supreme in a wide brimmed top hat. Her daughter Blue Ivy running around getting her life with two other little black girls. Bey was celebrating southern blackness in its full glory.
“My daddy Alabama. Mama Louisiana[. . .] I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros. I like my negro nose with Jackson-5 nostrils.”
There was so much to unpack in that video, from the imagery to the lyrical content. From the dancers all being black women to the lyrics unabashedly claiming and owning her blackness. The images of destruction and despair paired with lyrics of persevering and “slaying” shit in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Southern Belles in a boudoir planning their next attack. Black girls enjoying being children before the world inevitably attempts to snatch it from them. At the end of the video, images of black women reclaiming joy juxtaposed with the little black boy dancing and putting his hands up in front of police. Also, her using her body to sink a police car is the last image you see.
Beyoncé then went on to perform with Coldplay and Bruno Mars at the Super Bowl, donned in an outfit that paid homage to Michael Jackson. She brought out all-black female dancers dressed as modern-day black panthers raising their fists. Bey proclaimed on national television that she was, in fact, a black woman and loved it. Afterwards, she announced a tour and an upcoming HBO special. That album turned out to be one of the most integral albums of 2016 in terms of black joy and self-love.
ON February 6th, 2016, Beyoncé told everyone to get (in)formation. It was a clarion call to, and in celebration of, black folks, with emphasis on black femmes. You have to appreciate how she gives us what we need before we need it. Little did we know that 2016 was out for blood. “Formation” and Lemonade+ as a whole would prove to be essential to our sanity. “Formation” was the perfect modern addition to the black history month joy playlist. It was an overt display of black joy and perseverance that magnified the natural excellence of black folks everywhere.