Beyonce’s “Formation” can be described with two words: unapologetically black.
Images of black babies sporting their natural hair, lyrics such as “I got hot sauce in my bag (swag)”, and Beyonce atop a sinking New Orleans police car in what appears to be the wreckage of Katrina are what make that description a snug fit.
The scene that made tears well up in my eyes, however, was at 3:45 – a little black boy in a hoodie, clearly an homage to Trayvon Martin, dances, carefree and passionately, being,well, unapologetically black. But here’s the catch; he does this in front of a line of police officers, all standing at ease. When he finishes and throws his hands up gymnast-style, their hands fly up in surrender. This scene is immediately followed by footage of graffiti that reads:“Stop shooting us.”
Last night, Beyonce went even further. She made history when she brought this imagery to one of the most widely watched television events of the year: the Super Bowl 50 Half Time Show. Her live performance of “Formation” continued the theme of unapologetic blackness. Her costume was a tribute to one of the greatest performers in history, Michael Jackson, and her dancers mirrored the attire of the Black Panther army.
The line in the song that hits home the hardest for me as a black sex worker is “always stay gracious/ the best revenge is your paper.” It’s reminiscent of Missy Elliot’s “Work It,” where she spat, “get that cash/ whether it’s 9 to 5 or shaking your ass.” It acknowledges us black sex workers in a way we usually don’t experience in our community. Beyoncé has alluded to sex work positively before in lines such as “a diva is a female version of a hustler.” She’s come a long way from the rampant whorephobia in her earlier work (side eyeing “Nasty Girl” here).
I am black. This means that before I hit double digits, I was no stranger to police brutality. Turning on the news and seeing my brothers get shot gave me a questionable relationship with men in uniform (serve and protect my ass). I understood keeping citizens safe was aligned with privilege; privilege that I did not have.
When I became a sex worker, I didn’t expect much to change. I work under the Nordic model, which was meant to protect me, right? Even though I was a black sub, they HAD to protect me right? (Re: serve and protect, my ass). Being a black sex worker means you’re constantly drowning in a cold, cheap lube-like amalgamation of misogynoir and whorephobia. These things all marginalized me further, and, as we all know, police love marginalized folk.
We’re the OG fast-tailed girls. We have the devil in us. We’re rejects of our community, who, for the first time, when it comes to us, seem impartial about police brutality. We’re on the fringes of the fringes. Now, in retrospect, I can say that the consistent, familiar unifying thread that came with becoming a part of another marginalized group is police brutality having its boot up my ass. Beyonce understands this and celebrates our resistance.
I STILL CANT GET OVER THIS https://t.co/Dcqt7dHWuy
— katelyn (@wanhedalauren) February 8, 2016
I keep watching the video to appreciate the visual reference to turn of the century New Orleans’ Storyville brothels! Definitely some Black sex worker positivity there as Beyonce and her backup dancers make that setting their own, then coyly fan themselves in their period costumes.
this made me cry hard. thank you.