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Beyoncé’s Black Justice Movement

 

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Beyoncé’s new black anthem song Formation made its debut at the Super Bowl halftime at the Levi’s Stadium in California this February. Her costume of choice for herself and her #BlackGirlMagic army was inspired by the Black Panther Party and was complimented with Malcolm X inspired choreography. This is her version of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech. With the chosen words for her speech “I dream it. I work hard. I grind, ‘til I own it.” Her politically charged, black history lesson, music video was released the day before her live performance. Some people have praised her as an activist, while others argue that she only focuses on one point of view.

Where do you stand?

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Addressing The Illuminati Rumours – Beyoncé uses the song to put an end rumours that she is part of a cult: “Y’all haters corny with that illuminati mess. Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh.”

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Southern Anthem – Her music video opens with her educating us on her heritage, and her love for being: a black human being, woman, mother – with her daughter Blue Ivy making a cameo – and a Southerner, just like the people of New Orleans:

My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana,                                                                              

You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama, 

I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros.

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Black Masters – One scene shows Beyoncé, alongside other black women, dressed in luxurious nineteenth century costume with portraits of African royalty framed on the walls. This was an era where ignorance, racism and slavery thrived – and it was also a time that the fight to abolish slavery began. Video Director Melina Matsoukas gave these instructions for this scene: “This is not a house that slaves are working in, this is a house where the slaves are the masters.”

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US Police Brutality Against African-Americans – Some American police force quickly planned an anonymous petition online to boycott Beyoncé’s concert, with an aim to leave her without security. Why? They believe that her image references and tribute to innocent black teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by white policemen George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012 (on the same month, February, that Beyoncé’s Formation was released) was in fact promoting anti-police message. A reaction that seemingly fails to see Beyoncé’s message against discrimination, stereotyping and her promotion of equality. Certain scenes in the video make direct reference to police violence against black people, including a graffiti photo of Martin Luther King alongside the text: “Stop shooting us” and a little boy dancing in front of police officers wearing riot uniforms and gear.  Beyoncé and Jay Z have fought tirelessly against police brutality against black people, with a recent donation, via their co-owned company Tidal, of over $1 million to #BlackLivesMatter.

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LGBT– Beyoncé shows her support for the African-American gay and lesbian community. She borrows the sound of bounce music – a popular style of gay music in New Orleans, uses the gay term ‘slay’ which is repeated in the song and there’s a collaboration with musicians Messy Mya and Big Freedia. Both artists are part of the bounce music movement in New Orleans and the video, according to Big Freedia, is a tribute to Messy Mya, an up and coming rapper, comedian and local social media celebrity, who was killed at the age of 22 on the streets of New Orleans.

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Hurricane Katrina – Sat on top of a sinking police car, surrounded by water in a flooded street, a powerful visual message is conveyed by this simple shot. Shedding light on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and how it destroyed New Orleans – which once served as a large slave market. It also gives some insight on what happened after the hurricane and how the black people of New Orleans were abandoned by the US government. Beyoncé and husband Jay Z actually own a home in New Orleans, so this subject matter is undoubtedly close to their hearts.

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Creole – Beyoncé educates us on her Creole roots, which she inherited from her mother’s side of the family. Louisiana has the largest Creole culture is the US. Creole is not a race, it refers to a cultural heritage that is usually a mix of French, African, and Caribbean cultures. We see references to this culture in the video with shots of Southern food and gothic clothing and styling.

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