“Multifaceted, complex, full of contradictions and black as hell.”
This is how Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza describes Beyonce as she appears in “Formation,” the music video that brought Garza’s social justice movement to a new level of national awareness (and controversy) now that Queen Bey has built her new single around it.
Garza wrote a complex analysis for Rolling Stone weighing the pros and cons of having Beyonce become a bold-faced member of the movement. On the plus side is the fact that the singer has always been “an expert at encouraging some of us black women to love on ourselves, exactly as we are, just a little bit more” and that, in “Formation,” she unapologetically details how “the best revenge is being successful; that she likes her men black, with the nostrils to match; that she’s rich, but don’t think for one second that she ain’t country, too; that she carries hot sauce in her purse.”
Beyonce invokes strong Hurricane Katrina imagery in the video as well, which received criticism from some who thought it was not her experience to appropriate. While Garza calls these “important conversations to have,” she points out that they should not just be limited to matters of Beyonce but should push the movement at large to find “visionary solutions” to the issues.
Garza notes that “Beyonce joins only a handful of celebrities courageous enough not just to reference a growing movement happening around her, but to proudly place herself within it.”
“Let’s be clear,” she says. “It’s not just ‘Formation’ in which she identifies herself as part of the movement. It’s also in her practice, from her monetary support for the movement for black lives, to her contributions to her own community by building housing for poor people in Houston, to her attendance at protests and demonstrations centered around the same message we saw in her video: the demand to stop killing us.”
Though Garza agrees with some of the criticisms leveled at Beyonce (including those regarding the star’s championing of capitalism, which Garza calls “an economic system that is largely killing black people”), she decides that the advantages of having the country’s most beloved celebrity speaking out for the cause far outweigh the negatives.
“Go ‘head, Queen Bey,” she concludes. “Welcome to the movement.”