“My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana / You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bamma / I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros / I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” This is one of the popular lines in Beyoncé's new song Formation. Now, I am definitely a Beyoncé fan, but I'm not one to run out to the record store or download her single the minute it's released. But this time, things were a little different. Beyoncé wasn't just dancing in a music video -- she had something very powerful and profound to say. And you better believe she had me at that line.
For those of you who don't get it, Formation is not just a song, it's an anthem to raise awareness of the fact that black people and black culture have been victimized, dehumanized, disempowered and stereotyped for long enough. Beyoncé is crying out that she is black and proud of it! Being called a "bamma" may have been one of the biggest insults when I was coming up, but Beyoncé is spinning the degradation and the stereotypes and owning them with pride --that, and the fact that she too carries hot sauce in her purse!
As a black woman in America, there is no doubt that I am joining the formation! But for my children and the rest of America, this song serves an additional purpose. Formation is about more than Katrina, police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement...it's a cry out to BE PROUD OF WHO THE HECK YOU ARE! Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 won't be watching Formation, as the messaging and imagery is beyond their maturity level, but it does serve as a huge reminder for me to teach them to be proud of who they are, and to NEVER be apologetic or feel sorry about it.
Raising two African-American boys in America will be an incredible challenge for my husband and I as they grow into young men. The scene in the Formation video of a young black boy dressed in a black hoodie, dancing to the beat of the music in front of a line of police officers in riot gear is a disturbing image for me. When I think of all of the victims of police brutality, I think, "those innocent young boys could be my sons." Not all police officers engage in police brutality -- in fact, many of them sacrifice their own lives for the betterment of the community. But for the police officers who DO engage or just don't care, something has to be done.
I commend Beyoncé for using her music as a platform to emphasize the issues surrounding the black community, and encouraging ALL people, especially those who look like her, to be who you are. Embrace your nose, your booty (even if you don't have a donc), your hair, all of you! My daddy Virginia, my momma Mississippi, mix that slavery and that country, get a sophisticated, Pennsylvania sista! Be proud of the skin you're in, and just like Beyoncé says in the song, maybe one day' "You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making/I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making.”