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Buffalo Co-Lab advances an equitable economy and democratic community, collaboratively integrating scholarly and practical understanding to strengthen civic action.

Beyoncé and Modern Day Art Making Waves

Person laying on a police car that says New Orleans Police which is sinking

In my junior year of high school, I entered my English classroom to find one of Beyoncé’s music videos for her album Lemonade playing on the projector. The week beforehand, we had been practicing rhetorical analysis essays for the upcoming exam based on some classic authors—Thoreau, Whitman, Douglas, etc. But that day, Dr.Abrams wanted us to analyze Beyoncé’s Formation. 

The class smiled and bopped their heads along as we watched. In the forty minutes that followed, as I picked apart the lyrics and visuals of this piece, I realized two things. First, it is not just books that deserve thorough attention, praise, and critique. Rather, all forms of artistic expression can be stripped apart and understood in their capacity to change people and make a mark on time. Second, we’re living through history. This latter realization was important to me because it revealed the value in present-day artistic production. In other words, the classics aren’t everything. 

Formation carved a place in the historical present for both Beyoncé and her art. The lyrics center and uplift Black women, Black history, elements of Black culture, and LGBTQ pride. The video itself made large political waves. It takes place in Louisiana in homage to the fatal impact of Hurricane Katrina, as well as Louisiana’s history as a slave port. Beyoncé dropped the video on Trayvon Martin’s birthday in tribute to a teenager whose tragic murder awoke many people to the issue of persistent racial violence in our country. There’s also imagery of a drowning police car, a poignant symbol of eliminating police brutality. 

There’s so much more that can be said about Formation and the rest of Beyoncé’s work, but I’ll leave it at that for now. I recommend everyone watch the video, if they haven’t already, and pay attention to the ways in which its powerful message relays a multitude of High Road principles. Most notably, it focuses on empowerment of marginalized voices. To me, the idea that  in order to make change, the voices of the silenced, the hurt, the oppressed need to be heard, and loudly is the core of the High Road mentality. In that vein, I think High Road actions follow that path by elevating communities rather than things like corporations and other rather heartless capitalistic entities. Formation is a reclamation of power. I think that redistributing power, autonomy, resources, and money to those our country disenfranchised and continues to disenfranchise is what’s needed to create true impact


 

Formation -Beyoncé

Y'all haters corny with that Illuminati mess

Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh

I'm so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress (stylin')

I'm so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces

My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana

You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama

I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros

I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils

Earned all this money but they never take the country out me

I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag

I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it

I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it

I twirl on them haters, albino alligators

El Camino with the seat low, sippin' Cuervo with no chaser

Sometimes I go off (I go off), I go hard (I go hard)

Get what's mine (take what's mine), I'm a star (I'm a star)

Cause I slay (slay), I slay (hey), I slay (okay), I slay (okay)

All day (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay)

We gon' slay (slay), gon' slay (okay), we slay (okay), I slay (okay)

I slay (okay), okay (okay), I slay (okay), okay, okay, okay, okay

Okay, okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, cause I slay

Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, cause I slay

Prove to me you got some coordination, cause I slay

Slay trick, or you get eliminated

When he f-k me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay

When he f-k me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay

If he hit it right, I might take him on a flight on my chopper, cause I slay

Drop him off at the mall, let him buy some J's, let him shop up, cause I slay

I might get your song played on the radio station, cause I slay

I might get your song played on the radio station, cause I slay

You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making, cause I slay

I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making

I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it

I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it

I twirl on my haters, albino alligators

El Camino with the seat low, sippin' Cuervo with no chaser

Sometimes I go off (I go off), I go hard (I go hard)

Take what's mine (take what's mine), I'm a star (I'm a star)

Cause I slay (slay), I slay (hey), I slay (okay), I slay (okay)

All day (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay)

We gon' slay (slay), gon' slay (okay), we slay (okay), I slay (okay)

I slay (okay), okay (okay), I slay (okay), okay, okay, okay, okay

Okay, okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, cause I slay

Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, cause I slay

Prove to me you got some coordination, cause I slay

Slay trick, or you get eliminated

Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, I slay

Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation

You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation

Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper