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#WaterCrisis in “Formation”: Beyonce Political Philosophy 101

In “Formation,” Beyonce spotlights the struggle for survival in the midst of corruption. Think of it as a womanist thesis. 

Beyonce Political Philosophy 101images

After watching Beyonce’s “formation” video, I wondered: What local institutions exist to protect minorities from those in power who do not prioritize the needs of the vulnerable? What colleges and universities (besides Virginia Tech) work in tandem with local governments to safeguard the public trust? Note the existing controversy about the failure of local academic institutions to intervene in the Flint, MI water crisis.

Beyonce brings her brand of feminism to the world and graduate women’s studies classrooms flip out. Women’s studies departments are debate-grounds for discussing feminist vs. womanist discourse during a time when the “vs.” part should be ignored in favor of solidarity. During a time in America’s history when the potential exists for voters to elect the first female President of the United States, controversy abounds as to why more Millennial women do not appear to be behind Hillary Clinton. Are traditional Second Wave Feminists counting on feminism to save Hillary Clinton? If the answer is yes, then someone better call Beyonce — or at least one of her squad — because feminism has changed since the rise of the Millennials.

Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum may have trouble negotiating with various diverse constituents including democratic socialists, liberals, fiscal conservatives, feminists, womanists, and POCs. But Beyonce’s-style of feminism resonates with many youth. But how well does it resonate with traditional Second Wave Feminists? This question is purely hypothetical and meant to illustrate a potential cultural gap that could have significant implications this presidential election season.

I personally know how hard it is to be a feminist, a womanist, and a female person of color. Although I rarely see my perspectives reflected in public policy or political discourse, I’m still an avid consumer of news and public policy “White Papers”.

Public policy decisions that impact people’s relationship to infrastructure concern me most. The tale’s been told before: the citizens of Katrina, the citizens of Flint, the citizens of Southern West Virginia: Poor people, at the mercy of public policy makers, risking lives to stay afloat, and to avoid tainted water.

One cannot help but grieve, whether the grieving comes filtered through the lens of womanism or feminism.

More About The Video

“Formation” begins with a haunting voice speaking of “the water,” a referent to Hurricane Katrina. Now we see Beyonce splayed atop a sinking police car wearing a red-and-white gown, maintaining characteristic poise despite (in spite of) her precarious position. The scene dramatizes the relationship between nature, the State, and the black body. Always precarious. A water-logged police car slowly, slowly becoming indistinguishable from the muck. Thus, it begins.

Gothic Horror & Iconic Southern Style Through a Southern California Lens: Beyonce’s “Formation” ‘Slays’

When looking at Beyonce’s “Formation,” keep in mind migration. Sometimes the best way to get a handle on a situation is to change geographic location.

In “Formation,” Beyonce’s epic video, we see an ode to a people’s relationship to both the land and the American cultural politics of geography. Mood? Dark. Chic. Magic. The video was released the weekend of Super Bowl 50, a contest pitting the Panthers against the Broncos. This video appears early in 2016, when echoes of American activism sift through layers of soundbites and marketing ploys.

Part of the conceit of “Formation” is a commentary on American cultural politics. The video was not shot in the South, but in California. Perhaps this suggests that when the subject of commentary is systemic structural inequality, the vastness of Los Angeles, with a nod to Hollywood’s Gothic Westerns, provides an artistic safe space for exploration and creation.

“Formation” collapses history by reinterpreting Southern life. With copious references to historic events in African American culture and the human will to survive, this video provides echoes of a traumatic past merged with the promise of a future. Today’s struggles, whether for clean water, as in #Flint, or the struggle to thrive, spotlighted by #BlackLivesMatter, are part of the tapestry of “Formation”.

Beyonce Political Philosophy 101

After watching Beyonce’s “formation” video, I wondered: What local institutions exist to protect minorities from those in power who do not prioritize the needs of the vulnerable? What colleges and universities (besides Virginia Tech) work in tandem with local governments to safeguard the public trust? Note the existing controversy about the failure of local academic institutions to intervene in the Flint, MI water crisis.

Beyonce brings her brand of feminism to the world and graduate women’s studies classrooms flip out. Women’s studies departments are debate-grounds for discussing feminist vs. womanist discourse during a time when the “vs.” part should be ignored in favor of solidarity. During a time in America’s history when the potential exists for voters to elect the first female President of the United States, controversy abounds as to why more Millennial women do not appear to be behind Hillary Clinton. Are traditional Second Wave Feminists counting on feminism to save Hillary Clinton? If the answer is yes, then someone better call Beyonce — or at least one of her squad — because feminism has changed since the rise of the Millennials.

Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum may have trouble negotiating with various diverse constituents including democratic socialists, liberals, fiscal conservatives, feminists, womanists, and POCs. But Beyonce’s-style of feminism resonates with many youth. But how well does it resonate with traditional Second Wave Feminists? This question is purely hypothetical and meant to illustrate a potential cultural gap that could have significant implications this presidential election season.

I personally know how hard it is to be a feminist, a womanist, and a female person of color. Although I rarely see my perspectives reflected in public policy or political discourse, I’m still an avid consumer of news and public policy “White Papers”.

Public policy decisions that impact people’s relationship to infrastructure concern me most. The tale’s been told before: the citizens of Katrina, the citizens of Flint, the citizens of Southern West Virginia: Poor people, at the mercy of public policy makers, risking lives to stay afloat, and to avoid tainted water.

One cannot help but grieve, whether the grieving comes filtered through the lens of womanism or feminism.

More About The Video

“Formation” begins with a haunting voice speaking of “the water,” a referent to Hurricane Katrina. Now we see Beyonce splayed atop a sinking police car wearing a red-and-white gown, maintaining characteristic poise despite (in spite of) her precarious position. The scene dramatizes the relationship between nature, the State, and the black body. Always precarious. A water-logged police car slowly, slowly becoming indistinguishable from the muck. Thus, it begins.

Beyonce and Squad as Cultural Creatives

Another part of this video shifts the focus to domestic life and features antebellum architecture. Yet, Beyonce and her team shot the video in Southern California, not in the U.S. South. Beyonce’s team scouted the Fenye’s Mansion in Pasadena for the “Formation” mansion. Without giving too much away (although the link about Beyonce’s crew visiting the Fenye’s Mansion provides some details), the production team’s attention to history, and to re-creating and re-interpreting the past, deserves commendation. This is Beyonce, the artist with a team of cultural producers, creating art, re-interpreting history, making history.

There’s a scene featuring Beyonce that also made me think of black-and-white photographs I have seen of the late painter Georgia O’Keefe who said, “To create one’s own world takes courage”. The word courage, typically associated with militarized tales of valor and bravery, takes on new meaning when applied to people of the Diaspora. Survivors feature prominently in “Formation” with all of the trials and tribulations. Despite the treachery of policy-makers and the betrayal of infrastructure, people survive to build new worlds.

Could Beyonce’s “Formation” be the beginning of a healing?

 

 

Beyonce, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Mark Ronson, and Bruno Mars: Super 21st Century Culture

Would it have been OK for Beyonce to rock a kinky blond ‘fro to the halftime show? Well, culture, the expression of power, renders the question moot. Beyonce iterates. Her most recent message: “Formation” materialized at the Super Bowl halftime show which also coincided with the announcement of a tour and new songs heralding America’s penchant for grassroots transformation. This message contrasted colorfully with Coldplay’s appeal to grand themes of affinity for all humankind. 

Beyonce, long, golden waves flowing, cast light upon a squadron of dancers at Super Bowl 50’s halftime show. Her squad, all donning black Afros adorned with black berets, paid homage to American grassroots youth of the 1960s.

Coldplay, plus Mark Ronson, and Bruno Mars, tapped into respective masculine energy unleashing multi-variate tones and textures. The stage, at once floral and firey, featured Chris Martin’s free-spirited, improvisational leaps and circling of the stage contrasted with the regimented dance moves of Beyonce and Bruno Mars. 

This trailblazing halftime show referencing American 1960s-nostalgia, romantic love, and universal love, presented a rainbow of alternate solutions to life’s trying circumstances including the current Presidential primaries, the Flint water crisis, the Zika Virus, and the North Korea missile launch.

Collaboration seemed to be the unifying theme of the Super Bowl 50 half-time show. Perhaps the purpose of being alive in the 21-st Century is to inspire cross-cultural collaboration. We see collaboration in campaigns like He for She, and #BetterMakeRoom, for example.

Could society be heading toward a day when the Super Bowl, and the 15-minute halftime show, ends national and global conflicts through competition, music, and dance?

If only national and global politics were as simple — and dramatic — as the Super Bowl.

The world needs an annual global festival.  One with gladiators, a goddess, her squad, and rockstars.

Anyone agree?

 

Surviving the $675,000-question: Clinton’s Cultural Studies Primer

One cannot begrudge Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s earning power. She’s a productive, tough, smart, political leader. Her genuine expressions of gratitude appease supporters. She donates to charity and pays taxes. However, Sec. Clinton’s honest answer to a tough question from CNN’s Anderson Cooper about accepting a $675,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street firm undermines all of the goodwill earned through a lot of hard work.

She gave an honest answer at the beautiful Derry, NH Opera House. Now, she must work harder to win back the public’s trust. Many voters consider income inequality a crucial issue this campaign season.

Sec. Clinton must use her knowledge and her skills to ameliorate the scourge of income inequality in the United States of America. Madame Clinton must create and announce a plan to end income inequality, reduce the student loan burden, and strengthen subsidies for students, and caregivers who have left the work.

Imagine this. What if every voter and potential voter were to share his or her most recent W-2 with Sec. Clinton? Would the reality of income inequality become more tangible to her?

Can Sec. Clinton demonstrate affinity for the precarious — and mostly female — part-time English professor trying to live on $11,051.48 a year in a city where average rent on a one-bedroom apartment is $2,011?

Candidates with fat paychecks touting practical solutions to complicated economic and social problems cannot appear to rationalize income inequality.

But wealthy political leaders who solve the problem of income inequality win the nation’s trust, and The White House.

 

CNN’s Bakari Sellers Nails It: “Black Women” Key to 2016 Presidential Win

“Hillary was talking to those women, especially those Black women down in South Carolina,” said attorney and CNN commentator Bakari Sellers last night after the Democrat #CNNTownHall. Sellers talked about the importance of candidates connecting with a diverse 2016 electorate. Researchers at Pew note that Election 2016 heralds a turn to a more inclusive electorate.

Bakari Sellers joined other pundits, and at least one New Hampshire local, on a show with Don Lemon last night after the New Hampshire Democrat Town Hall Meeting. Next week, New Hampshire voters cast ballots in the first primary of the Presidential season.

Sellers’ insight into how the next President of the United States can win the White House by appealing to Black women helps conservatives, progressives, liberals, neo-liberals, and socialists, alike. No candidate (whether it’s Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Rubio, Cruz, or “Other”) should take the Black vote for granted.

I recall a time when an elder white Democrat woman engaged me in conversation during the 2000 election. The conversation steered toward the pros and the cons of the Green Party vs. the Democrat Party. During a discussion about Al Gore (Democrat) and Ralph Nader (Green Party Candidate), the elder white woman said to me, a woman of color, “Just vote Democrat, like you always do.” Her statement “… like you always do” conveyed the message that people of color need not explore political alternatives. Rather, people of color need to vote according to prescribed expectations set by the political status quo. In reality, nothing could be further from the the truth. Just ask a Black woman.

Whether it is politics, or everyday life, being treated like your presence is non-negotiable does not build the long-term trust needed to cement a healthy relationship. Presidential candidates, in particular, need to work hard to build trust within communities of color. So many people of color act as independent political thinkers. So, my advice to candidates running for the White House is, do not take the Black vote for granted.

Black women of 2016 see a Black First Lady doing phenomenal work in the White House and outside of the White House, daily. Many Black women actualize their potential daily through holding leadership positions, through running businesses, and obtaining academic degrees. The question remains, how seriously do the 2016 presidential candidates take Black female political influence? What policy proposals best appeal to female people of color?

Candidates need to realize that the “Black vote” is not one thing. It is diverse. Often, black women drive voting power, according to this article by The Washington Post.

Winning the black female vote may be especially tough simply because there is so much differentiation in the category. Look at the KPCC story on black women in Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles that struggles with unemployment and homelessness, while also undergoing a bold cultural rebirth. Let’s see 2016 candidates campaigning in Watts, and in rural and Appalachian communities. Let’s see the candidates connect with Black women who have not yet registered to vote.

How to court Black women is the question.