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15 Black Cultural References in Beyonce’s ‘Formation’ Video You Might Have Missed

Avatar • Feb 7, 2016

Some time in the afternoon of February 6, 2016, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles put out the ‘Formation’ music video, which not only snatched the wigs and edges of many, but also came to rightfully shine as a pro-black, black girl anthem for all. Here are the 15 reasons we’re totally and unabashedly here for the New Orleans-based visuals that accompany the latest Beyoncé track.

The Legendary Intro Which Featured Beloved New Orleans Youtube Sensation Messy Mya and also Memorialized Hurricane Katrina 

messy-mya-formation-beyonce-tribute

When She Lets Folks Know Up Front The Illuminati Rumors are Dumb and Dismiss the Hard Work She’s Put in as a Black Woman

illuminati mess

When She Collabed with Queen of Bounce Big Freedia and Expressed Her Love of Soul Food

cornbreadcollardgreens

When She Called Herself a ‘Texas Bamma’

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When She Lets Critics Know She Loves Blue’s Natural Hair and EFF your Beauty Standards!

beyoncebabyhurr

AND That She Embraces her Black Features, While Giving a Shout Out to the Legendary Jackson 5

beyonce black features

When She Shot a Scene Inside a Beauty Supply Store and Showed Love to Wig and Weave-Wearing Black Women

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The Homage to Beyonce’s Louisiana Roots Can’t Be Overlooked from the Second Line Parade to Mardi Gras Indians

new orleans secondline

mardigrasindian

mardi gras float

When She Nodded to Black Cowboy Culture, Which is Still Going Strong in the South

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When She Showcased Marching Band Leaders from Edna Karr High School in New Orleans

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The Crowned Afro She Rocks

beyonce formation afro natural hair

When the Themes of “Formation” and “Coordination” Echoed Majorette Dance at Black High Schools and HBCUs

bey5

#BlackLivesMatter is Poignant Throughout the Video

Jay‑Z and Beyonce’s streaming company, Tidal announced their donation of $ 1.5 million to #BlackLivesMatter Organizations on what would be Trayvon Martin’s 21st birthday, just a day before this video was released.

blacklivesmatter beyonce formation

The Epic #NaturalHair Love Among the Dancers

natural hair dancers beyonce formation

This African Threading Hairstyle and the Nod to Victorian Era African American Women

african threading

Beyoncé is making sure there’s no miscommunication with the message: she is unapologetically black, woke and will continue to slay.

Watch the video in full below:

What are your thoughts on the video? Are there any references we missed?

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About Rinny

Texan by birth, Los Angeleno by situation. Lover of Tame Impala and Shoegaze music. Comedian by trade. Macaroni and Cheese connoisseur by appetite.

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Did Beyoncé just re appropriate black culture and legitimise the Afro? – AfroDeityGrandmasterBeavisJonesNANCIFmaralondon Recent comment authors
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cryssi
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cryssi

Not gonna lie, I love Beyonce. Also not gonna lie and say I don’t believe in the illuminati. I truly believe Beyonce works/worked hard for everything she has. I believe she earned her fans and deserves the title of Queen of Pop. Personally I don’t think any of the major or minor stars are the illuminati. I think that there are dues that must be paid, and they will always collect whenever they feel the desire. I think most hate the system, including Beyonce, but I don’t think Jay cares about anyone but those within his bloodline. Hey, I’m a… Read more »

S. Williams
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S. Williams

I read a comment that said “the video is nice I just don’t get what she’s saying.” Well, sir, because you’re not a black woman and you didn’t try to understand because the message is very clear to US. In the last few years that have been so many calls to arms as black women to stand firm against the injustices against our black men but no one stands up for US. I am here for this video for the sole purpose of unity amongst BLACK WOMEN/WOMEN OF COLOR regardless of hue!!!

Guest
Guest
Guest

I agree.… A male commenter on facebook who happens to be black said he doesnt get it either. He said he liked the sensuality that was in “Drunk In Love.’ So he “gets it” when she’s in a bathing suit singing about sex. He can’t comprehend Bey doing a women’s empowerment visual. And even though she has some #BLM stuff in the clip, it dawned on me that, this video it’s not necessarily even for black men! Many dont see the black women message of empowerment. And the men who do like the video are homosexual (via the many reaction… Read more »

lis
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lis

Calls to arms as Black women’.….This doesn’t seem strange to you?.…it does to me.…and I hope to GOD Beyonce doesn’t become some musical sista soldja.…let her live.……

S. Williams
Guest
S. Williams

it’s not her song that is making this a thing. her lyrics directly address all of the negative things people have said about her. it’s the VISUAL that she placed behind the music that has people up in arms. her lyrics are repetitive and quite basic as she gets right to the point. the imagery and representation of the history of Louisiana, paying homage to our ancestry and bringing it back to the haunting image of the young black boy dancing in front of the police and he made THEM put their hands up to his boldness. there hasn’t been… Read more »

FauxRealFaux
Guest
FauxRealFaux

You missed the little boy wearing a hoodie, dancing freely, in front of riot gear wearing police officers and then the graffiti that said “Stop Shooting Us”.

Rese
Guest
Rese

This is so lame. It’s an attempt to stay relevant with the evolving consciousness. I’m confused how she is unapologetically black when she refers to herself as being creole, which is a culture. She’s said before that she wishes she was Latina. Many times when I see photos of her, I’m not sure it’s her unless there is her name. She seems to be imitating a white woman.She has gotten lighter and lighter as the years have gone by. Also, this song seems extra ignorant on purpose. Which I’m not gonna knock, however it feels like she is poking fun,… Read more »

Sydney-Elise Washington
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Sydney-Elise Washington

Because she hasn’t done anything to lift up the Black community at all ever. Like Bey and Jay been bailing out protesters like in Baltimore AND I even heard Ferguson, Bey and jay also did a lot for Katrina, she gave to the Charleston AME church last year (even showed up to pay her respects), she bailed out protestors, built a huge homeless shelter all in silence. Because she does her giving in silence compared to these other celebrities who do it strictly for press she’s suddenly lame and imitating white women? And as a creole we recognize the fact… Read more »

dani
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dani

you say you’re not going to knock it… yet you are. theres always a hater in the room

Dee Hines
Guest
Dee Hines

Creole is just having African, Native American and French Canadian ancestry. A lot of African Americans from Louisiana are creole.

GrandmasterBeavis
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GrandmasterBeavis

Gurl gots prollums.

KosmoKhaos
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KosmoKhaos

I’m not even part of the Bey-Hive and I am honestly here for everything this video/song is and stands for. Especially the parts about how she gives no f**ks about what people say about her daughter’s hair and her husbands Black facial features.

lv
Guest
lv

I’ m 56 years old. Member of the Connecticut Bar. Mother of 2 teenage sons. 3 time a week church goer. 5 year old “renatural”. Trust when I tell you, Bey slayed this. Great video. I was rocking to the beat on this one. And the images.…Congratulations Bey. BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

enviro
Guest
enviro

Loved this video so so much! It thrills me to see her so defiant, strong, principled. And her performing it at the Super Bowl was the cherry on top of the whipped cream. I haven’t been as big of a fan up to now but I am blown away by this video. Thanks for the additional details here!

Sophia Richardson
Guest
Sophia Richardson

The reference to her negro’s nose is her husband’s nose. And the people that call him ugly and a camel. The Jackson 5 reference is to before they all had nose jobs.

Tanaquil
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Tanaquil

Before they all had nose jobs” Lmao

Tanya EJ
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Tanya EJ

I know this discussion is very serious, but she mentions twirling in her song, and all I could think about is Kenya Moore of RHOA fame; perhaps Bey is a fan.…..??!

Myllee
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Myllee

OMG I thought I was the only one and it reminded me of Kenya’s song as well LMAO

Helvetica Bold
Guest
Helvetica Bold

Black Panther salute atop the cop car!

jrious
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jrious

Here’s a question… Did Beyonce pay the estate of Messy Mya? I sincerely hope so… it’s a common thing for people to make money off of New Orleanians without thinking twice about it. Not saying this happened, but does anyone know?

Guest
Guest
Guest

I read elsewhere that the footage was sold to Netflix in 2008, and so in the liner notes the director thank Netflix for allowing the use of the footage and thank the original makers of the videos for shooting the images.

The original owner back peddled once it was proven that Bey’s team acquired the footages legally. I guess the original owner/director/creator, who first lobbed a complaint on twitter, didn’t think that Netflix would sell the images for use to other artist.

Sydney-Elise Washington
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Sydney-Elise Washington

I would assume so seeing as to how she bought the rights of all the Katrina footage used in the video. She is very good at making sure her t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.

kiki
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kiki

No. Why do you ask. Did Mya copyright the words?

BGLHRinny
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BGLHRinny

I believe this question was posed by (jrious) because the audio soundbite is from Messy Mya’s own video which means it’s owned by Messy Mya and now the Messy Mya estate.

Sandy
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Sandy

I did comment earlier sayin that I didn’t care for it but to be quite honest its’ grown on me. More so because of the msg that’s in the song and the visuals in the video which is very very nice. I didn’t give it a chance. I’m a bigger fan now

Guest
Guest
Guest

Loved It!!!!! I think people will understand her better as time passes.

ReGina Crawford?
Guest
ReGina Crawford?

“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 bamma / I like my baby hair, 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 hot sauce in my bag, swag.” “I see it… Read more »

ReGina Crawford?
Guest
ReGina Crawford?

“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 bamma / I like my baby hair, 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 hot sauce in my bag, swag.” “I see it… Read more »

devans00
Guest

I love how Beyoncé is comfortable in her own skin. How she mixes up images to express herself. She’s definitely at her artistic peak.

maralondon
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maralondon

Don’t forget that she has a whole entourage of creatives working around her. It’s unusual for artists, especially of her magnitude to not to have a creative team working for them. She wouldn’t be the person she is or portrays to be without them.

Elle P.
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Elle P.

In one scene I think I saw a reference to Sandra Bland… Overall Hey nailed it!

Nina James
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Nina James

for some reason I did not enjoy that. felt that it was full of stereotypes it says “i’m black” but it does not say “i’m black take me seriously” it does not say my fro is good enough to rock to work but that fro’s go with butt shaking. It does not say stop killing us but hey I will look glamorous when you kill me. It does not say black women are not sex objects and should be respected but rather hey what you did to Sarah Bartman is cool. A lot of white people will be asking us… Read more »

Lele215
Guest

Can a corporate entity like Beyoncé really be “woke” or are all of her choices driven by profits. I have difficulty believing a person can be unapologetically capitalist and conscious at the same time. Just something to think about.

maralondon
Guest
maralondon

Yes, good point. All those conscious artist out there don’t have the platform she has and are not taken that serious so I can’t help thinking that the imagery is a case of jumping on the bandwagon to create a little frenzy and plenty of bucks.

Topic_goes_here
Guest
Topic_goes_here

I am not a real fan of Beyonce (and I am not black, I grew up ignorant of real black culture and issues, other than from TV and music, but I am sympathetic), but this song, the video, and the manner it was released represent a BIG move. I haven’t read all the articles — some titles ask if she’s an activist — but I think this is a big moment in music history as relates to civil rights. Well done, Beyonce.

Cosita
Guest
Cosita

I was feeling the lyrics and the video imagery but the actual music itself not so much. My peeps are Lousi — Miss-Bama so I was loving seeing NOLA represented with the Second Liners and Mardi Gras Indians. Seems to me like a lot of people are unaware or refuse to acknowledge any diversity in black American culture.
BTW Happy Fat Tuesday everyone.

BGLHRinny
Guest
BGLHRinny

Co-sign

Rose
Guest
Rose

I love this video and everything it stands for! I agree with others that this song is about black women uniting to form a coalition, to get in formation, to be educated (“Come ladies now, let’s get in-formation”), to amass wealth. This is an excellent video. If you still don’t get it, please see this excellent write up here: http://newsouthnegress.com/southernslayings/ I agree with some of the ladies in this thread. This song is about black women. It is not even for black men to fully understand, and I love that. I love how Beyonce takes the woman on the margin,… Read more »

Kasee Kane
Guest
Kasee Kane

What is so wrong with representing THAT aspect of her culture. She has done so many uplifting woman videos and countless videos where she is not shaking her bootie. I read an article in EBONY magazine and it was about this guy who worked in an all white office environment had an office party. His famous dish among his family and friends was fried chicken (Old family recipe) but felt that he should not bring that to be a token black guy. How ridiculous is that guys. I guarantee no white person is thinking “oh man I don’t wanna bring… Read more »

Nina James
Guest
Nina James

I get what you saying my problem is that we have enough twerking going on i do believe that as blacks its similar to African dance like kuasa kuasa etc. but all im saying is look past the dancing because there is more to me than that. you know i was surprised to meet black Americans that did not know were their ancestors came from. they tell me about shaka zulu etc. i think if the video really wanted to teach something about being blank it should start at the core. Who are we? BUT if its just a fun… Read more »

MamaChitChatChitterling
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MamaChitChatChitterling

Beyond DNA research, which is relatively recent as applied to genealogy, how do you think “black Americans” would know their “ancestors?” Do you think they all were able to maintain that information during a couple hundred years of slavery and codified laws that made such knowledge not only fleeting but dangerous to record? Really? I am continuously surprised by the lack of information Africans have on “black Americans” and their experience, particularly the few who were never colonized in their own nations.

Katya
Guest
Katya

Pro-black, black girl anthem? Seriously? Music video aside, the lyrics are insulting. She promotes stereotypes in it, talks about being f’ed, and brags about herself throughout it. Just because the video seems to pay homage to something other than her, doesn’t neutralize the problems within the lyrics themselves, which support and promote Black femininity. They seem to do the opposite.

BGLHRinny
Guest
BGLHRinny

On the contrary, I see her asserting herself as a black woman. Perception is subjective.

Kati
Guest
Kati

Very subjective, which I understand as society and its mores seem ever-changing. But as a Black woman, she’s the last person I’d want as my representative. I can do bad all by myself — I don’t need or like someone else pushing the idea that I (or Black women in my family, for example, though I love our people as a whole and don’t want them to be portrayed in such negative ways in general) are, collectively, profane, materialistic, narcissistic, self-absorbed or would consider intimacy with my husband to be something as vulgar as “f**king,” and on par with some… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

I get what you mean. Like when she says mix that Creole with the Negro (or the makeup commercial where she is 25% French 25% Indian… from which Black parent?) Both of my grandmothers are from New Orleans, one has gray eyes and had sandy hair, the other had freckles and red hair. My dad has light eyes like his mother and my mother has her mother’s freckles. Creole? Nah, we ain’t, just some Black people with recessive traits. Like New Orleans does not equal Creole.

Katya
Guest
Katya

I know what you mean. From what I understand, Beyonce’s polyethnic shtick comes from her mom’s side, since, as far as I know, her dad doesn’t mind just being “African American.” I didn’t get the commercial either — I could maybe be more on board if one’s parents were not born in the states, but some of the descriptions used for some of the women used for the True Match commercial sounded like a couple of them just wanted to be special snowflakes lol No one just wants to be Black or White, it seems. Reminds me of a comic… Read more »

Elayne
Guest
Elayne

I feel that the main message for the most part, she was saying for all you critics who have something to say about my family and I, you can kiss where the sun don’t shy (which sounds more like her sister Solange). I’m Queen B and don’t need your approval because I am self-millionaire, you see. Then through imagery not lyrics, she added things that are going on in the black community. So basically, no message here, you have to think for yourself. If I am right, this is ingenious. she has everyone’s attention and we are talking. I’m not… Read more »

NANCIF
Guest
NANCIF

wrong! Beyonce comes up with alot of those ideas herself and only chooses other ideas that line up with her vision. Face it, she’s a creative artist who knows what she wants and works hard to achieve it.

maralondon
Guest
maralondon

I would like to know what I’m wrong about. I’m not saying that she has no creative in put and she doesn’t work hard, I’m simply saying an artist of her magnitude will have a great deal of people working with her to help realise and put forward ideas. It’s the same thing with fashion designers, they don’t necessarily design their collections, they have people who have a lot of the times more vision then they do when putting together a fashion collections. Yes she is a talented artist who seems to deliver great performances but I highly doubt that… Read more »

NANCIF
Guest
NANCIF

you’re ‘wrong’. Sometimes she is 100% responsible for her ideas and lyrics.

MamaChitChatChitterling
Guest
MamaChitChatChitterling

Thank you! We are so quick to discredit her creative agency. But I don’t see that conversation happening a lot for other pop artists.

NANCIF
Guest
NANCIF

Yes, author, you missed one referecnce. Messy Mia is saying ‘what happened at the ‘New Wildins’, which is a club she used to frequent, not ‘what happened in New Orleans’. But either one works I guess, just wanted to put the facts out there. Thx!

Jones
Guest
Jones

i’m pretty sure people were not clowning beyonce or her daughter for the texture of her hair. it was because she refused to comb it.

BGLHRinny
Guest
BGLHRinny

I have never witnessed her daughter to have uncombed hair.

Jones
Guest
Jones

i’m not talking trash about a precious baby, but yeah, you know when you just cringe a little bit?

Tanaquil
Guest
Tanaquil

Finally, someone who sees it the way I do. I feel like she’s capitalizing on what’s on everyone’s talking about at the moment. Her people probably go on social media, then tell her songwriters what to write about.The same way she was all over feminism a while back. All she’s got now is dope production work. Her lyrics are banal and insipid.

MamaChitChatChitterling
Guest
MamaChitChatChitterling

The video and the song was great, and I appreciate it even more after seeing Beyonce’s full short film/video, “Lemonade,” since “Formation” is actually the last song/video on the visual album. It is even stronger in relationship to all the songs and images that came before.

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