The song Formation opens up with the late Messy Mya asking, “What happened at the New Wil’ins?” As the beat comes in, it is gripping as Big Freedia declares, “Bitch, I’m back by popular demand,” and the images cut to Beyoncé on top of a submerged New Orleans police car.
Flashbacks of Hurricane Katrina instantly come to mind. Memories of pre-Kardashian Kanye saying, “George Bush doesn’t like Black people,” confirming everything that we felt as we watched in horror as Black people suffered and died as the government delayed help to many Black people during and after one of the worst natural disasters in America.
Formation was filled with other images that spoke to Black America in the wake of the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Sandra Bland and the emergence of Black Lives Matter. I must have watched Formation at least fifty times that Saturday. This was not the Beyonce that I was used to seeing. This was not perfectly poised pop princess Beyonce singing about love or putting a ring on it. This was different. This wasn’t about appealing to the pop masses. This was a Black woman that was using her voice and her mega-star platform to speak loudly to Black women.
“I did not come to play with you hoes. I came to slay, bitch!”
As if the video release was not enough to snatch all our wigs, the very next day Beyoncé entered the Super Bowl arena surrounded by her backup dancers dressed as Black Panthers during the year of the Black Panther 50th Anniversary. Standing on one of the biggest stages in the world, Beyoncé made no apologies for being a Black woman, liking her man’s nose with Jackson 5 nostrils and her baby rocking an afro. She sang, she danced, she put up the Black power fist and never apologized.
I loved it. I appreciated Beyoncé for her courage.
Black people around the world cheered, and the next day White America cried. They had been so used to Single Ladies and putting a ring on it that they forgot that indeed Beyoncé is a Black woman. The backlash towards Beyoncé was swift, yet she never said a word. She never once apologized for being unapologetically Black. And why should she apologize? I was angry that America was giving her a hard time as if she didn’t have a right to speak out against injustice. Beyoncé is smart enough to know that no matter how much of a star she is, she is a Black woman in America and her wealth and fame will not protect her. If they wanted to know why Beyoncé sang Formation and why so many Black people could relate to the song and video, I would tell them.
There is something extraordinary that happens when hard work and preparation meets faith, purpose, and destiny. For me it was God saying, “Now is your time.” And just like that, my poem Formation dropped in my head.
I posted the poem on my Facebook page, and within minutes it was shared 50 times, and I thought, “Hmmm, that’s interesting.” I went to bed, and by the time I woke up the next day, my poem had been shared thousands of times. In just a few days, the poem went around the world. I received messages from people from almost every single state in America as well as Canada, Ghana, and London, just to name a few places. The list was almost endless.
I couldn’t believe it. I had been writing for almost 20 years, and it seemed overnight the world took notice. I have been blessed to perform Formation opening for Angela Davis. I will never forget Angela Davis clapping as she gave me a standing ovation. I have recited the poem at countless events, on the radio, it appeared in a commercial for Youth Violence Prevention and won a Culturally Legit Award advertising award. People were interested in reading more of my work, so I started this blog the following year, and since then thousands of people all over the world have read my blog. That one poem changed the very course of my life.
All of those thoughts came flashing back to me as I watched Beyoncé perform at her and Jay-z’s On The Run II concert in Cleveland last week. For a moment, it seemed liked time stood still. I looked at the band comprised of Black men and women playing a variety of instruments. I took in the beautiful dancers. I thought about the crew and stagehands. I thought about everyone that was living out their dream all because one person decided to live out hers.
Beyonce closed the concert singing her new song with Jay-Z, Apeshit.
I can’t believe we made it (this is what we made, made)
This is what we’re thankful for (this is what we thank, thank)
I can’t believe we made it (this a different angle)
She made it. A little girl from Houston, Texas lived her life in such a way that it opened doors for so many other people. Beyoncé living out her dream, opened the door for me to live out my dream. Her song Formation paved the way for my poem Formation. Her fearlessness in performing at the Superbowl allowed me to know that I too could be fearless in my performances even when I have to stand up and speak truth to power.
I have wondered what my life would be like now if she never decided to sing Formation? How different would my life be if she was too afraid to sing Formation at the Superbowl because she was worried about what other people would think? I would have never written Formation.
Even today, Beyoncé’s life is impacting the lives of others. Beyoncé has been given creative control of the cover of Vogue for their upcoming September edition. And just like that Beyonce opened up the door for Tyler Mitchell; a 23-year-old photographer from Atlanta, that will be the first Black photographer to shoot a cover for Vogue in its 126-year history.
Beyoncé’s life and how her life impacted mine reminds me that we are the key to someone’s lock. Right now in this world, someone is waiting for you to be all that you are destined to be so that they can be all that they are destined to be. Someone’s dream is directly connected to you. Someone’s destiny is intertwined with your life. The steps that you take or do not take can impact the very course of another person’s life.
When I think about that, I cannot quit. I can’t give up because someone is waiting on me.
Who is waiting on you?
Are you living your life in such a way that someone else will be able to step into their destiny?
Are you living your life in such a way that matters, that says you are here?
What are you doing to leave your mark and impact the lives of others?