Before You Get "In Formation" with Beyonce...Get In Formation for Yourself

The visuals for Beyoncé s Formation video are stunning. Even I, a proud Beyoncé critic will concede that. Because of the stunning visuals, I can understand the unfettered fawning over Formation.

But before you go getting “in formation” on behalf of other people or “the community” make sure you get in formation for yourself.

We all know that within the Black community some lives matter more than others. While there is an occasional exception, Black = Black men. And some of you are okay with that. You’ve been indoctrinated every day of your life to believe that Black men and boys are more valuable than Black women and girls.

We see it in a movement led by Black women where mass mobilization took place on behalf of Black men while family members and supporters of Black women were forced to stand on side walks with handmade signs pleading for someone to pay attention to their mother, sister, daughter who was also unarmed when she was shot by law enforcement.

We see it when ESSENCE magazine, the magazine where Black women “come first,” dedicates an entire issue to Black lives that matter, but when it comes to a photo spread of mothers who’ve lost their children who were killed by law enforcement, ESSENCE didn’t include a single mother of an unarmed Black woman who was killed.

I’m not going to tell you not to get in formation. But when you get in formation for “the community,” just realize that the community is probably not going to get in formation for you.

And before you go ga ga over Black Panther imagery, read up on how women were treated within that movement. Read about the male leadership’s views about violence against women. Here’s a hint…they weren’t against it.

As I’ve stated repeatedly, Beyoncé is not a radical. She’s a conformist. She just reinforces a male-centered value system in flashy creative ways. There is nothing radical about telling Black women to be sacrificial lambs. We get that drilled into our heads from birth.

We see M’Dear get in formation by putting the house she spent her whole life paying for on the line to get some male member of the family out of jail.

We see Aunt Mabel get in formation trying to raise children by herself after being abandoned by their fathers.

We see Sister So and So give her last dollar to the church so pastor can get a new overflow parking lot while her roof is leaking and she’s struggling to survive while she just keeps on keeping on… As long as the Lord will allow.

I don’t blame Beyoncé or all of y’all screaming “Slaaaaay! Slay! Slay!”

Getting in formation feels good. Helping other people feels good. Being a part of an event that you think is greater that yourself feels good. We are social creatures after all.

But I’m convinced that many of you running to get in formation for other people are doing so because you are terrified of getting in formation for yourself.

So go ahead and slay- just leave some time to slay for yourself.


CNN Money Writes About the Impact of Incarceration on Black Women... Leaves Out Mentioning Incarcerated Black women.

When I saw a teasing headline about the impact of incarceration on Black women, I fell for it and clicked. I expected to read a story about incarcerated Black women. Nope! The CNN Money story written by Tanzina Vega was about incarceration. It was about Black women, but it wasn’t about incarcerated Black women.

The story was about incarcerated Black men and the Black women who go to destructive lengths to support the men financially while the men are in prison and once they get out.

That’s right, in a story about the impact of incarceration on Black women, not a single  incarcerated Black women was mentioned.

At least three Black women are featured. One Black mother died an early in part because she worked herself into the ground to support two incarcerated sons...

"The financial stress of having two sons in prison ultimately took a physical toll on Belinda's mother, who ended up struggling with cancer, hypertension and blindness in one of her eyes.CNN Money

Leaving her law abiding daughters to pick up the slack.

Another woman declared bankruptcy and sacrificed her homes and savings to post bond on a habitually offending husband.

And it doesn’t stop for these women once the men are released:

"We're the ones with the credit, we're the ones with the job, we're the ones putting everything in our name," said Muhammad, whose husband died in prison halfway through a 24-year sentence. "They need a ride, they need a suit, they have to go job hunting? You're putting them up. You're their sponsor." CNN Money

WAOD reader responses on Facebook

  • "Who is signing up to be a sponsor?????Where????"
  • "This article is ridiculous. Nobody has to financially support a grown man....especially if he habitually makes poor decisions.  Also, I wonder if incarcerated black women get that kind of economic support. I don't think most men would put themselves in an financial bind like so many women feel that they have to."
  • "The problem is worse that the article states. Prison officials are on record stating that non-criminal, non-imprisoned (female) family members are responsible for providing commissary money so that the incarcerated person can get soap and toilet paper."

What’s the big deal? It reinforces the message that Black women don’t need support from two angles.

First, the absence of incarcerated Black women implies that they don’t exist. It implies that Black women are not disproportionately represented in prison populations - that’s not true. And Black women’s incarcerations ( including Black girls) are increasing. The article also implies that Black women can handle it all, even poorly, and are unworthy of support.

Second, by featuring Black women whose financial support of the incarcerated Black men reaches destructive levels, we reinforce dangerous ideas about Black women’s roles as sacrificial lambs.  There is not one expert in the article that discusses financial literacy. There is not one expert in the article that challenges these women or offers solutions that allow these women to support incarcerated family members while continuing to build a happy, stable life of their own. And there is not a single voice in the article that says “STOP!” or “NO!”.  There is no one to say "this is not healthy!"

What is so clear is that all of the women who were featured were self-destructive and probably lacking in self love.  

The article concludes with a Black woman who was earlier complaining about the massive financial toll  from supporting the incarcerated men in her life. She was now booed up with another man she met...while he was incarcerated for a decade. When asked why she is carrying the financial load now that he is released, her response was the following:

"He cooks dinner for me, I get my feet rubbed and I get the companionship of a guy that I care about that I couldn't be with for nine years."

Economic ruin in exchange for a foot rub and companionship...that's not normal. That's not healthy.

If you’re  a young Black girl reading this, please know that you can be generous with people without being self-destructive.

In addition to criminal justice reform, telling people NO is an option. Being single ( and happy) is an option. Boundaries are an option. Limits are an option. You can give without giving everything you have.