Beyonce dropped the video for “Formation”, and the world (including me, I admit) went wild. By now, you know that the video visuals are a huge topic of conversation, referencing deep and complex social issues ranging from Hurricane Katrina, #BlackLivesMatter, and feminism.
As expected, Beyonce lit a fire, and now the social media world is in a blazing frenzy, coming up with variations of interpretations ranging from academic analyses of the video’s social and historical relevance, “YASSSS” statements from those who were moved by the video’s symbolism (my own included), to commentary calling out the artist for capitalizing on society’s pains, and then there were also those who downright pointed out that the video visuals and lyrics just don’t match, so what is Beyonce really, truly saying?
Whatever your position, here’s one thing I know for sure: Beyonce may have lit a fire, but it is US as a people who keep that fire burning. As an artist, Beyonce delivers her work through her platform, but as a society, WE are the ones responsible for interpreting that work and incorporating the value we see in it into our daily lives.
Because guess what? With Beyonce or without, a movement for social change can’t happen without the people. When the media moment is over, the movement doesn’t die- it lives through our individual and collective actions, and how we choose to show up in the world.
As academic Dr. Zandria Robinson points out, “formation is the alignment, the stillness, the readying, the quiet, before the twerk, the turn-up, the (social) movement. “
That being said, I have an invitation:
Ladies, let’s REALLY get into FORMATION. No matter what community you identify with, I hope that these points offer some wisdom on how you can affect social change.
First: Listen & Educate Yourself.
This goes for any social issue you may want to champion- listening is the most important thing you can do as a social change agent. Without listening, you can’t truly know how you can affect someone or something in the most effective and powerful way possible- most especially those whose perspectives and experiences are different from our own. But if we are able to have the patience to hear out the opposing side, just maybe, we might find common ground. So stop, take a few steps back, and listen, especially to voices that really need to be heard.
On another angle, as a Filipina-American, I consider myself an ally to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as an ally to the African-American community. In order for us as non-black allies to truly be a partner in this social movement, we have to give black voices the space to be heard. We must humble ourselves to stop and listen, and take the time to learn how we can be the most helpful instead of assuming we know the solution.
Finally, remember that knowledge is power. If you’re curious about supporting any kind of social movement, it is imperative that you educate yourself on it first. There’s nothing more valuable than context! Some of the leading books that I’m on a personal mission to get and finish are Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, “Between the World and Me” as well as Jeff Chang’s “Who We Be”.
Second: Use your voice to EMPOWER & to COUNTERACT negative media portrayals of marginalized communities.
Whether it’s in everyday conversation or even a social media post, use your voice to highlight the good things that you see in and within marginalized communities. Share achievements, share joys, share positive news to counteract the negative portrayals of marginalized communities (people of color, LGBT, women, disabled, etc.) in the media. Support by respectfully and joyfully highlighting the positive things that are happening within those communities.
And when you hear or see an –ism play out (racism, sexism, able-sim, etc.,) use your voice to call it out. I know this one is particularly hard (and often awkward), but I encourage us all to create a personal intention to become more bold in approaching these instances with bravery and grace.
Third: We must RESPECT and LOVE People, not just THEIR Culture
We cannot be cultural appropriators. It is definitely not the same as appreciation.
Specifically referencing Beyonce's "Formation" video and black culture, this quote says it all: “What bothers me most is that black culture is popular but black people are not. Brands will cop black culture for engagements on social media but when it comes to black issues, they’re radio silent.”
We all love the products of black culture- the music, the dance, the styles, etc. Beyonce’s new “Formation” video is the epitome of this. But loving black culture is not the same as respecting and showing genuine love to the Black community. As social change agents and allies, it is crucial that we demonstrate this love through our commitment to support and empower marginalized voices, in the black community and beyond.
Fourth: PRACTICE COMMUNITY BUILDING WITH YOUR GIRLFRIENDS
The best way to learn how to be a part of a mutually nurturing and loving community is to practice with your close friends. I recently wrote about the Asian Women Giving Circle, a philanthropic group based in NYC supporting Asian-American women. The organization began when the founder, Hali Lee, started a Korean tradition called the Geh with her close girlfriends, a shared saving circle in which each member would contribute money into a pool, and everyone would take turns taking it home to fund self-care practices or passion projects. The concept has since grown into an organization that has raised over $700K to fund art and progressive social change projects.
Now THAT’s sisterhood that changes the world.
Fifth: DEMONSTRATE LOVE TO YOURSELF AND OTHER WOMEN AROUND YOU
If ‘formation’ is about getting us ladies organized and aligned, well then, we must be centered on a powerful force: self-love. Through self-love, we achieve the ability to be more confident and secure in ourselves, leading us to the ability to be truly supportive of other women.
Without this glue, we cannot sustain any kind of change or movement, because without it, we cannot do it together. When we master self-love, we are able to be the kind of women that build immovable, unshakeable, powerful sisterhoods that become forces to be reckoned with.
With all of that said…who’s ready to slay?
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