Thank God I’m black. Let’s get in For­ma­tion

CityPress - - Voices - Mil­isuthando Bon­gela voices@ city­press. co. za

Ihad never re­ally cared about Bey­oncé be­fore last Sun­day fol­low­ing the re­lease of her in­ter­net­break­ing, think-piece-det­o­nat­ing, black-blood­sanc­ti­fy­ing an­them For­ma­tion. I am not go­ing to try to con­vince any­body who doesn’t get it, be­cause I don’t care. I don’t care be­cause I’m twerk­ing. I’m twerk­ing in my un­der­wear, twerk­ing in the bath­room, twerk­ing in the kitchen.

As a black woman, I needed the world’s great­est pop star to amplify the con­ver­sa­tion on black­ness, black beauty, black feminism and black his­tory, and to chore­o­graph a con­fronta­tion of white supremacy to a sick beat. Af­ter watch­ing it for the first time, I didn’t think any­thing; I just felt an in­de­scrib­able joy that re­sides some­where and ev­ery­where in th­ese four words: Thank God I’m black! I’m not even African-Amer­i­can. I’ve never eaten at Red Lob­ster, my hair isn’t soft enough to have baby hairs and I don’t know what a bama is, but I’m drink­ing the Kool-Aid be­cause I’m black and hap­pen to live in a so­ci­ety that doesn’t like it when black girls get to­gether to cel­e­brate them­selves.

As a per­son con­stantly pre­oc­cu­pied with the many ways in which black peo­ple and women are mo­lested in the world, this song and video of­fers respite, a win­dow of fresh air from the suf­fo­cat­ing prism of be­ing con­scious. It al­lows me to rest from in­tel­lec­tu­al­is­ing ev­ery el­e­ment of life so that I can par­tic­i­pate in it.

It is tir­ing to write about feminism in a so­ci­ety that hates feminism. It’s tir­ing to write about racism in a so­ci­ety where many peo­ple do not truly un­der­stand how racism func­tions.

That doesn’t mean that all cau­tion should go to the left, but just for a mo­ment, I’m self­ishly en­joy­ing the new sen­sa­tion of di­vert­ing my at­ten­tion from con­vinc­ing black peo­ple to love their hair, and I’m choos­ing to get into the black-girl magic for­ma­tion and re­joice with those who al­ready do. It’s a mat­ter of sur­vival. Be­fore you de­velop the armour to fight against those who hate your black­ness, you have to learn how to sur­vive in your black­ness. For me, this song re­in­forces the self-love needed for that sur­vival to flour­ish. It’s a pop cul­ture rally, an in­ter­na­tional toyi-toyi for black­ness to keep toyi-toy­ing.

For the stu­dents run­ning the F*** Cam­paign at Wits, the black women who are tired of pa­tri­archy in the stu­dent move­ments, for black peo­ple in South Africa in gen­eral but, es­pe­cially in the first three weeks of Jan­uary 2016, for the im­mi­grants suf­fer­ing racist at­tacks in Europe, for the lit­tle black girl who doesn’t like her hair, for the guy who uses skin light­en­ers and is con­sid­er­ing rhino­plasty – this song and video is a pow­er­ful homage to the black strug­gles for men­tal, spir­i­tual, so­cial and eco­nomic lib­er­a­tion. It’s an “I get it” from some­one pow­er­ful enough to turn our daily me­ows against all this shit into a re­ver­ber­at­ing roar. And it feels good to take this for what it is – a gift from a pop star, not the an­swer to our prob­lems.

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