#Formation: The Evolution of Beyonce

By now, you have seen the amazing video drop for the new Beyonce song “Formation” and watched her clad in an outfit reminiscent of the Black Panther Party along with her dancers, perform the song at Super Bowl 50 half time show.

“Formation” the first song to drop from her upcoming album is ALL THE THINGS.

The beat is catchy, the words are catchy, the images are powerful and they all mean something.

Through video imagery, Beyonce celebrates her southern heritage, all things that define the black experience in the South, and her feminism, issuing a call to action for black women to get into “Formation”.

The words are pure poetry:

On blackness and those who criticize her kid’s hairstyles:

“ I like my baby heir, as baby hair and afro”

On her blackness

“I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils”

and those who snark on her confidence:

“Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh
I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress (stylin’)”

When she hit the chorus:

“Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation”

 

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via The Wrap.com

it was really her battle cry.

The timing of the online music video drop was also interesting right between what would have been Trayvon’s 21st birthday and Sandra Bland’s 29th birthday.

When Beyonce stormed out on the field with her dancers in a outfits in tribute to the activism of the Black Panthers. All confusion from non black people broke loose.

Beyonce has accomplished as a black woman performer what very few of her generation have.

She is a black female artist with a diverse audience. Though she came from the R&B tradition, with Destiny’s Child, women of all colors sang their music. As a result of her following with white audiences and other non-black communities Destiny’s Child and by extension Beyonce became safe.

I remember being in college at a party and Destiny’s Child “Independent Women” came on, all the women, black, Asian, latina and even white jumped out on the dance floor and threw their hands in the air with purpose to

“all the women, who independent, throw your hands up at ME!!”

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via Teen.com

Whether it was “Independent Women” or singing “Say My Name” to the man who did you wrong and was trying to hide the fact he cheated on you Destiny’s Child was a girl music group for older Millennials and younger Gen Xers.

Beyonce intelligently transitioned that safe image into a VERY successful solo musical career as a black woman. Her fame as a musician and her appeal to a diverse audience is similar to that of Whitney Houston who was also made palatable to a white audience in the 1980s

But inside this young black Southern girl raised in middle class Christian home turned woman was the quiet evolution of a woman increasingly radicalized by the events she saw in the world, the experiences she had as a black woman and saw other black women and men have.

Beyonce rarely gives interviews and one is left to interpret the her thoughts from her music.

But as a black woman, no matter the blessings you receive in life, you will always be black and a woman. I can attest to that painful awareness of your own vulnerability to racism and sexism as all black women can.

One can only wonder how cold did her blood run (like mine did) when she watched the video of Sandra Bland. Did Beyonce think of perhaps any close run ins she had in her days before she was famous? Did she clutch her daughter closer?

Was she increasingly agitated and helpless as she watched more black men and women die due to racial profiling gone wrong? Trayon Martin, Jordan Davis Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Lacquan McDonald, just to name a few.
Was she disturbed at the numbers of black trans women who increasingly encounter violence and death than their white counterparts, like Papi Edwards, 20, died from a single gunshot wound to the chest on Jan. 9 in Louisville, Kentucky or Lamia Beard, 30, was shot early morning on Jan. 17, in Norfolk, Virginia. She died at the hospital

Evidence points to yes.

Beyonce had  increasing frustration like the rest of us that showed itself in the debut of “Formation”. She married her increasingly and eventually unabashed feminist music with her politics as a socially aware black person.

Whether Beyonce has always felt this way and now has felt more comfortable in her skin and her career to set some fires, or if Beyonce’s  comfort and security as a successful artist regardless of color was shaken up these last few years, it’s not clear.

I tend to think a bit of the the former,  either way I think we can expect to see a more politically conscious and active Beyonce in her music. And I welcome it, because when Beyonce sings, talks, dances, or drop a video on her own on You Tube without having to go through a network, the world listens.

Beyonce’s increasing musical activism has turned into charitable dollars as well. Some of the proceeds of her upcoming “Formation” Tour will go to help families in Flint, Michigan.

There has also been talk, since she’s not a bragger. She may have paid “tens of thousands” of dollars in bail money for those arrested while protesting the pattern of police brutality in Baltimore, specifically the killing of Freddie Gray in mid-April. In addition, the two may have given funds to help expand the “Black Lives Matter” campaign, designed to call attention to the plight of black Americans.

Not everyone is thrilled. Some want their “safe” Beyonce back

Some are so outraged at the song, are urging boycotts of Red Lobster

File under #icanteven

SNL had the best video summing up the reaction this ridiculousness.

And you know what I’ll close out with that and go back to getting in Formation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Do Not Mourn Or Celebrate the Passing of Justice Antonin Scalia

President_Ronald_Reagan_and_Judge_Antonin_Scalia_confer_in_the_Oval_Office,_July_7,_1986
Pictured: President Ronald Reagan with then nominee Antonin Scalia in 1986

Yesterday, rather suddenly, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away at the age of 79. The son of Italian immigrants, Scalia was the longest serving Supreme Court Justice. He was also the undisputed leader in carving out conservative jurisprudence on the Supreme Court. His legal opinions played a role in shaping our nation’s laws and conservative philosophy against the advancement of women’s rights, LGBT equality, voting rights, and people of color. While there have been many calls from both sides of the political spectrum to mourn or even take time to celebrate the life and works of Justice Antonin Scalia, I feel that it is impossible for me to do either.

While Scalia sometimes cast decisive votes on issues that were decidedly less partisan in nature and in some cases good, like dissenting in Maryland v. King arguing that the Fourth Amendment forbids law enforcement from collecting DNA from arrestees or voting in favor of the free speech case in the 1980s, Texas v. Johnson which held that flag burning qualified as constitutionally protected expression, Scalia leaves behind a life legacy whose legal opinion didn’t account for or a black woman like me as part of this nation.

Scalia’s conservative philosophy is based in constitutional originalism.

In American jurisprudence “originalism is a principle of interpretation that views the Constitution’s meaning as fixed as of the time of enactment. The originalist enterprise, then, is a quest to determine the meaning of the utterances, the meaning of which cannot change except through formal amendment.”

Translation: the Constitution was written in the 1700s by a bunch of slave holding and/or massive property holding wealthy white guys. This Constitution thought black people were 3/5ths a person, Native Americans weren’t even accounted for because they weren’t even citizens of the nation these men stole, and women? While white women were citizens at least they couldn’t even vote.

It is this world, to which Scalia and his conservative judicial colleagues adhere:

These are some of the highlights of this “originalist” philosophy:

On the 14th amendment and discrimination based on gender:

“Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws.”- Justice Scalia

On abortion:

Besides personally not believing in a woman’s right to choose, Scalia never believed that the Supreme Court should ever recognize or uphold a right to protect a woman’s right to abortion. That guided his votes against any case that attempted uphold the precedent of Roe V. Wade because he did not recognize it.

His dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case that upheld having an abortion while altering the standard for analyzing restrictions on that right.

“There is a poignant aspect to today’s opinion [upholding Roe v. Wade]. Its length, and what might be called its epic tone, suggest that its authors believe they are bringing to an end a troublesome era in the history of our Nation, and of our Court. Quite to the contrary, by foreclosing all democratic outlet for the deep passions this issue arouses, by banishing the issue from the political forum that gives all participants, even the losers, the satisfaction of a fair hearing and an honest fight, by continuing the imposition of a rigid national rule instead of allowing for regional differences, the Court merely prolongs and intensifies the anguish. We should get out of this area, where we have no right to be, and where we do neither ourselves nor the country any good by remaining.”

It was clear that Scalia, someone who we knew as a conservative Catholic, personally abhorred abortion, and he wanted the states to deal with this matter and settle it.

On the LGBTQ rights:

Scalia disliked gays and homosexuality to such a degree it can easily be considered flat out bigotry.

In his dissent in the 1996 case Romer v. Evans, which challenged Colorado’s ban on any local jurisdictions outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation

“But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible–murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals–and could exhibit even “animus” toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of “animus” at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct”

In 2003’s Lawrence V. Texas which invalidated Texas’ same-sex sodomy ban.

“Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.”

Also in Lawrence v. Texas he wrote:

“State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity…. Is called into question because of today’s decision”

In Obergefell v. Hodges which guaranteed the right for same sex marriage in all 50 states, Scalia argued the Fourteenth Amendment didn’t extend to same sex marriage in the mind of the framers.

Scalia also just seemed pissy he just didn’t get his way on the case, by writing.

“The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.”

So since we’re keeping score, Scalia compared gay people to drug dealers, prostitutes, and animal abusers.

Threw a hissy fit over the majority of the court co-signing with the “homosexual agenda” (oh the horror) and worried about the impending doom of gay marriage

And in when marriage equality was finally decided not in his favor, Scalia wrote flowery language that essentially said his colleagues on the court lost their collective damn minds to approve same sex marriage as the law of the land.

On Voting Rights:

Shelby County v. Holder was landmark United States Supreme Court case that reviewed the constitutionality of two provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The originalists won the majority in 5-4 decision.

Scalia in oral arguments, questioning the assertion as to why the Voting Rights Act hadn’t been repealed but always approved legislatively said :

“Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.

You hear that black people? Scalia said our right to vote, was a “racial entitlement”.

On Affirmative Action

The latest case to be decided by the court this summer is Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, which involves a white woman who was denied admission to the university and claims that the college’s affirmative action policy is responsible.

In oral arguments Scalia was heard to say this:

“most of the black scientists in this country do not come from the most advanced schools”

and added that black students do better in a

“slower track.”

Scalia also said students of color are being

“pushed into schools that are too advanced for them”

due to race conscious affirmative action policies.

“Slower track” is a reference to those because opponents of race conscious affirmative action policies often say that students of color are admitted into selective colleges they shouldn’t be attending — claiming they are “mismatched” and will eventually falter academically.

Guess what people of color? We’re slow. Nevermind that Fisher’s case is ridiculous because there were people of color whose GPA and test stats were higher than hers who got into the UT Austin that year she applied.

As a black woman who went to the one of the more competitive universities in the country, this is not the first time I or many of my peers heard this. Many blacks and Latinos in the days that followed Scalia’s comments wrote about their being questioned by peers as to their stats and how they got into college. #StayMadAbby was a trending hashtag in response to Abby Fisher and Scalia’s comments.

I could go on about what Scalia’s jurisprudence supported but I think you all get the general idea from some of the key rulings from the last thirty years.

To be clear, I don’t believe all constitutional originalists are bigots. But I do believe many bigots hide behind constitutional originalism to promote their ideas and advance their agenda like many conservative activists. While Scalia often went to great efforts to say he was not a Catholic jurist or his personal opinions didn’t influence his legal reasoning, his dissenting opinions beg to differ.

Scalia’s supporters would argue that while he was a constitutional originalist he was fine with allowing the states to decide on the matters of abortion, equality of the sexes, gay rights etc. This is true he did.

But this sentiment disregards two things:

  • His supporters also took this originalist ideology as their clarion call to fight in the legislatures electing anti-gay, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-people of color, anti- people with disability legislators that would ensure they could pass laws that would restrict rights for many of America’s citizens. Their goal was to leave no recourse for the marginalized in their quest for basic civil rights and equality. It’s why participation in the political process who don’t agree with this philosophy is imperative. Just a look at the state legislatures across the country now, tell you why.
  • To pass the buck on some of the most important questions of our time to the states is to reinforce an America that did not take into account or care about anyone that wasn’t a white male. It is to say to women, to LGBT people, to people of color, to people with disabilities that sure, if you want to fight for your rights go spend another 200 years in the democratic process convincing those in the majority that you deserve equality and justice and that it should be enshrined in the Constitution.

So pardon me while I don’t pause to mourn his passing. I won’t celebrate his passing, as I know others have. I do think that is tacky and we are no better than those who would wish us dead for our opinions and who we are.

I feel sorry for Scalia’s family to lose their grandfather, father, and husband. But I can’t mourn the loss of someone who if he got his way on Supreme Court opinions would keep this country from moving forward.

I know that there will be those who read this and say, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg (his complete opposite) was his best friend! (I love the RBG of course). I get that and I’m sorry that the Notorious RBG lost her bff. But President Obama loved his white grandmother who he has acknowledged had struggled with remnants of her own racism while raising him.

I also think it comes from a point of privilege to sit there and lecture people about how they should feel about an event. The personal is political and it is felt more so the more you have to lose and have lost.

 

 

 

 

 

Her Universe: For Women & Girls Who Love Sci Fi/Fantasy

Part 2 to my initial post last week about the amazing work to create more female superheros over at Marvel Comics is what is out there for female sci-fi fantasy fans?

AshleyEckstein
Pictured: Ashley Eckstein via starwars.wikia.com

Do you love Star Wars? Do you love BattleStar Galactica? Maybe Doctor Who?

Have you ever tried to find as a girl or woman to find cool fan gear to wear outside of costumes but couldn’t find anything interesting or was tailored to men or boys?

Well Her Universe is here to solve that problem! Her Universe formed around 2010 to produced Sci-fi licensed merchandise targeted specifically for girls and women.

Her Universe is the brainchild of Ashley Eckstein. Who is she?

For girl sci-fi fantasy geeks, she is a star.

Eckstein voiced the role of Ahsoka Tano on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” film and Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series and “Star Wars Rebels” tv series. Tano was Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan! Eckstein’s got a legit street cred in the sci fi/fantasy community

In an interview last fall she said “I did my research and found that half of all Star Wars fans were women and girls, and I also found out that up to 85% of consumer purchases are made by women and I thought I’m no mathematician, but these numbers aren’t adding up. If they made merchandise for us we’d buy it,” she says.

Her Universe has everything from your basic t-shirts and hoodies to a fun section in the store called “EveryDay Cosplay” that features feminine style outfits like an A Line dress made to resemble R2D2 or a Captain America Costume.

You can find jewelry, leggings, and tank tops, and clothes are for women of all sizes!

However what’s cool is it’s not just a fun store website but it has a blog highlighting girl and women fans, and to connect each other online.

Eckstein also found out in her research: many fangirls of Star Wars and other sci fi related stuff were often nervous about speaking to their love of Star Wars because of bullying or because they were teased, much like women in gaming.

Creating the safe community for these women and girls to enjoy their interest was paramount to Eckstein.

Star Wars also said in the interview: “is not just for girls, it’s not just for boys. It’s for everyone. Star Wars transcends gender. So it became a community for everyone.

To read more about Ashoka Tano, and the Clone Wars, or Eckstein’s work with Her Universe, go here

To fellow women and girl fans of sci-fi fantasy: happy shopping, cosplaying, and blogging!

America’s New Female Superhero is Muslim: Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2016 MAKERS conference. MAKERS

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Pictured: Marvel’s Director of Content & Development: Sana Amanat with Marie- Claire’s Editor in Chief Anna Fulenwider

is a women’s leadership platform that highlights the stories of groundbreaking women today to create the leaders of tomorrow — it is the largest collection of women’s stories ever assembled. Sponsored by AOL, MAKERS Conference is an opportunity to gather the world’s most impactful leaders and innovators who are working to make a difference in their communities for women.

As part of that discussion, we heard from Marvel Comics. You know the folks who bring the world, Captain America, The Hulk aka Bruce Banner, Iron Man, Thor, comics and are responsible for billion dollar movies like “The Avengers” ? So their Marvel editor at the time, Sana Amanat, decided to take her love for comics and her desire to see more women and people of color like herself in comics and created, Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan!

What’s huge about this is that Kamala is a woman and a Muslim American. This is the first time a Muslim character and has headlined their own Marvel comic book.

Within Marvel, Khan is a teenage Pakistani American from New Jersey with shapeshifting abilities, who assumes the codename Ms. Marvel from her idol Carol Danvers.

“We wanted to make sure we told the Muslim American experience that people didn’t necessarily see on television or that we talked about, but ultimately tell the tale about a young woman—who she was and who her identity was”—Sana Amanat, Co-Creator Ms. Marvel

The reception that has been widespread, has been mostly positive especially in the comic world where the first volume of Ms. Marvel won the Hugo Award for best graphic story in 2015.

And Ms. Marvel this year won Best Series the Angouleme International Comics Festival

For those non-comic geeks out there, the Angouleme International Comics Festival is the equivalent of winning the Cannes Film Festival top honor in film.

The comic creation world is still, as you can imagine very male and very white, especially the world of Marvel. When Sana came on board as an editorial assistant 8 years ago, it was a primarily white male staff and no females headlining any comic books coming out of the Marvel universe. Despite the makeup of comic book creative staffs, comic book readership has become more increasingly women over the years who like Sana, are also looking for themselves in stories.

As part of her time there, Amanat has been part of advocating for and creating a female Captain Marvel (who is more covered up), a female Thor as of a year ago, a black latino spiderman, and apparently they just hired Ta-Nehisi Coates to create a new version of “Black Panther”!

The response hasn’t all been positive. When Captain Marvel’s outfit was changed to a fighter pilot suit look, in spite of the positive response, they also got a lot of hate mail said Amanat “we’re destroying the ‘classic Marvel hero’.

To Amanat the change was simple: “why do we have strip down our woman to show them as powerful beings?

Some might think that having a black latino Spiderman or for that matter a Korean American hulk is creating diversity for diversity’s sake, for Amanat it wasn’t about checking boxes it was about finding a way to tell stories “that impact lives and that are really telling stories that are outside your window” she said, “that’s Marvel’s motto”.

People vote with their dollars and the results were becoming clear with the demographic change in readership and it’s great success award wise and financially: “Not only do people want these stories, we need these stories” said Amanat.

Looks like with Sana Amanat, who was recently promoted to Director of Content & Creator Development at Marvel Comics, there will be more to look forward to coming from Marvel.

You can watch more of Sana Amanat’s interview here and what the impact of Ms. Marvel and other female and people of color headlining comics has been.