Beyonce, it seems to me, is playing a really interesting game. If you read her statements regarding her intent, or listen to her interviews, she sounds like any other mega-rich uber-celebrity, choosing her words carefully to protect the billion dollar empire she co-rules. She is not Nina Simone, explicitly calling for revolution. Instead, I think, she is communicating her support to black resistance movements through art, symbols, and code: the “Formation” video (which is pretty damn explicit); her backup dancers with “Justice for Mario Woods” signs at the Super Bowl, along with references to Malcolm X and the Black Panthers; her and Jay-Z’s donations to BLM, which they don’t publicly announce but, one suspects, have other people leak for them; her all-female backing band. To me, they seem to be trying to be global pop superstars, accessible to everyone, and supporters of resistance at the same time, releasing art that is clearly radical while refusing to comment on it directly. It’s up to everyone to decide for themselves whether this is a step up or a step down from the overt revolutionary politics of similar artists from the 60s and 70s, but it is undeniably brilliant and sophisticated, a strategy seemingly developed to protect their immensely wealthy empire, maintain their access to power and privilege, and simultaneously allow them to act as patrons of resistance and revolution.


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