On June 10th, 2016 A.D., my mother, aunt, cousin, and I embarked on the pilgrimage of a lifetime: Beyoncé’s Formation Tour. On our journey, we came across many other travelers, many of them black women like us. Black women who were tall, short, big, little, young, old, and in large number had come far and wide dressed in their best attire, and filled with anticipation for what was to come: Affirmation.
Beyonce performing at the BET Awards- Photo Courtesy of Beyonce.com
And Queen Bey delivered.
From the very beginning it was clear that this tour was designed to provide a safe space for all who had trekked to attend, and in the spirit of all that Lemonade was, it quickly revealed itself to be an opportunity for fellowship unlike any concert I’ve ever attended. The show operated as a celebratory and unexpectedly intimate space for the very women she'd centered in the visual album: black women.
The show featured songs from all 6 albums, a subtle testament to the length of Beyoncé’s career and the complexity of her experiences that played into our collective nostalgia. As Warsan Shire put it, in Bey's visual album Lemonade, " the past and the present merge to meet us here". With costume changes and unfathomable energy Beyoncé embodied the very multidimensionality and nuance that black women like herself are so often denied. And with every move she began the process of escaping the restrictive box society had placed her in by embracing her truth and womanhood as authentically as possible.
Within her first few minutes on stage it became apparent that this process of self- discovery and self-love was one that she was calling on each of us to embark on. Leading in the opening song “Formation”, Beyoncé called on the audience to embrace their self-love journey and to celebrate it, "If you are proud of who you are and where you come from say: "I slay" ".
She did not allow the ghost of Sapphire and Jezebel to inhibit her expression, thereby committing herself to displaying all the facets of black women's experiences, never shying away from displaying the very pain, joy, anger, and desire that is stifled by these haunting figures. Dance breaks to “Panda” and “Cut It” reiterated this unapologetic spirt that soon became contagious to all of us who welcomed it with open arms. In the interest of clarifying that this show was one designed to affirm and validate, the Queen spoke to the crowd with an empowering cadence and said “There is no such thing as a weak woman”. She enunciated with intention and deliberately centered undervalued womanhood on a major platform. The voice of Malcolm X that played during Lemonade paired effortlessly with this assertion and re-centered black womanhood in the subtlest of ways, a reminder of the words that played during the visual album: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman”. And as these messages, some subtle others blatant, washed over us, the stage began to fill up with water and Beyoncé, alongside her dancers, began to stomp across the wet stage with an unmatched level of grace and precision.
Photo of Jordan at the concert.
As Beyoncé sang “Freedom” and danced upon the water it seemed that we had been invited to a baptism of sorts, a spiritual refreshment that she wanted us all to experience. Those of us lucky enough to have had seats in the pit closest to the stage were left soaked in water as the night came to a reluctant end and “Halo” closed out the show. I left the show unwillingly, afraid to go back out into the world just for it to crush my newly raised spirits. And while I did eventually reacclimate to the disempowering weight that I often feel in this world, I was struck by the realization of the gift Beyoncé had truly given us that night: a break. It was a night for all of us who have been served lemons and made lemonade. A chance for fighters to take off their gloves and rest their shoulders. A blessing of sorts.
Written By: Jordan McDonald