Beyonce and the Imago Dei


“Why are they all black?

“Why are they all women?”

She asks me this several times, because she keeps forgetting.

And I tell her again, “Because this song is about black women being powerful and beautiful.”

We’re talking about “Formation,” of course.

And I wonder if I should tell my 8 year old daughter—all of my kids, actually—why the song is so important, why it was welcomed with open arms by so many. But I don’t. Not this time. I don’t want to interrupt her celebration of it. I don’t want to ruin the way she runs around singing, “Ladies, let’s get in formation.”

My social commentary was not needed when we watched the half-time show and Chris Martin ended the sing/dance-off between Beyoncé and Bruno. It was so obviously awkward and disappointing. We could have watched the two of them perform all night. It was fun. It was powerful. It was a celebration.

Have you noticed how nearly every organization who participates in Black History Month says “celebrate?” We don’t just have Black History Month—we celebrate it.

We lift up the people who should be lifted up. We recognize and honor their accomplishments and all the obstacles they overcame.

And yes, there’s a lot of sad reality in there about how this should be all year long, white people should be more familiar with so many of these people, and the obstacles were by and large imposed by white supremacy.

But all that heaviness aside—this is a time when we celebrate people for their blackness. For their beauty and creativity and ingenuity—for their humanity.

And you wouldn’t think this would be a big deal. But looking at the backlash from Beyoncé’s performance, celebrating blackness seems to be just as subversive as learning the truth about white American history.

And we need both. We need the history and the celebration. Because what we’re celebrating, in the end, isn’t that a person is black.

But that black people are human.

And so we’re going to spend this month the same way we are trying to spend every month—learning and celebrating. We’re going to watch the Misty Copeland documentary on PBS and then we’re going to ooh and ahh over her new photo spread where she becomes Degás paintings. *swoon*

We’re going to watch the Black Panthers documentary, also on PBS, and then we’re going to re-watch Beyoncé’s performance with new eyes.

We’re going to keep finding ways to honor what our society so desperately tries to keep hidden—the imago dei in blackness.

Caris Adel
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6 thoughts on “Beyonce and the Imago Dei

  1. I have an honest question. When I saw the half time show at a Super Bowl party (without sound, or at least quietened because all my children were CRAZY on sugar and snacks and shrieking all around!) but my question was more along the lines of, “When will we have female performers who can dance and sing and perform without also not wearing much clothes?” Why does femininity when performed have to be scantily clad?

    • I love how we all have different perspectives. I saw the show with my kids (8, 6, and 4) and they commented to me how much they loved the dancers’ leotards and wish they could have some that covered up so much. They are used to seeing women dance in leotards all day long, most showing just as much leg and far more arm, so to them it seemed pretty tame. 🙂

  2. “Because what we’re celebrating, in the end, isn’t that a person is black.But that black people are human.” AMEN. Caris!

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