Could it be that our consciousness and sense of value and validation is so conditioned by the values of the capitalist system that we subconsciously base what we hold dear on what the system tells us is important? Beyonce is someone who has achieved material success within the capitalist system. Quiet as its kept in activist circles, this is really the goal many of us have at the core of even our expressed anger at the system e.g. it's refusal to let us in. So, under this premise, we grow to have respect for people like Beyonce because the ability to achieve success in capitalism is viewed as the criteria for relevance. So, we view her performance at the Super Bowl and her song and video through an individualistic vision. This last part is also a subtle manifestation of capitalism. We relate to Beyonce as one person who decided to do what she did so therefore, we approach our praise and/or criticism of the performance based on her as an individual. This happens because in capitalism we learn early, and have it reinforced 24/7 for the rest of our lives, that history is made by individuals. So under this dysfunctional and unscientific perspective, the entire history of the Black Power movement of the 1960s can be viewed through the performance of a commercial entertainer. And the millions of people who are interpreting this crucial history through this very limited vision, are doing so without even the slightest understanding of the real life experiences of the actual people who lived through that work. Since we see things through individualist lenses, we don't see ourselves as the people making history. That is something done by other individuals. So, since we don't see ourselves as the makers of history, we are not prepared to defend our history against those who come to distort it. Thus, I've heard a number of soft headed people this week refer to the Panthers as terrorists and promoters of violence without producing even the slightest shred of proof. That's not the point. I don't expect them to provide proof. They have a different agenda. What's of concern is our people don't even challenge them and many of us parrot their ridiculous version of our history. If we are thinking in a healthy way, several basic questions should always arise when these rats come for us. When and where did the Panthers engage in violent behavior? Besides the one unfortunate incident where Lil Bobby Hutton was murdered, all the documented police shootouts against the Panthers e.g. Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, etc., were clearly instigated by the police. This is true knowing that the police raided dozens of Panther offices and over three dozen Panthers were killed. Even the intra-Panther violence can easily be traced to the instigation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and their carefully coordinated counter intelligence program against the Panthers in particular and African liberation organizations in general.
It's clear that our energies are misdirected by focusing on Beyonce. Instead, what is much more productive is for us to consider that it is the masses of people, not individuals - not even the ones who possess star power - who make history. Beyonce didn't generate a single thing. What she did was interpret our history through foggy lenses. The Black Panther Party and our people who faced the horrible conditions from Katrina with dignity, provided what she worked with, albet in her own dysfunctional way. So, we are the actual creators of our culture which those two examples illustrate continues to be one of resistance and courage against the capitalist oppression we face on a daily basis. Beyonce is first and foremost about advancing her career. In her business oriented vision, coming out with something "controversial" like the Panthers, police terrorism, Katrina suffering, etc., would contribute towards her artistic expressions, which of course, helps her career. I can say this because she's not advocating people to join organizations and do work to liberate our people so I have to conclude that her career is the motivation for her actions. The logical conclusion to that statement is if she thinks doing performances about pro-Americanism can have the same impact on her career, and she doesn't perceive a public backlash from her core African fans, she would do it. And, that's the point we are missing. We as the people control the direction of our culture. Beyonce is simply a conduit for our experiences. So, blaming, crediting, or otherwise making her the center of any expression of our people's resistance is the same as crediting/blaming your car for where you end up going.
We are divided and dis-organized as a people and this is why our entertainers are with us one day and against us the next. The solution here is for us to get better organized as a people. If we do this, there is no question that the entertainers will be forced to fall in line. Its not a question of artistic expression. It's a question of what we want as a people because if the entertainers want our material support, they will put out what we want. The fact that we as a people don't create and embrace the narrative of what the Panthers mean to us, it allows Beyonce and the series of propaganda pimps who have come out this week to sneak and create their own impression around this question. What we need is for people to get directly involved. There are far too many Face Book and Twitter revolutionaries. Hardcore militants who can say whatever you want behind your keyboards without having to deal with the real challenges that face people who do real organizing. This is harmful to us because while we are hiding behind our keyboards, we are not getting the real experience of organizing people. As a result, we are not learning how to work through adversity. That's why for many of us, the minute there is a problem, the only way we know how to respond is to attack each other. The minute we have an issue, we are out the door. This happens this way because actual revolutionary organizing, the type of work the Black Panthers did on a daily basis, requires much more than the keyboard revolutionaries are even remotely prepared to offer. But, its the true dedication to working with people and building capacity that will create the type of consciousness and accountability that forces the Beyonce's of the world to think long and hard before they put anything out because they will understand they are not just individuals who can say what they want about us. They are conduits of a proud and respected history. There are plenty of examples of this type of artist. Nina Simone. Mariam Makeba. Fela Kuti. Steel Pulse. Public Enemy, etc. These folks understood they are a part of the people. They are a part of the movement. It isn't just something to highlight today and forget tomorrow. So, instead of us talking so much about Beyonce, what she did, why she did it, what she missed, etc. Why not talk about what we are doing to create mechanisms for us to move forward collectively as a people? If we begin to seriously do that, the Beyonces will step into their proper role of using creativity to express the work we are doing in ways that will further advance it. If we truly care about our future, and aren't just trying to find ways to compromise with oppression, that's the work we will continue to build.