With the release of ‘Formation’ and Beyoncé’s performance at this year’s Super Bowl, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign pierced living rooms across the United States. Complete with Black Panther salute and iconography, accompanied by a film clip with a hurricane-drenched landscape and graffiti reading ‘stop shooting us’, a movement that had been demonised by the mainstream media and the right was given a heroic performance in what is, arguably, capitalism’s ultimate spectacle.
‘I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers, who are the people who protect her and protect us,’ former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani responded guilefully.
The song, performance and video are now unquestionably part of the Beyoncé brand – but this moment also demonstrates the ways politics affects culture. ‘Formation’, and the outrage over Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘The Body of Michael Brown’ (documented in this issue’s blistering discussion of race and racism in Australian poetry) would have been unimaginable if not for a political movement like BLM – a movement that has since grown beyond national borders. In Australia, for example, it helps fuel fury over the death of Ms Dhu, or our own incarceration rates, something Stephanie Convery talks about in her examination of feminist justice.
Questions of agency and Black experiences hang over every piece in this edition, from new columnist Natalie Harkin’s discussion of ‘national shame’, to Antony Loewenstein’s essay about life in South Sudan, to Maxine Beneba Clarke’s memoir, to the powerful fiction.
This issue also contains the 2015 Judith Wright Poetry Prize winners, accompanied by Peter Minter’s (final) and Toby Fitch’s (first) judges’ report, as well as the winning story in the inaugural Neilma Sidney Prize.
Read this issue, watch that clip. This history is still being made.