By Kelly Corbett
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of African American advancement through gains in civil and economic rights. Fast forward to 2016, when racial unrest in American cities is headlining the news, the gender wage gap remains unresolved and the next president to step into the Oval Office is perceived by many as disrespectful to women and minorities.
Psychology alumna Henrietta Hanson (’15) had a dream of her own — to produce a music video that paid tribute to the black community at the College.
In a two-minute music video titled “TCNJ Formation,” Hanson brought this vision to life Queen B style.
Hanson’s project was inspired by Beyoncé’s hit music video,“Formation.” Filming for Hanson’s video was done on the College’s campus in April. The editing process continued through the summer. The final video was uploaded to Vimeo and YouTube in September, but circulated on social media earlier this month.
“I honestly really wanted to convey a sense of unity and community of black women on TCNJ’s campus,” Hanson said. “I felt like we’re here, but people rarely see us all together.”
While Beyoncé’s version illustrated multiple themes, Hanson capitalized on the unity of black women at the College. She said she chose to feature women of various career paths in different locations on campus to depict the range of beauty in the black community.
“We’re different in many ways and the same in others. We’re human,” she said.
After tossing a couple of ideas around, Hanson said she “started calling and texting nearly every black girl on campus” to take part in the video.
Hanson, who works full-time as a teacher, recruited journalism alumna Raya Brashear-Evans (’16) to help with the filming process. Featured in the video are alumni and current students from the College’s Black Student Union, Association of Students for Africa, Blackout Step Team, Association of Students for Africa’s Dance Team and the various African American sororities on campus — Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta and Zeta Phi Beta.
The women can be seen in the video by the College’s entrance sign, on the Library stairs, outside Green Hall, on the Science Complex’s fountain and even laying on top of Roscoe the Lion. Almost every spot of the College campus is featured, illustrating that this is their campus.
“Formation” plays throughout the video. Some of the women featured can be spotted lip synching the lyrics. Donning all black clothing with their hands on their hips, these women demonstrate their fierce demeanor, strength and ferocity.
In the second half of the video, the talent brought out a splash of color through African headdresses, attire and sorority apparel. The end showed the ladies getting into formation by a wall of graffiti.
“TCNJ Formation” has approximately 1,700 views online. The video has also aired on Philadelphia’s local TV channel 66 and Verizon channel 29 on Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. throughout the month of November.
Hanson said she respects Beyoncé and her work.
“I admire everything about her — her art, her sense of normalcy and her black girl magic,” she said.
Hanson noted that Beyoncé also focuses on themes of police brutality and New Orleans culture in the “Formation” video.
“I think (Beyoncé) wanted to show that black people are amazing and magical, but we are most importantly real and human,” Hanson said. “We don’t deserve to get treated as threats.”
While Beyoncé’s version of the video raised a lot of controversy in early 2016, Hanson hopes that “TCNJ Formation” provides a more inclusive sense of unity among the College community.
Hanson also hinted at other upcoming projects.
“They aren’t just pockets of minorities on campus,” Hanson said. “We have a presence and we are amazing people that do amazing things.”