Shifting The Silencing Of Black Joy

We are six months into the year and life has truly attempted to interrupt black joy. As I reflect, it’s as though we get bombarded with racial harm so consistently the inundation has paralyzed our ability to embrace the very concept of joy. Society has become so accustomed to talking, replaying, and reporting about Black harm, topics on black joy are smothered. We get so consumed with survival navigation, that when we reach accomplishments, we’re too exhausted to clap it up for our own selves. Then, when we reach the point of having our winning moment, we’re expected to silence our victories. It’s time to beg the question: Why does Black joy continue to get thwarted; why is Black despair amplified?

In 2020, the staunch reality of racial injustice smacked our nation in the face as we sat in our homes and centered digital media and the news. It was us as a collective who decided to fiercely advocate for Black health, our economic power, and the importance of supporting Black businesses.

By the way, Black businesses still matter! And even with Juneteenth being established as a national holiday in 2021, we must ask ourselves what else can bring resolve in a country which continues to mistreat us. When we individually speak up, we are asking for too much or starting trouble “when we resist as a collective, we are targeted to disassemble us; when we protest and riot, we are called thugs. Yet the insurrectionist…  pause, they aren’t worthy of one complete sentence.

This writing of love is about us – my beautifully melanated people and our permission to grant ourselves spaces of wellbeing. From my perspective, there is an intentional influx of content centering Black and Brown despair. Therefore, we will have to dig our own heels into creating and embracing our joy.

Recently, I earned an Outstanding Scholarship at the Graduate level award. During the ceremony as my speech was read aloud, I felt too shy to stand the duration of the recognition. My dean (whom I love as an auntie) had to turn around and nudge me to stand back up and embrace my applause. Days after, I contemplated about why a socialized bee like myself felt the need to sit and couldn’t welcome the comfort of the eyes of the audience. I had to ask myself, what internalized messages had been sitting with me to cause me to make that decision. What have we been historically messaged and generationally shared about glory?

In our society, the expectation is to overlook systemic harm and dismiss the marginalization we forcibly learn to circumnavigate. There’s a saying: “if you never experience good you won’t know what it tastes like.” Similar in objective, there’s a lot of folks disinterested in happiness and wellbeing being on our palates. I suppose those anti- critical race theorists would be content if we submit to oppression; say “thank you” after jumping through obstacles. See, there’s strength in joy! There is a peace of mind when one sits with sincere joy; it is freeing to our mental space. A free mind springs forth ideas, resistance, innovation, and room for critical conscious building. Y’all don’t hear me though, let me unpack this for you!

 Let’s learn from our beloved freedom fighter and anti-slavery activist, Harriet Tubman. She was certain that slavery was not suited for her nor her people. Despite the many ways slave owners deceitfully twisted knowledge with tactics to undermine any thought of Black freedom, Harriet visualized liberation.

In my recently published dissertation, I lay out the utilization of Sankofa Ethics which means to ‘reach back and retrieve.’ Being in tune with the wisdom of our ancestors enables us to, as Dr. Bettina Love exclaims “thrive and not just survive.’ Reaching back to the “I am worthy of freedom contrary to what others may think” mentality will carry our torch towards owning the ability to experience joy. We are worthy of time to laugh, dance, smile, breathe and just be.

We must be critically conscious of the messaging intended to maintain a level of hopelessness, fear, constant worry, and anxiety. And I admit, after the Buffalo Massacre, I am respectfully on guard! I take meticulous glances at folks within my surroundings – regardless of ethnicity and race. Cautiousness and gut instincts are levers to keep ourselves protected. Simultaneously, we must embrace the purpose of living, build capacity, and sit in joy, if not bathe in it.

Here are considerations of what’s within our locus of control as we approach Juneteenth:

  • Acknowledge that you are enough; validate yourself!
  • Focus on the development of your own identity; it will ground you when others attempt to define you.
  • Dream of healing to release the suffering you may be enduring.
  •  Unpack stored trauma by journaling or talking with someone you trust.
  •  Be cautious of allowing your psyche to overthink and steal your joy.
  • Show appreciation to your village.
  •  Affirm yourself and others.
  • Take in the small moments!

Dr. Annice Fisher is known for saying, “Get out of your own way!”  Dwayne Wade recently posted on Instagram, “Normally it’s others in your way which holds you back from moving forward!” There are plotters who want us to feel all the feels except for JOY! Own your JOY! Live in it, embrace it, and share the pieces you feel worthy of sharing. Our culture is mimicked and adored by others. It’s time we create a culture of intentional joyful consciousness to be passed down to our children. I’m awaiting to hear more, see more and clap it up more for authentic Black Joy!

It’s a new day of movement, in a direction away from limitations and onwards to expanding the space for our celebrations.


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