The Importance of Black Joy

The recent events concerning police brutality and the infinite incidents of racial profiling and discrimination have been a fixture in our communities. We have long known about the adverse effects that come from just our existence alone. Now, with the recent guilty verdict of George Floyd’s killer, a sigh of relief was short-lived as six other lives were snuffed short in just one day by the hands of law enforcement. These included 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant of Columbus, Ohio and Andrew Brown Jr. of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It seems that trauma is rampantly on display yet the media mysteriously only show the moments of Black successes or triumphs very rarely. It is important now more than ever before that we not only seek out but also broadcast our times of joy for the world to witness. Too much rain without any sunshine will kill anything, even our spirits, if we allow it to.

Whether it is praying, dancing, celebrating a newly purchased home, engagement, or just laughing uncontrollably, Black people must discover a means to focus on what is innately good in life. For decades, if not centuries, African Americans have found ways to spark joy out of the ashes of grief and pain. Comedy has been one of my saving graces outside of meditation and prayer during times of upheaval and moments of mental exhaustion. The recent rediscovery of Richard Pryor’s work is at the top of the list. His 1979 routine about police brutality is both side stitching hilarious and unexpectedly poignant. What is deeply troubling is that a joke from nearly forty years ago still rings true as if could have been written in 2021. A comedic routine about black bodies being assaulted by the police is only funny because like any good joke it is relatable and is sprinkled with more truth than fiction.

***Disclaimer: The following video is NSFW and contains adult language.

Richard Pryor’s 1979 routine about police brutality.

Thankfully, through social media many of us are continuing to share our triumphs and genuinely sweet moments with one another. The infectious giggles of babies blissfully unaware of the world’s ills or the intricate dance routines of young black boys thousands miles away serve as natural remedies against the hatred and violent content we shuffle through on a consistent basis. Our well-being is of the essence as many of us face some form of trauma whether it be through personal experiences, interconnection, or inter-generational trauma passed down from our ancestors. Making an effort to finding true joy, even in the smallest of things, brings about a peace that can not be denied or stolen from you. Intentionally seeking out the “good” news, celebrating with others, and finding our own individual happy place can help alleviate or at least balance out our overexposure to the traumatic events that disproportionately affect black communities.

To be clear, in no way is this justification to ignore what is occurring in the world or to not continue the fight for equal justice. It is simply hoping that we all have a balance in the images that we allow in our spaces. It is a statement urging us to know, that despite what they may portray us as, we are not who they say we are. We are teachers, providers, members of professions that span from the most elite to the least respected. We are learners, record-breakers, trendsetters, and innately beautiful. No matter what we do for a living or who we know, we are all multi-faceted beings who deserve to have the world know that no matter who you think we are, we are so much more.

We are more good than bad. Each of us. Regardless of race, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, or color, the whole of us are more good than bad. Highlighting one another during our times of triumphs and successes is key to combating images of us continually being displayed at our worst. In addition to showcasing our greatness, we can help each other by sharing, supporting and even by withholding our opinions when they are not necessarily needed or by offering kindness when people least expect it. How many times have you had a bad day turned around by a small gesture of kindness? Remembering our moments of happiness are just as easy to acquire as the ones of doom if only we seek them out. Life is the opposite of death, so while our time on Earth is numbered, living a life that is filled with more joy is one that I fervently believe makes it worth living.

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