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Black Joy Is Liberation

Black Joy is not the narrative that folks are used to seeing or even paying attention to.

During the summer of 2020, so many of us Black folks labored & created multiple educational posts, podcasts, classes, books, and so on around dismantling white supremacy. And the work, as always, was clear, specific, creative, and timely. We talked about the daily assaults on us that impact every aspect of how we’re able to move in the world, and we shared how deeply painful it is to endure racism. 
We’ve cried our eyes out as we explored and taught from our own experiences. We’ve delivered powerful, action-oriented trainings & workshops & we’ve done so with dedication & commitment to Black liberation. And while many people have shown great respect and appreciation for our work, unfortunately, we also have been mistreated, tokenized, abused, bullied, and harmed along the way.

And still, we’ve persisted, as always.

But I’m seeing a shift—a beautiful pivot into the aspect of this work, Black liberation where we’re centering more joy & I’m fully here for this, especially because Black joy is Black liberation.

We are stepping back & evaluating things & realizing that we won’t spend our lives talking about oppression, especially to folks who won’t even bother to pay us $1 to support us on Patreon. We have created new boundaries, raised our prices, shifted our work & started centering ourselves in ways that is giving all things joy, healing, peace, abundance, and so on. And it’s the reclaiming of all of this that allows us to continue on in our work or to shift and do something entirely different. We are giving ourselves permission to define life on our terms, to say “no” when we need to without absorbing the guilt of someone else’s expectations. We are leaving relationships and environments that are toxic and we are doing so because we know we have always deserved more.

And while we know white supremacy still needs to be dismantled but it won’t be on our backs. There are different ways to approach this work without it being so incredibly taxing on us, and we’re figuring this out, and I love to see. And one of the ways we’re doing this is reclaiming our joy. Black Joy is not the narrative that folks are used to seeing or even paying attention to, but Black joy is liberation. We know that most folks are ONLY engaging with Black folks when it’s around grief & trauma, so much so that folks are offended by the wholeness of our humanity—the joy that we radiate. It’s painfully dehumanizing to use the nationally publicized murdering of Black folks as “motivation” to do this work. You shouldn’t need hashtags with the names of Black folks who have been murdered to inspire you to action that soon fizzles out before ever really doing anything. And yet it is these painful experiences that folks want us to continue to talk about as though there is no more to blackness than pain and suffering.

What about the playfulness, laughter, joy, softness, ease. The white gaze will have folks believing that Black folks exist for the consumption, entertainment & enlightenment of whiteness & anything outside of that is deemed offensive. Even when I post on Instagram about anything other than anti-racism, folks immediately disengage. The sight of a Black woman thriving and living an abundant life, a life where joy is fully present, is one that folks are not used to seeing but will eventually. Folks seem not to know what to do with a happy, soft, tender & loving Black woman, a joyful Black woman. Yet here we are being all this & more. Black Joy Is Liberation. The angry Black woman—that’s the identifier from the oppressor but is not mine, and it is not how we define ourselves. We are not here for the white gaze, and there is more to us than what folks attempt to confine us to. So, we’re reclaiming it all—we’re reclaiming our humanity and doing so oh so beautifully and joyfully—especially because of Black joy and Black liberation.

Black joy is Black liberation. It is what lifts from our bodies the heavy weight of exhaustion that accumulates from living in an anti-black society that harms and hinders us at every move. It is what releases the tension and pressure that builds up inside of us, day after day from enduring oppression. It is the balm and tincture to the aching and weathered mind, body, and soul. It is the remedy that no one can take from us because it is deep within us—we exude it. Black joy, as my friend, activist, educator, and writer Tashira Halyard says, “Is our birthright.” It is already ours—thus, it is ours to fully reclaim and embrace. Yet, because of the nature of this white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal, anti-fat, ableist society, Black joy is constantly under siege and is often stripped from us. Thus, we must regularly and fiercely work to reclaim and sustain it, especially because it is deeply nourishing and liberating.

Black joy lifts the dehumanizing burdens and releases the soul-crushing & toxic expectations forced onto us if only for a moment, to relieve us and remind us that we are so much more than our pain and our suffering. In fact, Black pain cannot and should not be the point of activation of this work of liberation. It is not enough for folks to just stop killing us, harming us, and oppressing us—we need to be able to thrive, and Black joy is the pathway. We must center Black joy and commit to supporting Black folks in pursuing and experiencing the abundance, healing, and pleasure of Black joy.

Black joy is an expression of our humanity, erupting and liberating us from the horrors and terrors of the oppression all around us. It encapsulates us, covers, and shields us from observing and holding true the false narratives about who we are and what we are deserving & capable of. It reminds me that I am fully human, deserving of much more than I’ve ever seen or been given. It’s an act of self-care. It’s a modality passed down from one generation to the next, carrying me through the trials of the present while preserving the beautiful and fragrant soul within me. The soul that will leave a legacy of wisdom, courage, creativity, healing, connection, and joy to be delivered through the hands and feet of future generations. Black joy is radical, abundant, and indulgent expression of love rooted in deep connection to myself, my ancestors, and my community. It’s an expression of love to myself and to others. It’s a passionate, bold, and audacious force of energy that clears the pathways of destruction and grants me access to clarity, comfort, and peace, even in the midst of chaos.

It’s an act of reclamation and self-preservation. In a world that’s constantly terrorizing and traumatizing Black people, to reclaim our joy is to reclaim our humanity that’s constantly under attack. To reclaim our joy is a form of resistance. Because for us to resist the messages and expectations that are to live and operate as though we are less than human, that we are second class citizens, that we are inferior; by embracing our joy, we are resisting the anti-blackness that is wielded against us daily.
It is not only nice and lovely for us to reclaim our joy, but it is necessary for our well-being. Thus, it’s crucial that as we work to dismantle white supremacy and do the work of anti-racism for Black liberation by supporting, encouraging, centering, and fostering Black joy in every way. Simple ways to do this is to support organizations that center Black joy, pay reparations, invest in Black-owned businesses, commit to doing your inner work to lessen the harm you cause, and so much more. Black joy is Black liberation. Learn more about my work at the information listed below.

Monique Melton
Author. Educator. Podcast Host.

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