When I wrote Black Women, It’s Okay To Let Go Of Your Cape, one of the lines that stood out to me was, “Your joy is an act of defiance because this world never intended for Black women to have joy.” It was one of those moments in life that was a light bulb moment for me as I realized my joy, happiness, and peace were never part of the arrangement of Black people being in America. When the founding documents of this nation were written, Black people were not included in the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness part. It is difficult to pursue anything when you are in shackles. Black joy was never a part of the arrangement of enslavement. Black people were brought to America in shackles as property. In order to be concerned about someone’s joy, you must see the humanity within them. It is virtually impossible to see the humanity in anything you intended to use as a tool.
Black joy was never considered then, and it is not considered now. However, I believe that one of the goals of racism is to keep you shackled so that you refuse to pursue a life of joy. Daily Black people are inundated with images of Black pain and suffering. Injustice towards Black people is on a continual loop in America, and we are constantly bombarded with racism from all sides. Even for Black people to use something as simple as social media, we must fight racism every time we post. For years we have fought for freedom, marching, and resisting only to be spoon-fed tiny morsels of justice. We have shouted about police brutality and abuse for years only to see an offending officer arrested and soon released.
Dealing with racism is exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. Racism is a public health crisis that is eating away at the souls of Black people. It is easy to grow weary, angry, and bitter when you think about all of the things that Black people must face in this world with seemingly no end in sight. I understand this because I was so angry as I fought for justice for Breonna Taylor. How could this happen? How can a Black woman be in her home, sleeping, and now she is dead? How can they fill out a police report and say she has no injuries when it is clear she was shot multiple times. How is this city not hearing us? Then I watched the murder of George Floyd and was stunned by people attempting to justify his murder. How is it justifiable for someone sworn to protect and serve to place their knee on someone’s neck and strip them of their right to breathe?
Everything in this world made me angry. And if I may have a moment of transparency, I took that anger out on everyone. It permeated throughout my life. It was reflected in all of my actions. Nothing and no one made me happy. How could I be happy when injustice was taking place all around me? Didn’t they see what was happening in this world? How can I take the time to be joyful when Black people are dying all around me? If I did find any happiness, it was met with guilt. How dare I be happy when Black people are facing so much injustice? Racism was slowly eroding every area of my life. If I may be honest, I was probably a miserable person to be around. Finally, I realized I missed so much of my life. I missed laughing with my partner over silly things. I missed placing my hands in the soil and planting vegetables. I missed sitting on my porch and feeling the sun on my face. I missed just staring at my flowers, amazed at how they bloomed. I realized I missed my joy.
Yet how do you remain joyful in a world that never intended for you to have any joy?
I believe that Black people must make a conscious effort in their own personal pursuit of happiness. Black people must fight to find moments of joy throughout the day. Cultivate those moments that bring you peace and happiness. Black people must work to curate those moments of joy. Those moments will not be given to you in a world that never intended to provide you with anything. You must take and create them. That in itself is an act of defiance. Your joy is an act of resistance. When people have worked to build entire systems to break you, they are angry that you still can have joy. It is mind-boggling to them that Black people can still find peace. It goes against everything that racism was designed to do. One of the goals of racism is to break your spirit by any means necessary. How dare Black people have any joy!
I challenge Black people to find their joy. Because it is there. Do not let this world break you because it will try to do just that daily. I have found myself watching a young Black man on Instagram that performs amazing bicycle tricks. I wondered why I was drawn to this young Black man; then I realized it was rare, if ever, that I saw Black boys just riding bikes and being happy. The images of Black boys that I have been bombarded with were Black boys being murdered or incarcerated. The images of Black boys on bicycles were never reflected to me, so watching their joy made me happy. I also watch a Black ice skater that performs beautiful routines among snow-capped mountains. I was drawn to him because he skates in such a way that says, “I am free.” I try to start my mornings watching them so that I am reminded that this is what Black joy is. It is freedom. It is laughter. It is happiness. It is not spending your time arguing online with someone who wakes up intending to steal your joy. It is not repeatedly trying to get people to understand the racist hypocrisy in this nation when their goal is to gaslight you and remain willfully ignorant. It is not constantly trying to get people to see your humanity when they have no desire to see it in the first place. It is not trying to make people understand the fundamental definition of racism. All of that is soul-draining and joy stealing.
For 2022 choose your peace. Find your joy.
As Black people, we must put boundaries around our joyful moments and protect them at any cost. Do not continue to allow this world to rob you of your joy. You are free to pursue a life of happiness, which doesn’t require White people’s permission. When you pursue something, you chase after it. It requires that you wake up every day and say, “Today, I will seek out joy. Today I will refuse to let racism rob me of my joy.”
Finally, I understand that this world is challenging, but I truly want Black people to get to the point in our existence that we are not focusing on just moments of joy because moments are fleeting. I want us to get to the point where we are actively seeking to create a life of joy. Please know that you can have that because you deserve that. They may have never intended it, but it doesn’t matter what they intended. Do not let racism rob you of your life of joy. Today, make a decision never to allow White people to steal your joy again. Your joy is an act of resistance, and the road of resistance can be paved with flowers.
Photo Credit: Nappy.co @sheenalashay