Black Joy, We Deserve It.

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Issa and Molly from the HBO show, Insecure- laughing joyously on a bench]

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Cody- (cute) Black man with a smirk on his face. In the background there is a white woman photo bombing]

Twitter Handle: @_codykeith_

Pronouns: He/Him

Associations: Reclaiming Anger Blog, Creator of @SJEchat

This world tells me constantly that this Black, FAT, queer body does not deserve joy.

Not ever.

It tells me that my trauma should consume me.

It tells me that I should wait patiently, expecting violence at any moment.

It tells me that joy can never reside here, in my body; only shame, guilt, and struggle can sleepover.

But I got another plan in mind. I’m going to claim joy for myself. I’m going to wrestle it down to the ground- bypassing fear and guilt when I’m able to.

Like the enchanting gap in Baldwin’s teeth, Marsha’s vast and vibrant flowery hats, Fantasia’s ministering of Stormy Weather with her smooth and penetrating voice, and Audre’s resting “I know better than you” face (because she actually does know better than you)- I must remember that my joy is unclockable, untouchable, undeniable, and inherently a part of me.

“The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.”

Like Maya’s trilling caged bird and Janet’s defiant realness, Mock and Jackson- my joy is alive, and worth fighting for.

I am more than the violence committed against my body.

I am capable of more than ducking, diving, shifting, contorting, and blocking.

I am more than the reactionary being I often inhabit.

I am beyond living for the white orchestra, pleading to the non-Black people of color who have pledged their allegiance to whiteness (consequently, ensuring their own demise), and pleasing the Black cis-hetero gaze.

If liberation is the Sunday roast cooking in the cast iron pot, then Black joy is the rich smell that fills our homes.

Engaging futures, engaging hope, engaging creation, and engaging joy is paramount in sustaining movements. And because I’m the Beyoncé of my life, loving myself is enough of a reason to seek the joy that will sustain me.

Black Joy is resistance.

And Black Joy is tradition.

Today I’m not interested in exploring struggle, I’m choosing to center Black Joy.

Below are Black brilliant minds at a variety of beautiful intersections, complicating Black Joy. Perhaps, this will serve as a survival kit for the rainy days upon us.

(en)Joy Blamily!


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Profile picture of Robert- (Cool) Black man wearing a stylish hat and black coat over a white tee]

Name: Robert Jones, Jr.

Twitter Handle: @sonofbaldwin

Pronouns: He/Him

Associations: Creator of the Son of Baldwin social media platform

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

In an anti-black social structure, non-black people form oppressive identities, gather their psychological strength, and build their false sense of superiority from the erroneous belief that black people are inherently inferior to them. One of the ways in which they test this idea is the ease with which they can cause black people to experience misery. Our misery is the measuring stick for their joy. This is why the term #BlackLivesMatter aggravates them so. In their small, limited, and insecure minds, if our lives matter, they think that means that theirs do not. Likewise, they interpret our joy as a sign of their lack thereof. Get into the racism expressed, for example, when Beyoncé announced her pregnancy and white women said they were triggered by it, but made no such statement when white celebrities made similar public announcements.

Black Joy is resistance because aside from it being good for the black person’s well-being, it attacks the very mind, heart, and soul of anti-Blackness and is the key to its destruction.

What does your Black Joy look like?

For me, Black Joy begins and end with black people loving each other unabashedly in consensual, healthy, demonstrative ways.

Black Joy is a black queer couple holding hands without having to worry about who might want to bring them harm for doing so.

Black Joy is keeping black children educated, safe, and free. Black Joy is watching Papoose ride-or-die for Remy Ma in a way we rarely see black men do for black women. Black Joy, for me, is loving a black transgender woman’s liberation instead of being afraid of it. To me, Black Joy is Black Love.


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Kai- Black man looking into camera, wearing glasses and a brown turtle neck]

Name: Kai Parker

Twitter Handle: @kaidiablo

Pronouns: He/Him

Associations: Loves writing, Vice President of college’s LGBTQ+ organization

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

Black Joy is a form of resistance in ways that many people take for granted or don’t even realize. White Supremacy doesn’t want us to be happy or celebrate our people, no matter where we’re from in the diaspora. It wants to break our happiness, break our smiles, break our backs, and break us down like it’s tried to do for so many generations. But at the end of the day, Black Joy will always prevail because Black Joy is community, self-care, and family. Black Joy is music, dance, poetry, and artwork. Black Joy is a spectrum ranging in everything from quiet to loud, in the books to in your face, or even young to old. Black Joy is resistance, resilience, and it will always be revolutionary.

What does your Black Joy look like?

As an Afro-Cuban man, my Black Joy looks like me finally learning to embrace my family’s roots and educate myself on the cultures that I wasn’t able to grow up in.

My Black Joy looks like confidence in the midst of struggle, and hope in the midst of pain. It’s the pep in my step that keeps me energized just enough to keep going. It’s the way I walk with my head up because I know that I won’t allow myself to give anyone enough power to tear me down.

My Black Joy is finding the beauty and life in everything around me, whether it’s watching water rush down a waterfall at my favorite park or admiring a family of ants crossing the sidewalk with food on their backs just trying to feed their community. My Black Joy is not always luxurious, and it’s not always easy to maintain… but it’s mine and I’ll do anything to hold on to it.


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Mike- Black man looking into the camera. Face painted with exquisite Snapchat filters (cat)]

Name: Mike Mason

Twitter Handle: @Mikey_Talks

Pronouns: He/Him

Associations: Creator of #BlackGaySlay, writer for @geeksofcolor

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

Black joy is a form of resistance because it’s the opposite of what this world wants to see, and expects to see from Black people. Just being happy and carefree, not being complacent, is a form of resistance in and of itself.

What does your Black Joy look like?

My Black joy comes in the form of the various films, TV shows and albums I enjoy. It’s also a sense of mental health and relaxation for me — it helps me to get through an otherwise hard day.


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Bev- Black woman smiling with hand partially over lips, looking into the camera (smizing)]

Name: Bev Gooden

Twitter Handle: @bevtgooden

Pronouns: She/Her

Associations: Creator of #whyistayed

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

Black Joy is a form of resistance simply because it says “no”. You have the ability to attack my body, but you can’t touch my mind, heart, or spirit. I’m going to choose joy regardless of any attempt at dehumanization. Black Joy is when Beyoncé two steps with her husband in the audience at an awards show that, minutes before, denied her recognition. It’s that “you may not treat me with respect, or acknowledge my brilliance, but I will dance in your face” type of glory. Black Joy resists the narrative that we’re unworthy. Black Joy doesn’t need your “things”. Black Joy just is.

What does your Black Joy look like?

My Black Joy is sleeping in on weekends, refusing to say ‘yes’ when I want to say ‘no’, drinking wine, consuming and sharing black art, praying, roasting my friends on Twitter, spontaneous travel, cheering for my Cleveland Cavaliers, and just being free. Deliberate freedom is my Black Joy.


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Tora Shae- Black woman with locs and cool glasses (also smizing)]

Name: Tora Shae Pruden

Twitter Handle: @BlackMajiik

Pronouns: She/Her

Associations: Critical Race Theorist, Podcaster, and Creator of uchawii.com (store sells spiritual supplies, apothecary needs, and handcrafted accessories)

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

Black Joy has always been resistance. We have endured the brutalities of the colonizer and the slave-owner. The lyncher, the KKK, the alt right , the overt and covert racist. We have endured for centuries and managed to snatch bits of joy for ourselves. Centuries of ever-evolving black music and art DESPITE our plight prove that this joy can’t be taken. It’s even a black hymn.

This joy that I have the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away

We understand that they can’t rob us of our love for each other and our hope for the future. They can’t shackle our minds or stifle our creativity. We find joy in the knowledge of what cannot be stolen. We create joy for ourselves and we share it. We resist. Black people will continue to resist. Both painfully and joyfully.

What does your Black Joy look like?

Creating new pieces for Uchawii.com and sunshine naps with my cats.


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Romeo- Black human wearing a headscarf and black shirt that reads “Black Queer Magic”]

Name: Romeo Jackson

Twitter Handle: @romeojackson22

Pronouns: They/Them​

Associations: Emerging Student Affairs Scholar, Clapback Specialist, and Unbossed & Unbothered

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

It seems to me that in an anti-Black/anti-queer world one of the boldest things I can do is to be filled with joy. White supremacy is committed to all forms of black death, including the death of black joy. The opposite of death is not life, but joy. Therefore, to be joyous and to be Black is to resist whiteness, as it actively rejects white supremacist violence.

What does your Black Joy look like?

The short answer: pettiness and shade. Nothing brings me more joy then deploying a read that is equal parts: messy, true, and critical of systems of domination, The Black future is petty.

Beyond that, my joy looks like service to other queer and/or trans and/or women/femmes of color. I am increasingly concerned with the depiction of Black Joy that seems to only be for upper -class, normative Black bodies (i.g. #BlackBoyJoy). My joy looks like #BlackGaySlay for it displayed Blackness across genders, sexualities, bodies, and modes of being. We must uncouple Black Joy from capitalistic consumption. Black Joy is sitting around a table listening, laughing, and crying together.


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Treese- Black woman standing in a doorway with a big smile]

Name: Treese McCoy

Twitter Handle: @drmccoyisin

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Associations: ‘bout that Fat, Black, Woman, Q/TPOC, Disabled, Poly Life! Creator of RHedI LLC (social justice firms that works with individuals, departments, and organizations to realize goals)

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

Black joy is a form of resistance because it does not let white supremacy kill our spirits. It flies in the face of murderous regimes of power and empire building. It means we will not be complicit in our own demise because we have an inner joy that NO oppression can dim or even touch. It’s how we live despite appearances to the contrary. I remember how Black Joy radiated in my broken and temporary homes growing up. Through a great home cooked meal, watching cartoons with my mommy, or even tickle fights. The smell of pledge and bleach wafting through the thick melodic sounds of Motown, Ohio funk, and the Philadelphia sound. The tenderness that broke up the monotony of struggle gave me glimpses of what Black Joy was.

What does your Black Joy look like?

I center my Black Joy in things I can do and give to myself, so I am not dependent on someone else for my joy; and I have sole ownership over it. Some simple things like coloring, listening to music, taking pictures, and creating art with paint and canvas brings me joy.

More complicated things like teaching and doing research brings me joy, and allows my brain to dig deep into possibility. Self pleasure and exploring my kinky side excites me to no end, and being able to see me flaws and all is my supreme joy. I used to never take pictures of me, because I hated what I saw in the mirror. Now I want to see all of the scars, dimples, skin tones, rolls, folds and bumps so I can make an honest assessment of who I am, and who I am becoming. I dress up in pretty feminine clothing to radiate my inner joy.


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Jameelah- Black woman gazing into the camera with a big smile]

Name: Jameelah Jones

Twitter Handle: @sunnydaejones

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Associations: Writer, #SlateSpeak contributor

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

Joy and anger are the purest emotions. They let us have anger, because they can kill us and claim our righteous anger was threatening. But joy…we cant have joy. That would mean we are, dare I say, good holy beings. The world is daring us to resist. Daring us to be joyful in the face of depravity. Not the “forgive the abuser and smile at the police” kind of thing- that is dishonest joy, rooted in the ownership of black emotion. Black joy is resistance in a world where we are told we aren’t human.

What does your Black Joy look like?

Black joy as resistance is loving my body. We are given so many overt and subtle cues that tell us our bodies do not matter-that they are mere receptacles for consumption, for free labor. There is joy in resisting the policing of my body.

Black Joy also looks like me refusing to submit to a church that handles my body not so differently than the police- “Sure, your life matters, but your body must be contained and controlled, or suffer the consequences.” Black joy as resistance is loving my body- my tired, restless, scarred body. And yes, Black joy is having emotionally safe sex with a partner who loves me fully; for all the Black folks whose bodies were snatched from them. Black joy as resistance is seeing and accepting my body as inherently good.


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Rosa Lee (my mama)- (Beautiful) Black woman looking into the camera with a hint of a smile]

Name: Rosa Lee Ned (my mama)

Twitter Handle: Still trying to figure out Facebook

Pronouns: Rosa- “What?” Me- “Explanation” Rosa- “Oh, okay, She/Her/Hers”

Associations: Teaches the Kids, Brilliant Unpublished Writer, and Cody’s Mother

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

Black Joy is a a form of resistance because it’s our culture. It’s where we came from and where we’re going. It’s our tomorrow and our future.

What does your Black Joy look like?

My Black Joy looks like parts of the 23rd PSALM: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want; As I walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me.” He is my protector. The resistance I experience in my life will not stop me from pressing forward.

My Black Joy is My God and I will always sing the old negro spiritual,

“God Is Still On The Throne.”


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of Megan- Black woman wearing a hat, in five different poses]

Name: Megan Pendleton

Twitter Handle: @megan_pendleton (although I RARELY use it -_-)

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers”

Associations: #ProfessionalBlackGirl, QWOC, Poet, and SA Pro, who’s had the privilege of sharing a TEDx Talk on the power of finding and using your voice.

How is Black Joy a form of resistance?

In its very nature Black Joy is perceived as antithetical, as mutually exclusive. So to exist in the freedom of both spaces simultaneously is to sharpen your image as a target in the crosshairs of the world’s firearm. It is that and being seen as an enigma. Black Joy invites an innocence that Black bodies have been denied the right to explore, to exist in, to believe possible. It expands the notion of Blackness to include the nuance that, for others, is simply to exist as humans.

What does your Black Joy look like?

My Black Joy is

threading her fingers with mine while we shop,

it is blasting rap and

weeping through poetry,

it is stargazing with the cool night grass.

It’s laughter and happy tears,

my mother’s pound cake crumbs on my shirt,

and every reason I still believe in the Universe.

My Black Joy is persistent,

flourishing.

It is not asking for your permission.

My Black Joy is means and end.

Surely,

it is the beginning.


Thank you to all the beautiful people who contributed their brilliance to this piece. Special shout out to Amber and Jazmine, creators of the Black Joy Mixtape Podcast, for inspiring the Black Joy playlists. To help track and contribute to the conversation around Black Joy, please use #BlackJoyWeDeserveIt.

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This is the work of Cody Charles; claiming my work does not make me selfish or ego-driven, instead radical and in solidarity with the folk who came before me and have been betrayed by history books and storytellers. Historically, their words have been stolen and reworked without consent. This is the work of Cody Charles. Please discuss, share, and cite properly.