Beyoncé’s Birthday Bash And The Necessity Of Sharing Black Joy

Tuesday morning, as I was doing my ritual social media scanning, I was immediately swept up into the magic that was Beyoncé’s Soul Train-themed birthday party. The big hair! The paisley patterns! Kelly Rowland channeling Diana Ross! Diddy, of all people, sporting a glorious, flowing black wig and bell bottoms! As I continued to scroll through the Instagram images of the rich and richer black glammerati, I felt a slow grin spread across my face. I became, in fact, downright giddy seeing so many black people having an awesome time and being silly.

My joy was not necessarily Queen-Bey-specific. I’ll be the first to admit, I was a latecomer to the Beyoncé fan game. But I am nothing if not a lover of a strong woman of color who uses her platform to say important things and stand up for the rights of others. Beyoncé has recently turned her performance level up to an 11, and I love her for it. I don’t follow her every move, like some, but I do pay attention to and applaud her actions — whether it’s shocking the general American public with an homage to the Black Panthers at the Super Bowl or making one of the most beautiful visual albums the world has ever seen. It’s a talent to reach such meteoric success and then flip the script to turn your platform into a political one, all while still maintaining your place in the hierarchy of record charts.

So needless to say, when I first heard that Beyoncé was going to have a birthday party, I was under no impression that it would be anything less than lit. And lit it was. But more than that, with all its epic displays of black joy, this birthday bash was political. It was imperative.

Black people need black joy right now. We need it more than ever. We need fully fleshed out representations of our happiness, our humanity. We need to shout this joy, this happiness, from the rooftops.

It’s not that what we’re dealing with in this country — the violence, the harassment, the death — is in any way new. But in this age of social media, when we are exposed to a constant barrage of images of this violence, public expressions of black elation are all the more necessary and political. The steady stream of death, the destruction, the injustice — it’s disheartening, defeating. Dehumanizing.

Images of black joy reinforce that we cannot be defeated; that our happiness is invaluable.

***

I went from being a fair-weather Facebook user to a somewhat avid one. Like most people, I still occasionally get the urge to step away and maybe even disable my account — but something always stops me. I can admit that social networking has too much value for me to leave it.

Facebook can be used for whatever you want — sharing information, writing, work, connecting with other humans. But I probably use it the most for sharing photos of my family and tiny snapshots of my life. This, too, is a small political act.

My family is the quintessential 21st century black family in America. But because of the way blacks are so often portrayed by the media, people have a difficult time knowing exactly what that means, what that possibly could look like. The pictures painted of the perpetually broken black family has stuck to an entire race of people like a wad of chewing gum. This is a tragedy in more ways than one can count — because it is largely untrue.

My family, for example, mostly all lives on the same street. Parents. Sister (brother-in-law and kids). We are quite the motley crew when we’re all together (which happens more often than not), but it works. And the pleasure of watching my niece and nephew grow up is so indescribable that it can only be captured in photos. So that is what I do — I take pictures. Almost every week. I have captured such a large portion of their life, in addition to my own, and shared it with my ever-growing friend list, that some people have come to expect and look forward to these updates. This is an honor and a joy.

I don’t, however, just share these images of my family because I want you to admire how gorgeous my niece and nephew are. “I mean OF COURSE I THINK THEY ARE THE CUTEST BABIES IN THE WORLD,” said every auntie ever. But the sharing of these images is integral to me because it humanizes us in a world that demonstrates again and again that it doesn’t believe we are deserving of humanity or survival.

I share images of my nephew because he is the sweetest of babies and will one day be a black teenage boy, and somehow in America, we seem unable to draw a line between these two identities. He may not be an “angel” when he’s a teenager, but since when has anyone put those expectations on any teenage boy who isn’t black?

Images of black joy are important because they show that our happiness is palpable and worth fighting for. They serve as a constant reminder to others that our survival is your responsibility, too — especially if you take part in our joy. I want you to play a part in my niece and nephew’s story. But I also want you to speak up when it comes to keeping them safe in a world that doesn’t protect us. Because you have the agency to do so and social media gives all of us a voice.

We just want to survive. And maybe have a little fun along the way — Beyoncé-style.

***

Lead image: Chance the Rapper Twitter Profile

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