My activism: Unapologetic Black JOY

A child of a Black Panther and an escapee of the Jim Crow South, I grew up steeped in Black pride and an understanding that one of my core duties on this Earth (and requirements for survival) was resistance to an interlocking system of oppression that would love to see me and my kinfolk destroyed, and preferably by our own hand.

Through academia and an immersion in African-centered Psychology, this life mission came to be refined and crafted as “challenging White supremacy and affirming Black identity” and included years of serving Black communities through the social service and mental health systems. When those systems themselves proved problematic and too closely linked to the very worldview that had fueled my folks’ degradation to begin with, my methods of choice became community organizing, confrontational activism, and institution-building. A foray into the world of non-profit community work proved fruitful but draining. A stint in policy research was promising but slow-moving and clouded by corporate politics. A few years in higher education was racked with bureaucratic bullsh*t and didn’t result in the progressive culture shift that I was hoping to see.

Each of these efforts were worthwhile and for those with more tenacity than myself, probably fruitful (eventually) in their own ways. Yet none of them resonated with my particular calling because they all seem to start off on the wrong foot. What all of these avenues had in common was that they, with good intentions, began with an assumption: Black communities are broken and need fixing. In other words, the deficit model.

We each eventually find our proper role within the Movement, if we seek it. How I work toward Black liberation now is from a different place. My starting assumption is this: Black people are rich, magical, and wise beyond comprehension. Our heritages are multidimensional and span the globe, our experiences are diverse, and yet our flavor is universally extraordinary. We have so many strengths and triumphs running through our veins that it is hard to make sense of our history of being oppressed. Yet, with critical consciousness and an eye for narrative, we understand that for every hero/heroine there is a powerfully evil counter-force. For us, that counter-force is White supremacy. Mythological and spiritual traditions throughout the world tell this story and reflect our reality. woman_smile

Certainly, history tells us that we were never expected to survive the darkest chapters of our history, so thriving was certainly not on our to-do list. And yet, amazing as we are, we persist. We resist. We live. And yes, many of us find colorful, beautiful, miraculous ways to thrive against the odds and against the backdrop of systemic dehumanization. Like I said, we are extraordinary.

All this to say…I operate from a worldview that starts with the strengths of an individual, group, or community and focuses on how those strengths can be used to achieve growth, well-being, and success as defined by that individual, group, or community. Furthermore, I believe in unapologetic Black joy as the highest form of resistance to oppression (more on why here). Despite what appears to be true in the material world, what we can never afford to compromise is our collective Spirit. We must continue, in the tradition of our ancestors, to boldly and defiantly embrace our unbridled joy as the ultimate act of freedom and humanity. That is ultimately what this site is about.

So no, you won’t see me posting about tragic deaths and heinous acts. I generally don’t respond to reports of public controversies and social upheavals. I trust the hundreds of media outlets and millions of viewers to cover that part, and I appreciate the idea of remaining informed. Yet I think it’s important that we honor the many complex layers of our very human narrative, and not allow it to be oversimplified. Yes we suffer, cry, get screwed over, and die. We also laugh, create, love, and enjoy life. We work and we dance. We survive trauma and we play. And not just for the amusement of others, but for ourselves.

So what I provide here on AfroGranola is a focus on the unlimited amount of beauty, wonder, and abundance that is the birthright of Black people, as members of the human race. I remind us of what so many our African forebears knew so well – that connection to self, community, and the earth are all essential components of an intact Spirit. Additionally, I offer expert guidance on how those of us impacted by oppressive power structures may engage in healing and self-care, to both prevent and reverse the effects of burnout and oppression fatigue.

Don’t mistake my selective attention for unconscious neglect. I am well aware of the problems, the wounds, the suffering, the pain. We are all aware, whether in our heads or simply in our bones. And yet, we are all also powerful beyond belief when we collectively choose to re-create the world. It’s amazing the kind of radical change that can occur when we shift the paradigm and write the story ourselves. It is a power and creativity rooted in a spirit of triumph, a spirit of freedom, a spirit of joyfulness.

Cultivating Black joy is clearly not the only strategy for supporting Black communities, and it can’t be the only approach we take to dismantling systems of oppression, but it is one perfectly valid method for doing both. Black joy is quite different than Black happiness. Even in the midst of suffering, joy remains. It is deep, enduring joy that allows us to remember and cultivate our strengths and the wisdom of our ancestors, to heal and uplift ourselves. It’s not easy work, but it is my pleasure to do it. In fact, it is our pleasure.

P40B-Black-man-laughingBecause others are with me. Some activists have decided to make highlighting Black joy the central focus of their liberation work. Will you join me in celebrating and magnifying all that is right with us?



You might appreciate:

On joy and liberation

A poem about Black joy

Why Black joy is a crime

Chance the Rapper and Black joy


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