As everyone quarantined and thought that the coronavirus pandemic was the worst thing to happen in 2020, we were all proven wrong when this truly malicious year pushed police brutality to the forefront of global crisis.
And so it became that brands would hang by a thread of three simple words: Black Lives Matter. Just six years ago, saying these words would actually tarnish your brand — now it seems like it could save it. Of course, cancel culture doesn’t actually exist and this has only sprouted a wave of performance activism.
However, in the midst of the noise there are sane sounds. If you listen to those sounds, you will find that Black Lives Matter isn’t just about Black Grief, it’s also about Black Joy.
Black Joy is in itself a form of activism. It’s about being happy and being yourself despite everything else — despite police brutality, despite queerphobia, despite misogyny, despite racism. More and more people are pledging allyship but only focusing on the pain.
But this isn’t about acknowledging one and forgetting the other, this is about understanding that neither one can exist without the other. The only way Black Joy has a name is because there is such a thing as Black Grief. So, don’t stop signing petitions, continue saying their names. Watch “13th,” but also watch “Pose.”
Engage yourself with Black Grief and Black Joy, because when you don’t support black creators, you don’t support Black Joy. And when you don’t support Black Joy, shows like "The Get Down" get canceled, and people forget that Black people can be happy.
Black Joy is and has always been a form of resistance – being able to engage with the things and the people that you love when people wish you not to. Black people were not allowed to be happy and they weren’t allowed to have peace as colonization, slavery and continued institutional racism have shown. So, when you’re Black and you pick up that paint brush and you sit in front of that canvas, you are resisting.
You resist when you read, because there was a time when you could not. You resist when you dance, because there was a time when you could only do so when you were told. Dancing has always been a form of expression. For enslaved Africans, it was a form of communication.
So was singing, and as music and dance was all they were allowed, it was all they had. Singing was a way for the different tribes to find their kin, as they all had different languages and different styles of singing. Of course, slave masters could detect the feelings but not the words.
Therefore, music is also a form of resistance, and Caribbean people prove this every year when they hold Carnival. As a Black person, even when you sing, you are resisting. In fact, when Black people do anything for themselves, they are resisting, because Black people were once not allowed to do anything that didn’t serve white people. Slaves danced to entertain their masters, not themselves.
Even after slavery was abolished, white people labored to make the lives of Black people a living hell. As a Black person, you couldn’t swim, you couldn’t own a house, you couldn’t even live in peace. The last one is actually discounted because 99 years after Tulsa, Black people still can’t live in peace. I found no reason to give that statement a reference because it needs none. We’ve all seen the news.
Hence, Black Joy is resistance. You are resisting your oppressor’s desire to keep you underneath a boot. There is freedom in Black Joy, because there is freedom in being true to oneself.
It is important we remember that even in darkness there is light, and so even in grief there is joy. Ways to support that joy include supporting Black creators by engaging with their content. Black people exist on a spectrum and their lives do not revolve around white people. They make movies about slavery and racism, but they also make movies about other things.
Take a look at Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” and how the white media and white Hollywood praised it. Peele was awarded Best Original Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards for a film that — despite being about a Black man — had collectively more white actors than Black actors.
However, Peele didn't even receive a single Oscar nomination or even the same amount of buzz with “Us” two years later. “Us” had less white cast members who shared significantly less screen time. It was a film about Black people that had arguably nothing to do with white people, so most white people will probably tell you they haven’t seen it.
The exact same thing can be said for Steve McQueen. “12 Years a Slave” won Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards. It was the first time a film with a Black director won Best Picture. Of course, five years later, McQueen’s follow-up “Widows” didn’t even get a quarter of the buzz or any nominations for him or lead actress Viola Davis.
Out of the six Black directors to ever be nominated for the Best Director award at the Oscars, just three of them received a nod for a film that wasn’t entirely about the two interactions between Black people and white people (slavery and racism): John Singleton for “Boyz n the Hood,” Lee Daniels for “Precious,” and Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight.”
It has taken this long for people to validate Black Grief, and this same amount of time to merely acknowledge the existence of Black Joy (people have recently been sharing links black-owned businesses on social media).
The progress made in the last few weeks is impeccable, but the energy needs to be maintained. Black Lives Matter isn’t just about Black Death and Black Grief, it’s also about Black Life and Black Joy.
Black people have lives that exist outside of the ones white people have subjected them to. They write books, they take photographs, they make movies — and they star in them.
Margarita Madu a junior from Nigeria studying business analytics, art history and French.