As we begin the month of March and mark the end of Black History Month, I’d like to commemorate its meaning with an inspirational and impactful form of resistance. Motivated by and credited to a MEDIAGIRLS Instagram post made this past week (@mediagirls), which refers to which Black TikTokers you should follow, and credited to a HerCampus article, “Black TikTokers to Follow That Celebrate Black Joy,” (an article that can also be read on our linktree), I’d like to dive a little bit deeper into what Black joy means for those who have not heard the term before. Rather than sharing my own input on what Black joy means, I will be incorporating the words from those who have defined Black joy, those who have explained what Black joy does for the Black community, and those who have emphasized why Black joy is so meaningful.
What is Black Joy?
Written in British Vogue’s article last year, “What Black Joy Means – And Why It’s More Important Than Ever” by Chante Joseph, Black joy is “people taking a moment of joy to bask in the beauty of what it means to be Black — both the pain and the celebration.” Kleaver Cruz, a “Black queer Dominican-American creative, writer, and educator” (Kleaver Cruz Biography), is the creator of the Black Joy Project. According to British Vogue, the Black Joy Project (TBJP) is “a digital and real-world movement to centre Black joy” and was started by Cruz back in 2015. The Black Joy Project carries the prominent message that “Black joy is an act of resistance” (British Vogue). According to ABC News, Cruz has adapted his Black Joy Project into a book, The Black Joy Project, which has yet to set a release date. Cruz’s book will essentially “combine images and essays into what Cruz has called the vital use of joy as a path to resistance” (ABC News). The Black Joy Project, therefore, accentuates the vitality of the Black voice with the use of Black joy.
To learn more about the Black Joy Project I direct you to the two links below:
Website: The Black Joy Project
To truly understand the purpose and the spirit of Black joy as resistance, one must listen to this brilliant and enlightening quote from Cruz himself,
“Amplifying Black joy is not about dismissing or creating an ‘alternative’ black narrative that ignores the realities of our collective pain; rather, it is about holding the pain and injustices we experience as black folks around the world in tension with the joy we experience in pain’s midst. It’s about using that joy as an entry into understanding the oppressive forces we navigate through as a means to imagine and create a world free of them” (British Vogue).
Cruz also reminds us, especially our MEDIAGIRLS audience, that “being able to experience and share joy is especially needed online where there is no respite on social media” (British Vogue). That said, from smiling pictures to dancing and laughing videos (to name a few), social media proves to be the most centralized setting where individuals express their support and dedication to Black joy resistance.
The Rise of Black Joy
Black joy has earned its rightful place within mainstream media. With rising awareness of what Black joy represents, more Black joy advocates are sharing their experiences and perspectives on the resistance in various ways.
Adrienne Waheed’s Photo Book
Black Joy and Resistance, a photo collection book by photographer and author Adrienne Waheed, utilizes an array of Black joy images to depict the resiliency of black culture (Essence). According to British Vogue, her book “documents, in its purest form, that the essence of happiness and enjoyment are inextricably linked to resistance.” Waheed herself claims that her book captivates the notion that “for Black folks, joy and resistance aren’t really that separate” (British Vogue).
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’s Book
USA Today paid tribute to Lewis-Giggetts’s new book, Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration, which “delivers a collection of ebullient essays showing how self-care and joy play out in the day-to-day lives of Black people.” Using Black joy resistance as inspiration for her thesis, Giggett’s work underlines how Black joy can simultaneously be an act of bliss and defiance.
Black joy is gaining a considerable amount of attention on TikTok. If you search #blackjoy (8.8 million views), #blackjoychallenge (996.6K views), or #Black-Joy-is-Magic (43.7M views), you’ll find an array of videos that feature numerous individuals displaying and celebrating Black joy and its coexistence with the Black experience. If you wish to follow specific TikTokers that apply the concept of Black joy in their videos, consider our past MEDIAGIRLS post and check out this list of TikTok creators that commemorate Black joy: Her Campus.
What Can We Do?
To contribute to the posts already out on social media, I encourage girls+ to capture their Black joy moments in one form or another and share them to #blackjoy on Instagram or TikTok or simply embrace the beauty of Black joy. In keeping with the message of Black joy and at a time where it may be difficult to see the pleasure in things, I urge us all to continue spreading joy, love, and resiliency.
Aryana Martin, Editorial Intern, is a student at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass. She studies English with a double minor in Sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies. She’s passionate about reading, writing, learning, and creating new relationships and experiences. She is thrilled to contribute to the MEDIAGIRLS mission.