What is Black Joy? Black joy is a celebratory term that has been used to acknowledge and highlight the experiences of happiness, pleasure, and contentment within the Black community. As a powerful and affirming concept, Black Joy incorporates resilience, creativity, and the strength of Black individuals and communities locally, nationally, and globally. In simple terms It’s Happiness…It’s Resistance…It’s Freedom!! Ultimately, Black joy is a counter-narrative to many existing dominant narratives of pain, oppression, and struggle that often define the representation of Black people in media and society.
Every year around this time I am led to share, promote, and celebrate the many ways in which Black Joy is personified and expressed. Over the next 30 days, there will be daily posts (via the BFF website, Instagram, and Facebook) celebrating the various forms and expressions of Black Joy. This is seen through art, music, dance, local/national/global community engagement, personal achievements, storytelling, and soooo much more!!
Now before we dive into our celebration, check out some of these articles to get your mind ready!!
We are back for the new year!! And you know the recommendations don’t stop!! Got a fresh new slate of literary goodies to fill your book shelves!! I’m bringing you all the heat with this list!! Feel free to share with your friends!!
Check out January’s list below:
Boys Come First ~Aaron Foley
Land of Love and Drowning ~Tiphanie Yanique
On the Roof Top ~Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
American Spy ~Lauren Wilkinson
Grace ~Natashia Deón
The Keeper ~Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes
The Stars Beneath Our Feet ~David Barclay Moore
Beasts of Prey ~Ayana Gray
And remember you can always go back and check out the previous month’s list and past recommendations in the “Resource” section of the website!!
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations…If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won’t exist because you’ll have already shut it out…You can hear other people’s wisdom, but you’ve got to re-evaluate the world for yourself.” —Mae Jemison
For my ATL peeps!! This might be something of interest for you!! As part of the HBCU Exhibition Tour, Our Friend Jean is a one-week Pop up Exhibition Featuring 20+ of Jean-Michel Basquiat “Early Works“.
Our Friend, Jean is a sampling of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s earliest works on loan from several collectors who knew him intimately, as friends, collaborators, and lovers. Featuring 20+ artworks including drawings, writings, apparel, mixed media collages, and ephemera. The group of collectors consists of Jane Diaz, Hilary Jaeger, Katie Taylor, Lucy Sante, Al Diaz, and photographer Alexis Adler who also served as a co-curator with Erwin John and Stevenson Dunn, Jr.. Through this exhibition each collector shares uniquely intimate stories of their friend Jean.
The exhibition lends a voice to the unsung collectors of the world, those who offer an artist critical early support out of genuine friendship. It is precisely this type of support that can spring board an artist’s career to unimaginable heights. Friendship is what distinguishes the group of collectors who are lending their works to the “Our Friend, Jean” exhibition.
This exhibition was curated by The Bishop Gallery and supported by the Hennessey, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and The Black Group.
The exhibition is free and will be housed at the Clark Atlanta University Art Museum from October 28-November 4.
For more information and to register to attend, see here!!
In collaboration with Georgia State University’s Department of African-American Studies, the Auburn Avenue Research Library (AARL) hosted Dr. Grace D. Gipson, who presented on the topic This Fourth of July is Yours, not Mine? Understanding Frederick Douglass’ “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”.
In the shadow of America’s most revered holiday, Independence Day (2022), Dr. Gipson discusses the historical significance and contemporary relevance of Douglass’ July 5, 1852 speech, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Gipson use Douglass’ biting oratory as a lens to examine the ongoing structural underpinnings of systemic anti-black violence that continues to thwart freedom for Blacks in the United States.
See the presentation below:
I always appreciate the opportunity to annually collaborate with Auburn Avenue Research Library and discuss this poignant speech! It is a speech that we have to constantly refer to, so the conversations around freedom and justice do not go silent!!
As we prepare to celebrate the now federal holiday, Juneteenth, it is important that is not simply a day-off but a day of remembrance and liberation. And to get you in the spirit, I have compiled a few things to get you started!
Check it out below:
Film & Television/Podcasts
A Dream Delivered: The Lost Letters of Hawkins Wilson (Streaming on Paramount+ and PlutoTV)
‘Sound of Freedom: A Juneteenth Celebration’ (ABC/Hulu) Friday-June 17th at 8 pm/ET
‘Something in the Water Festival’ (Amazon Prime Video and Twitch) Friday-Sunday 3 pm/ET
‘After Jackie’ (History Channel) Saturday-June 18 at 8 pm/ET
‘Juneteenth: A Global Celebration’ (CNN) Sunday-June 19th at 8 pm/ET
‘Omitted : The Black Cowboy’ (ESPN 2) Sunday-June 19th at 2 pm/ET
Emergency (2022) [Amazon Prime Video]
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America- Episode #4-“Freedom” (2021) [Netflix]
Miss Juneteenth (2020)
Juneteenth Jamboree: A Place For Families (2016) [PBS]
Did I mention I love to read…Well I DO!! Ever since I was kid I always had a book to read. Even as I hit 40 this year, I made sure I had my share of reading done. Matter fact this year I even did a Reading Challenge (on Good Reads) where I had to read at one book a month. And as I type this post I managed to get in 15 books plus a few comic books and graphic novels. It felt good to turn the pages (old school reader) of each new book and then look up what my next read would be!!
With all that said, I figure I would keep up with my tradition from last year and compile my ‘Top 21’ books from this year, and as an extra bonus for me I even got to meet some of the authors!! Pretty cool!!
Nothing like sharing some of your faves!! As I always say, ‘sharing is caring.’
So in no particular order, here is my Top 21 List of Books for 2021!!
Just As I Am~Cicely Tyson
Somebody’s Daughter ~Ashley C. Ford
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre~Carole Boston Weatherford
Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America~Keisha N. Blain
Black Leopard, Red Wolf: The Dark Star Trilogy~Marlon James
Digital Black Feminism ~Catherine Knight Steele
Maya and the Robot~Eve L. Ewing
The Black Flamingo~Dean Atta
Fast Pitch~Nic Stone
Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me into The Life of My Dreams~Yvonne Orji
The Day the Klan Came to Town~Bill Campbell
Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood~Edited by Kwame Mbalia
Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South~Regina N. Bradley
The Book of Unknown Americans~Cristina Henriquez
The 1619 Project ~Nikole Hannah-Jones
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water ~Nikole Hannah-Jones & Renée Watson
Stella’s Stellar Hair ~Yesenia Moises
How the Word Is Passed A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America ~Clint Smith
FREEDOM…LIBERATION…BLACK RESISTANCE…BIRTH… It is interesting that these words came to mind as I was compiling this month’s list, because I honestly did not have any particular intention. This list was just meant to be, I guess you could say… There’s a lot of amazing literary energy that is coming from each of these texts whether it celebrating an iconic freedom fighter, showcasing the crime fiction genre, chronicling Black resistance via picture and verse.
Let’s just say this we got another set of heavy hitters this month, a few of them I have been anxiously (and patiently) waiting to be released!!
Remember to make sure you pre-order, add to your cart, or run to your local bookstore and grab a copy or two!! So with that said check out this month’s book recommendations below:
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” ~Toni Morrison
Today marks the 156th year since the message of freedom was delivered to those enslaved in Texas, also known as Juneteenth (portmanteau of June and nineteenth)!! A celebration of emancipation, liberation, and Black Joy!!
And what is Juneteenth? Juneteenth refers to June 19th, 1865 the day when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to inform the 250,000 enslaved Black people that they were free. Keep in mind the Emancipation Proclamation (which ended slavery) had went into effect January 1st, 1863 (also the start of watch night services), so Texas would not get this memo for almost two and half years later. And people wonder why Black people cannot wait for change! Why we are persistent about consistent upward and forward movement! Why are Black people not quick to trust, because of past failures and screw ups like what happened in Galveston, TX. Nevertheless, the chains are breaking and the truth is being revealed.
In a way there has been this sudden awakening regarding the Juneteenth holiday. Much like how the message of freedom was delayed in its delivery to those enslaved in Texas, one could say there is a delayed recognition (on a larger scale) of the Juneteenth holiday. With all of the the national protests, police violence, and continuous murder of Black and Brown bodies of last year the U.S. would be reminded of past moments of resistance and endurance. This acknowledgement rebirth is what I like to think of as a memory survival. As Isabel Wilkerson writes in her amazing book, The Warmth of Other Suns:The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, “The people from Texas took Juneteenth Day to Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, and other places they went.” And thank goodness the memory of Juneteenth will always be present, because we cannot afford to have any more delays, these are moments that we need right now and always!
So when did I learn about Juneteenth, I remember it being brought up during one of my summer classes as an Upward Bound student, and in passing from one of my aunts who lives in Texas. But I would really learn about Juneteenth while attending Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA) and while out grocery shopping and a young man handed me a flyer for a Juneteenth celebration that was set to take place. Outside of the above-mentioned instances, I did not have any previous knowledge. Now I am not surprised by this, nor am I surprised that many other Black folks are only just now aware of what Juneteenth is and its significance. Even though I may not be from Texas, I take Juneteenth as my Independence Day/Emancipation Day, because clearly July 4th is not!!
Juneteenth is not only a day to celebrate, but also another day to inform the masses, continue speaking out on injustices, and always a day to remember! It’s also another excuse for me to celebrate my Blackness and create more ways to express Black joy and agency. This holiday is also an opportunity to instill values of self-improvement, racial uplift, and reclamation of the family unit. These values were personified through religious sermons and the singing of negro spirituals, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, rodeos, and the preservation of slave food traditions and delicacies (ex. BBQ and soul food). Juneteenth is another holiday that allows Black folks to commune and fellowship and just be free with ourselves!! This freedom has been further expressed with the creation of various websites and the Juneteenth flag:
Created in 1997 by activist and founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF) Ben Haith, the flag consists of a star, burst, arc, and the colors red, white, and blue. According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)the star is a nod to the Lone Star State (where Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1865), but also stands for the freedom of every Black American in all 50 states, the burst represents an outline surrounding the star meant to reflect a nova— or new star—this represents a new beginning for all, and the arc represents a new horizon, fresh opportunities and promising futures for Black Americans. The colors are also reminiscent of the United States flag, this was intentional to show that the enslaved African Americans and their descendants are also free Americans. Even in our symbols there is always a deep, layered meaning attached.
In 2021, Juneteenth has become more than just a holiday, but in many ways a movement!! Not only are school curriculums slowly changing, but we are also becoming more informed about the holiday through popular media. A few examples include:
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America [Netflix]: Episode 4, ‘Freedom’
Atlanta (FX Network): Season 1, Episode 9, ‘Juneteenth’ [Television]
Black-ish (ABC): Season 4, Episode 1, ‘Juneteenth’ [Television]
And as of 2020, according to the Congressional Research Service all states, except Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota, recognize/celebrate Juneteenth in some sort of fashion. This personally became significant for me because upon moving to Virginia on last year Juneteenth became a permanent statewide holiday (following in the footsteps of Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania). The fact that Virginia made this a statewide holiday is truly significant considering the states past history and the fact that the state is known as being the capital of the Confederacy…Interesting how tides are beginning to change!!
In the end when I think about Juneteenth I am optimistic…I am hopeful…I am excited. Optimistic that one day it will become a national holiday, and that it will truly get the recognition that it deserves. Juneteenth is a holiday even worthy of being acknowledged internationally. Hopeful that the celebration of this holiday is not just for a moment or season, but for an infinity of lifetimes. Excited because with each passing day more and more people are learning about the importance and significance of Juneteenth!! Even if this is your first year, make sure it is not your last!!
And just in case you need a few references for later reading and viewing check out the following link!!
Inspired by Colson Whiteheads’s 2016 novel, “The Underground Railroad” has been adapted into a live action television series by writer/director/showrunner Barry Jenkins for Amazon Prime Video. As noted by Jenkins,
“It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking, and in Amazon, we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”
Check out the trailers below that help set-up the series!
Now what you will find captivating about “In Aeternum” is that it plays in reverse. According to Jenkins (via Twitter), “They say history is written by the victors, so… let’s run it back” (for a more detailed response see here).
The Underground Railroad is set to stream later this year!!