The Radical Nature of Black Joy

There have been calls for stories that focus on Black joy for years now but why are these stories so hard to find in the first place?

Black joy means different things to different people and I think this video showcases that really well:

Whatever your definition of Black joy is, I’m sure you can agree that we need to see more of it in the mainstream media. Calls for Black joy have been sounding for years but I think one example of us seeing it make it to the big screen was Black Panther. It’s many people’s go-to when they talk about Black Joy, and for good reason.

Black Panther was truly a cultural reset. Mainstream media sources like the Time, Rolling Stones, and more were putting out full articles about the film’s impact before it even hit theaters. Everyone was doing the Wakanda salute. I actually saw the film twice in theaters and it was well packed both times, even weeks after the movie had been released. Black Panther was and is still an incredibly big deal for the Black community.

One reason Black panther had the impact that it did is the sheer abundance of Black joy within the film. For years, the only time Black actors could even get nominated for an academy award was in films focused on racism, slavery, and overall oppression. Many actors have built their whole careers on roles like these because they were the only time they could be seen. At the end of the day, white producers, directors, and writers have profited off of Black pain for nearly a century, even longer when you include minstrel shows. 

Black Panther gave us the joy we’ve craved to see on people who look like us. It showed us Black characters who weren’t simplified to their race or any singular characteristic. They were fully fleshed people, in an intricately thought out society, facing issues of their own. It’s the kind of story that rarely involves people like us but this time it was centered around us. This was exactly what we had been asking for and it lived up to the hype. 

Black joy in media should show Black characters as human beings with characteristics outside of sadness, oppression, and resilience. We need to see Black people in books, TV shows, and movies who experience joy and happiness and a full life that doesn’t revolve around their race or the obstacles that come up in response to it. We want the freedom of seeing Black people in media that aren’t just a symbol or token. We want to see real people, real Black people.

If you’d like to read more on this topic, I would highly recommend checking out these resources. I will also post a series of Black joy in entertainment next week. And, check out the official Paradigm Press Black joy playlist that is also being posted today!

This article from Self about the necessity of Black joy. It’s from May of this year and Patia Braithwaite talks about how important it is to experience Black joy, especially when surrounded by instances of police brutality and discrimination.

This article from The Washington Post where Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts talks about dancing in the rain with her daughter. If you don’t have a subscription, use an incognito browser to get around the pay wall.

The Black Joy Project was established in 2015 with a mission establishing resistance through showcasing joy.

And this video where author Irenosen Okojie talks about the importance of imbedding Black joy into the fabric of our culture:

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