Stories from Healthy Mind

Why Black Joy Matters, and Is a Form of Resistance, Too

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L'Oreal Thompson PaytonJune 9, 2020

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Photo: W+G Creative/ Delmaine Donson / Getty

In the days following the protests about the recent killings of Black people, I noticed fellow Black women writers asking if it was okay to write about other topics. My answer? A resounding “YES!”

Here’s why, I tweeted: Black joy matters. Black love matters. Black rest matters. They all matter. Why? Simply put: Our existence is resistance.

Last weekend, instead of joining the thousands of people protesting in Chicago, I decided to rest. I slept in. I did a slow flow yoga practice with Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Peloton’s first Black yoga instructor.

I posted on Instagram that I was craving some #BlackGirlYoga and how it was exactly what my soul needed. I’ve long believed that representation matters always and in all ways, the least of which is in wellness.

A quick Google search of yoga instructors will result in pages full of thin, white women, which, to be honest, is not all that relaxing for me. It’s one of the reasons I was attracted to Starshine & Clay, a yoga retreat for women of color, where I met Dr. Roberts two years ago.

Being in that room, surrounded by 40 other Black and brown women, was an act of both revolution and resistance—and was also an act of joy and love. I smile now, recalling the love and laughter we shared. Yes, there were some tears (okay, a lot of tears on my end), but there was something truly special about that space—seeing each other and uplifting each other.

Because as inconsequential as it sounds, being in a so-called wellness space with all white women can be, well, triggering AF.

Don’t get it twisted, I’m upset. I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m grieving. I’m anxious. One thing I am not is disappointed because we have been here before, and despite my best wishes for the opposite, I’m sure we’ll be here again. And I cannot allow that anger and pain to consume me.

So here are a several things, in no particular order, bringing me joy lately:

  • This Instagram thread of Black people laughing
  • This little girl’s giggle
  • The Black Girls with Gardens Facebook group (I’m a new-ish plant mom and I’ve learned—and laughed—so much in this group)
  • The #BlackGirlMagic Peloton Facebook group
  • #BlackTwitter because even in the midst of *gestures wildly* all this, we still find reasons to laugh out loud
  • Insecure (actually, Issa Rae all around)
  • Lunch with my work bestie, Pam
  • Black art
  • Black YA and romance novels
  • My #BlackGirlMagic group chat
  • Virtual family game night
  • Twerking to Lizzo in the mirror while I brush my teeth

If you’ve noticed a trend here, it’s that most of these things involve laughter. I truly believe laughter is medicine for the soul. And I’m not alone; according to studies, laughter can boost your immunity and mental health, as well as lower your stress.

As a Black woman in America, joy takes work. It takes practice. It takes strength to say, “This is not going to get the best of me or take me down.” My joy is also an act of resistance. As Lucille Clifton wrote, “…Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.”

Bitch Media Editor-in-Chief Evette Dionne put it best in a recent Instagram post: “Joy is a revolutionary force. We need it as much as we need anger because it is joy that will help keep us in these bodies long enough to enact justice. How are you finding and harboring joy right now? How are you encouraging those you are in community with to seek joy and hold onto it fiercely, even in the very darkest hour? We are owed our anger. And at some point, we are owed our joy.”

This is why I celebrate. This is why I revel in my joy, proactively seeking it out and protecting it at all costs. I owe it to myself, my loved ones, and generations to come. Do what you have to do to find and feel joy. It’s needed now more than ever.

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