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Black History Month Challenge: Reflecting on Joy, Love & Resistance

Today marks the beginning of Black History month

Over the past 3+ years, we have experienced tremendous grief around loss, death, and tragedy, especially in reflecting on the disparate impact of COVID on the Black community. In addition, recent events are painful reminders that the “racial reckoning” of 2020 hasn’t resulted in long-lasting change. There is still disproportionate amplification of videos portraying violence against Black bodies and the impact of systemic anti-Black racism is evident in all of the core areas of our lives—including education, housing, banking, and employment.

It’s a LOT. 

To really honor Black History, you need to understand that it’s not just Black trauma and pain that should be spotlighted. Part of how we as Black people navigate life is to consistently resist how we have been viewed and treated societally and the constant attempts to dehumanize us. The true Black History is honoring the resilience of Black people to be able to continue to find joy, to continue to love, and to resist. 

This is what we should be commemorating. 

Love, joy, and resistance are our stories, too. 

Throughout February, I’m going to highlight some resources around Black Joy, Black Love, and Black Resistance. I encourage you to join me in this challenge to deliberately reflect and engage for the next 30 days (yes, we are pushing into March). Choose from the resources I’ve gathered and email me other suggestions. Share your participation on social with the hashtag #BlackLoveBlackJoy.

First we’ll begin with Joy, and here’s a playlist from Spotify, called For Black Love, Living and Joy to listen to as you read along. 

Joy for me includes music, laughter, food, the arts, and I’ve gathered some links for you to explore: 

Day 1

Unpacking Black Joy from the Revolutionary to the Ordinary, by The Root.

Day 2

Annual Goal Setting Playlist
Every year when I gather with people from across the country for my annual goal setting webinar, I invite them to share their favorite hype song. A hype song is a song that you use when you want to be inspired, energized, or reminded that things will get better. We create a collaborative playlist, and although all of the participants are not Black, I think of it as a celebration of Blackness and Black music, because of how we’ve brought the list together. The list is always heavy on Black artists, which for me, speaks to how much Black people have impacted society with joy through music. Here is this year’s playlist and here is last year’s. Here’s A Black Joy playlist, as well.

Day 3

High on the Hog documentary (Netflix)
This documentary explores how African American cuisine transformed America and is adapted from Dr. Jessica Hall’s 2011 book of the same name. The four-part docuseries highlights a range of culinary historians, restaurant owners, food bloggers, artists, and chefs. I loved this!!!

Other cooking resources:
If you’re looking for cookbooks, I recommend Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration. Andrew Barnard, on YouTube, offers a vegan approach to cooking, and he and his wife, Larisha, also run a site with dairy-free recipes

Day 4

Dressed in Joy
For the past year or so, I’ve been wearing the brand Dressed in Joy, which is a Black woman owned clothing line designed by Mikaela Pabon. Mikaela Pabon writes, “The goal of Dressed in Joy is to make my customers feel like the walking personification of JOY when wearing my pieces-to make them feel confident yet comfortable, stylish but never stuffy.” 

Every time I wear a Dressed in Joy piece, somebody stops me—no matter what—to say how happy the clothing is. I tell them that I agree, I feel like I’m wearing joy.
If you’d like to see me in one of my favorite pieces, you can check out my Instagram

Day 5

Mission Joy
Mission Joy is a recent documentary featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama in conversation. The footage from their week-long visit together was the basis of the book, The Book of Joy, where the two leaders explore the question, “How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?” In their interactions with each other, the Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama embody joy; there’s a delight and lightness to all of their exchanges.

Day 6

Check out this list of movies that celebrate Black Joy and pick one to watch! I especially loved Soul and all the pieces of Blackness it engages and celebrates. From their site: “these movies span the decades and cross genres to celebrate Black joy and the Black experience”

Day 7

Homegrown (HBOMax)
In this series, Atlanta-based urban farmer, Jamila Norman, helps families “transform their outdoor spaces into beautiful and functional backyard farms while exploring the joy and benefits of growing their own food.”

Day 8

This TED talk by Miracle Jones on the radical, revisionary resilience of Black Joy is powerful and moving. Listen to it and share your reflections. 

Day 9

Pick a book from these 20 Books that celebrate Black Joy, curated by Bucks County Library. And, speaking of the power of libraries, the Brooklyn Public Library is offering digital access to teens, to counteract the  increase in banned books. 

Day 10

I grew up watching Debbie Allen in Fame, and seeing her myriad other talents and different ways she’d added value, such as directing episodes of A Different World and Gray’s Anatomy.  I love how this documentary highlights bringing together of so many of her gifts and skills while focusing on her joy and passion for dancing. It follows Debbie Allen’s dance academy as they prepare for their production of the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker. I smiled the entire time I watched it.

Debbie Allen shared with PEOPLE, “We have to have an incubation for creativity. A space that’s open so people can think of something that they’re not just getting from the internet or from television, that they’re actually ingesting something that’s now ready to come out in their way of doing it: creativity, confidence, being able to take criticism, deal with pain, and also to understand the freedom and the unlimited journey of your energy. How far it can really go.” 

I’ll be back next week with a focus on Black Love. If you have recommendations for Black love, Black joy, and Black resistance, please send them to me so we can gather them and create a compendium that I will share annually. 

Here are some bonus resources that focus on joy—there can never be too much Black Joy:

Share this challenge with your friends, family and colleagues! 

PS: In keeping with the brand of Black Joy, please support my friend, L. Joy Williams, who is nominated for the NAACP Image award. Learn more about L. Joy here and vote for her here

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