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Radical Black Joy is the Revolution

Sunday, June 6, 2021

By Erica Rey & Sequoia Thompson 


Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. — Audre Lorde


Black people have historically reckoned with disparaging narratives centered on dehumanization and trauma in our culture and our stories. Today, non-Black people have a duty to bear witness to the full breadth, richness, and beauty of Blackness.

Non-Black people have an opportunity to share their platforms and allow Black communities to speak to their lived experiences. We must lean into the revolutionary impact of elevating Black stories that explore the complexity of their experiences; Black people can hold and express a range of feelings from joy, love, grief, fear, excitement to hope. 

We urge non-Black people to help create space in our cultural landscape for new stories that combat legacies of anti-Blackness. Today, we ask everyone to uplift and embrace the power of Black Joy. 


Radical Black Joy is revolutionary by design. 


It challenges the cruel narratives that white supremacy has globally propagated against Black Bodies. It directly denounces the lie that our worth is in proximity to or defined by anything outside of ourselves. Radical Black Joy is an emotional celebration that uplifts the value in “both-and”:
It is creating happiness amidst dystopia AND… reframing the fetishization of Black strength and resilience by honoring the inherent beauty in Black existence.
It is being told we are not valuable AND… still valuing ourselves.
It is seeing our culture, our bodies, and our brilliance being positioned in America’s historical narrative to be feared, avoided, fetishized, displaced, appropriated, shunned, AND... knowing that Black Culture gave birth to traditions of art, community, love, and celebration.
It is seeing how other people of color have been told to distance themselves from Blackness to gain value in society AND… our culture valuing the inherent beauty in difference.
It is boldly naming, then denouncing, the plague of systemic anti-Black racism AND… living, healing, and loving past that insidious fallacy.
It is knowing we are portrayed in a light that is NOT indicative of our cultural love for humanity AND… loving the magnificence we see in the mirror and the beauty that exists in others.  
Radical Black Joy means coming together to uplift what has been historically shunned. To return to the collective happiness that white supremacy insidiously corrupted to separate us from each other and ourselves.


Radical Black Joy... is the revolution.

An Invitation to Dismantle Anti-Blackness

If Black women [and Black femmes] were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression. — Michele Wallace


There are many ways for non-Black people and institutions to elevate and center Black voices and truth. We urge you to imagine how you can move past rhetorical allyship toward tangible transformation for Black communities. The philanthropic sector can commit to eliminating models of giving that force Black people to prove their worth or compete against their community members for limited resources. Grantmakers can fund programs that celebrate joy, culture, and legacy, not just trauma. Funders can also create space at the decision-making tables and share their platform with radical Black voices in their panels, programs, and keynote speeches. Most importantly, we can get out of the way and allow Black people the space to create without watering down or censoring their messages. Black people must be allowed to express their truth, even if it creates discomfort for non-Black bodies. 


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