Let’s talk about joy.
Joy typically isn’t the first thing that comes to mind discussing the perception of Black people in mainstream media. When figuring out how to best celebrate Black History Month, we, the members of Discord’s Black and African American Movement Employee Resource Group—also known as the BAAM ERG, which is way more catchy—focused our activities on the idea of "Black joy" and what it encompasses, rather than the usual imagery that’s often prevalent in today's media.
A group of us within the BAAM ERG sat down together and held an honest, sometimes fun, sometimes serious, open discussion about Black joy. We talked about what we have to celebrate, where we can find joy in the world, and what we’re proud of, and then extended the conversation to include a handful of Black community leaders on Discord.
Here are the highlights and insights from our collective intimate conversations:
We find Black joy with just being who we are…
“Seeing Black people just existing, breathing, smiling, living their lives. Black joy means resilience to just be. This means the spectrum of Black people creating, curating, discovering, exploring…the way we influence culture is from our being and doing, from us vibing and making beautiful things appear.”
…and from the creators we follow (and become)…
“Watching a creator like WoolieVersus, a familiar face covering nerdy topics I’m really into, scratches all the weird nerdy parts of me. It fills a niche I didn’t know that someone else could fill for me in life.”
“I’m part of a Discord server of passionate Black and Brown women in content creation. They all look like me, and we bring our authentic selves to talk about work and more. We’ve shared so many similar experiences, I can say ‘I was looking at somebody sideways today,’ without having to explain it. We understand the challenges of the space and also find joy, from talking about makeup to our careers. I enjoy being in a space where we can impact some sort of change, even if small.”
“I love seeing Black people in spaces that I was previously ridiculed for being in; anime and video games come to mind. You can see how every space we join in, we find a way to make it ours and create content that is for us. YouTubers who are Black making videos for their niche while being themselves, like Kennie J. D, RDCworld1 and KING VADER bring me a lot of laughter.”
“I enjoy funny books and meaningful light reads by Black comic book writers. Art is powerful and transformative, and when someone can create something reflective of their experience, and can get rid of the gaze of judgement or pleasing others, something really powerful happens and allows me to affirm my voice even more.”
…sharing the lighthearted moments in life.
“There’s so much joy in any space that’s curated for us, like BAAM and Black Twitter.”
“In our BAAM hangouts, all of us are together laughing and joking without having to explain ourselves. There’s a sense of unity. It’s a place to find joy and laugh and have a good time.”
It’s both a collective experience…
“I’ve felt Black joy as the thread in the quilt of our people. There’s joy in seeing kids thrive, the joy of getting justice, winning in your personal life, interacting with a stranger, and challenging existing stereotypes. I have tremendous pride in other people expanding on what it means to be themselves, it stitches us together. Through hobbies, culture, tradition, and family, people take form in a positive direction to the best of their ability and bring themselves together to be a quilt again. Every person is a node for joy, to be one node strengthens the entire network.”
“Black joy is like the electric slide. You get so excited watching everyone move rhythmically together and enjoying themselves; we can all hear the beat drop, we rush to the dance floor, hype each other up, and watch each other have a good time.”
…and an experience unique to ourselves.
“While Black joy is a collective experience, you personally are also getting something from it.”
“Black joy is also normalizing the things that bring us joy individually. When I paint and go to art class, it brings me to a meditative state of ‘this is my Black joy’ so I can get back to that feeling of honoring myself and return to it, call upon it. So in addition to calling on our ancestors for help and guidance, we can find it within ourselves. It can help carry us through.”
It’s critical to showcase Black joy throughout the media to celebrate ourselves.
“When there are so many things around us keeping us down, seeing the Black joy in public media gives us hope; it normalises Black people being on screen.”
“It's important for images of Black joy to be present in our lives to help uplift and teach others about the culture.”
…and to share our stories with the world.
“Whether you’re African American, Jamaican, Nigerian, Malawi, or any other person of African descent, it really puts joy in our hearts to see a person who looks like us projecting a positive image for the world to see.”
“This conversation is Black joy: seeing Black faces, hearing Black voices, curating spaces for Black people brings me joy.”
“Having a small hand in making BAAM happen and working in non-profits and with BIPOC youth, and seeing those voices blossom, grow, and develop as humans.”
Resources that bring our BAAM family joy
Alongside celebrating within the BAAM ERG and our Discord communities, we also want to shine the light on a few of our favorite organizations, shops, artists and media. We encourage you to check them all out and support their work:
- Proper Gnar — First Black Woman-Owned Skateboard Company
- BLK MKT Vintage — Black-Owned Vintage Store
- Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture — Online and Offline Exhibits
- Ear Hustle Podcast— Podcast led by currently incarcerated folks at San Quentin that features the stories of incarcerated people
- D.J. Kirkland — Digital Artist | Illustration & Comics
- Pretty Strange Design — Illustration & Embroidery
- Black Futures By Kimberly Drew and Jenna Worthman — A collection of works that tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today.
Other cool stuff we’re doing
This month we’re proud to donate to the East Oakland Collective, a community organizing group invested in serving the communities of deep East Oakland, California by working towards racial and economic equity through civic engagement, economic empowerment, homeless solutions and services (food and housing justice), as well as neighborhood and transportation planning.
Check out the Pinterest board we created to inspire the Discord artwork around the Discord Black Joy artwork theme. We’re also excited to collab with some great artists and community leaders this month, so stay tuned to our Instagram for the scoop.
Enjoy, and happy Black History Month from all of us at BAAM!