‘Black Joy Matters’ initiative aims to highlight community's healing, happiness
[Aug. 19, 2020: Joseph Shavit]
The Black experience does not begin and end with anguish, violence, and pain. However, social media has yet to fully provide a multifaceted overview of Blackness. Black trauma and negative views around the Black experience are showing up there, especially now.
A new initiative called "Black Joy Matters" is trying to change this.
“There's a huge importance in showing that Black existence is not all death, it is not all trauma, it is not all racial injustice,” said Shavone Charles. “It's a call for us to acknowledge our joy and acknowledge our healing and happiness during a time when we need it most.”
Charles is leading the "Black Joy Matters" initiative for photo-sharing platform VSCO. About 76% of people in a new survey they did with Gen Z say they regularly or often see depictions of racial violence on their social media feed and it hurts them emotionally. Their feelings include hopelessness and anger.
The survey also found 84% of Black Gen Z feel they have allies of other races on social media now.
“We deserve to live our lives in spectrum, and you know showcase what those experiences look like inclusive of the trauma but not exclusive to trauma,” said Charles.
A psychologist we spoke with agrees that it's important not to define the Black experience just by racial oppression. He says it's easy to do because there is so much of it. And Black joy can get overlooked.
“Yes, we are sort of in the midst of all of these sorts of negative incidents, but even in the midst of those incidents, we not only sort of persist and survive, but we can and often times do continue to thrive,” said Kevin Cokley with UT Austin’s Department of of Educational Psychology.
Cokley says the Black joy initiative is important for acknowledging the assets and strengths of the Black community, which is an approach that has been used in Black psychology for many years. But it can be helpful for others too.
“I think it's helpful for non-Black people to recognize that you know the ways in which you might sort of caricature or stereotype Black people is very limited and does not give you the true perspective of their humanity,” said Cokley.
He points at one positive we've seen from everything going on in our country now. It is bringing people together to be more civilly minded and socially justice oriented.
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Want to learn more?
You can learn more about Black Joy and how representation matters, check out the School Library Journal's article titled "Representation Matters: Black Joy Is an Act of Resistance".