Michelle Jackson, founder of the Black Writers Workspace (BWW), and poets Leonora Martelly and Cameron Sykes share what Black Joy means to them.
For those who may not understand why I love the phrase ‘Black Joy,’ it is essential to remember that the harrowing realities of slavery, poverty, discrimination, lynchings, and police brutality have stained the Black experience in America. To reverse the impact and to maintain our crown, I find joy, peace, acceptance, and laughter in moments shaded by cultural acts of pride. Simple pride. Fierce pride. It doesn’t matter because I know that where Black joy exists, pain diminishes, and authenticity thrives.
Black joy is happiness. It is when you walk into your grandma’s house, smell the warm buttery flavor of a sweet potato casserole browning in the oven, unbutton your jeans and get ready to eat all day long.
Black joy is empowering. It is a spades game where slamming cards on the table rattles from every corner of the room, and boastful pride permeates the air you breathe.
Black joy is acceptance. It is sharing your truth with your tribe, crying tears of reflection, and screaming in the face of inequality with no judgment.
Black joy is unity. It is never knowing your homeboy’s real name because calling him by his nickname is how you honor the strength of your bond.
Black joy is winning. It is a celebration for being ‘the first’ yet refusing to settle with one accomplishment because Black excellence is a way of life, not an isolated incident.
Black joy is honoring what makes our blackness pure magic.
In celebration of Black joy, the Black Writers Workspace, an online community of writers and avid readers, featured poets sharing original work about the black experience. Poet, author, and community activists Leonora Martelly’s work Black Girl Joy illustrates her love of blackness, authenticity, and sisterhood. Click to listen:
Poet Cameron Sykes’s poem, Black Boy Joy, serenades Black men with an inspirational song about joy, pain, faith, and brotherhood. Click to hear him recite his work:
Honoring Black joy is not about dishonoring the joy of any other race. Instead, it is our way of celebrating what makes us unique and extraordinary. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to follow the Black Writers Workspace.
To connect with Michelle D. Jackson IG: @jackson.Michelle, FB: authormichelledjackson or email email@example.com.
During his funeral, as I sat staring at his regal bronze casket covered with an American flag, I noticed a beautiful metal door in the church with a three-circle emblem representing the Holy Trinity. Mesmerized by its design, I began to wonder about the door of eternal life my father had now entered. This door represented the pathway from earth to heaven.
Somewhere in the heavenly clouds was my father, a man in his late eighties who survived poverty as a young boy and blatant racism in the south—a complicated man whose love shined through even in the harshest times. I did not always understand him, but I knew and loved his strength, courage, and unspoken belief in forgiveness.
The door that stood before me represented his path to a final resting place, a course we will all one day endure. It was this door that had the last word on his life. Yet, poetic in how its silence spoke to the numbness of my heart, I knew that once he walked through it, my father would receive his heavenly reward for a life well-lived.
With the help of my friends on the Black Writers Workspace, we crafted separate parts of a story, my story, our story of grief, loss, and the journey from this world to eternal life. Through the beautiful and heartfelt poetic words of writers everywhere, they helped me share my pain, and I am forever grateful. Here’s our collaborative work:
Check out my latest poem, We Will Vote! I wrote this while I stood in line for over five hours to vote during the first day of early voting in Louisiana. There were hundreds of people standing with me. It was inspiring and well-worth the wait. #makeaplantovote #wewillvote
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we heard you
U.S. Representative John Lewis we heard you
Reverend Dr. William Barber we heard you
First Lady Michelle Obama we heard you
Your voices sung like wind chimes on a still and lonely night
Chattered like the hate that rose against us
Stuttered like hymns hovering above the cotton fields
Your forceful words swung like tattered rope around a lynching tree
Tarnished leaves with blood and tears
Unscathed ground tested by hate and fear
You called us out of idealistic virtue
Where fairness thrived and no color dwelled over man like God
Where rights were assured, and voting was revered as an act of civility and pride
You rocked us from our comfy places to our rightful position
Your words carried us to the warring ground
Stirring us to stand guard over what is sacred to a blessed life
We heard the echo of your crying souls
Banished for its impassioned quest to seal our fate of liberty
We heed the call to move forward and stand firm
We replicate your solid demand to know who we are and why we fight without fault or fear
Martin, we heard you say, “Give us the ballot”
For in the belly of the ballot box are the gems of democracy this land stands for
We believed your conviction and live to make your dream our rallying cry
John, we heard your call to act
And now our commitment is to “get out there and push and pull until we redeem the soul of America”
Your words exemplified your greatness and a stern eye of righteousness
You were a force to be reckoned with
Reverend Barber, we heard your demands
A push for unity from a true Conductor of Peace
“Forward together” we march. “Not one step back!”
Your words embody our fight to fill the coffers of those in need
Despite what the wealthy claim is there’s
It is why we move in unison, hand-in-hand towards equality and justice
Michelle, we heard you sing proud and loud
Words now imprinted on our minds, “Vote like our lives depend on it!”
You spoke to a generation of youth
Pushing for the seeds of justice to be our proudest possession
Teaching grace to angels with warring souls who needed you most
And now we stand, side-by-side, soul-by-soul waiting for our turn to strike a fatal blow to what threatens to make our freedoms no more
We heard you and we accept this challenge
We embrace the dream you set forth into the wind, the purpose of your mission and the thunder behind your words
You stood for us; we stand strong with you
We will vote like the day has no promise of a dawning sun
Like the rights of all men have slung stars into the sky and created the bond that holds our universe together
We will vote because those who died in the blistering cotton fields could not
We will vote because our patient soldiers for peace marched, sat and endured jail to see us through
We will vote like our lives are tied to every ballot, even when our rights are being auctioned to the lowest bidder
We will vote because your words are burning in our soul and drumming songs of victory awakening the better angel in us all
We are excited to add another poem by writer Cambrin Daniel to our Poetry Showcase.
We are looking for original poetry by new poets and spoken word artists who are passionate, thought provoking and honest. To showcase your work and register to win cash to help launch your writing career, send your poetry or spoken word video to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are excited to announce the launch of 1stmorningthoughts.com Poetry Showcase. Designed to highlight the work of indie writers who are inspiring the world around them, the showcase will periodically post work that speaks to the heart, mind and soul of poetry enthusiasts. Our first poem is called NOW by writer Cambrin Daniel from Birmingham, AL.
To submit your work, email email@example.com.