Seattleites reflect on freedom, resistance and joy to honor the day liberation from slavery finally arrived, over two years after Emancipation.
Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.
— Audre Lorde
My Joy is too Big to be a Hashtag
It’s no wonder in horrific and hopeful awake-o-lyptic times such as these that very often I hear the layered voices of brilliant people I love saying that small and large things “give them life,” that small and large things are being magnified and multiplied as examples of “Black joy.”
When I think about things that give me life or turn the level of joy up inside my heart, they are usually not associated with things or people. Pleasure and happiness are. Joy, on the other hand, is the record player that does not move. It is the constant needle ready to spin no matter what. It’s a blickity-black internal record player passed down to me from survivors whose names I do not know but who truly give me life.
When I am suffering, I am deeply unhappy or full of accumulated rage, but still feel joy. Joy cannot be appropriated, raped or stolen from me. No person can put their knee on my joy. The lineage of Black joy is too big for that.
Once I truly understood that joy, for me, is not circumstantial but constant, my joy-vibrations began to resonate at a higher register. There is true freedom in that realization. I could be full of rage, suffering or sorrow and still hold joy. I have passed this lesson on to my children by reminding them — “joy beginners,” I like to call them — that there is no pressure to be pessimistic or optimistic but instead, resilient and realistic while maintaining their own piece of inner joy.
Read more reflections in our Juneteenth series, published in partnership with Crosscut Opinion/South Seattle Emerald, below. For more on the history of the holiday, see historian Quintard Taylor’s essay at BlackPast.org.
- A cautionary tale by Lola Peters
- Juneteenth contains multitudes by Ben Danielson
- The next wave of emancipation by Reagan Jackson
- Joy is a revolutionary act by SassyBlack
- On police violence and unexplained loss by Vivian Philips
- In Seattle, the legacy work of resistance and liberation by Inye Wokoma
Anastacia-Reneé is a multi-genre writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. She received the 2018 James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award for Washington artists and served as the Seattle Civic Poet from 2017-2019
All images by Dorothy Edwards