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Black Joy

By Barbara Armstrong

In honor and recognition of Black History Month, “A Community Celebration of Black Joy” was presented Friday, February 3, at Decatur High School. School librarian, Ifeud Hill, collaborated with Georgia Public Broadcasting Service (GPB) and the Black Student Union to design the program.

Attendees were greeted by charcoal portraits of famous Black people courtesy of The 9th-grade art teacher who assigned her students, both Black and white, the task of drawing famous African Americans they admired. There were books for sale and refreshments were provided. Lindsay Davis, a junior, and Mikka Wolff, a senior, served as co-hosts.

Wolff introduced  Monica Nelson, a music teacher at Clairmont Elementary School, to open with the singing of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” She invited the audience to stand and sing along with her. The song was written in 1899 by brothers James Weldon Johnson, a lawyer, civil rights activist, writer, and poet, and J. Rosamond Johnson, a musician. The NAACP embraced the song as the ‘Negro’ National Anthem in 1900.

Mikka Wolff presented Spoken Word poet Lincoln Murph a junior, as “an up-and-coming young man” whose poem was entitled “Black Joy.” “Black Joy cannot be finished. Black Joy is a grace that cannot be replaced, only embraced.”

Luolu Oguneye’s poem The “Perilous Journey” affirmed that “the collective spirit cannot be dampened. We must remain vigilant; we must fight….At last, we are free, we play, and we scream. At last, we are able to live Dr. King’s Dream. During our darkest moments, we must focus to see the light. As we grow, beautiful black girls and  boys, we’ll awaken beautiful Black Joy.”

Seven Baker spoke passionately about “Liberty and Justice.”

GPBS previewed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates’s four-part series “Making Black America: Through the Grapevine,” which portrays Black people as more than their collective struggle. Gates has conversations with people in the barber and beauty shops and beyond. Freed from the bonds of slavery and surviving Jim Crow, Black people struggled to survive white supremacy and worked to lift themselves and their race from poverty. They pursued education, built communities, businesses, schools, and churches, thus creating a flourishing society, and established social organizations where they could feel validated and supported and experience “Black Joy.”

The screening was followed by a panel of three professionals to speak of “Black Joy:” Lindsay welcomed them to the stage, and while they were setting up, she said, “I enjoyed it….while watching it, I was even more motivated to celebrate “Black Joy.”… “You are allowed to love yourself and love your people. And you are allowed to appreciate culture and the beauty of “Black Joy.””

Mikka added, “ when we talk about Black Joy, also we are contrasting the narrative of black suffering.” He mentioned oppression, segregation, and how Black people are portrayed in movies, i.e., a drug dealer in “Baby Driver.” In addition, he cited “12 Years a Slave” and “Selma,” acknowledging their importance … and stating, “We are not seeing the other side, the happiness,”  which is our right according to the constitution.

Tamu Taylor, family historian, and genealogist, the daughter of Black Panther Party members, grew up learning Black History. She is a  member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Metro Atlanta Chapter. She finds “Black Joy” in her children, who attended predominately white schools but have stepped into their own as young Black people who “know who they are and where they come from.”

Dorothy Chapman Reed, author of “Outstanding Black Women of Yalobusha County,” a collection of stories and contributions to Mississippi. Having her papers archived in the A.W. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi brings her Joy.

Dr. Candy Tate of Candy Tate and Associates spoke about her Black Joy while attending predominately white Emory University when she sat at the “black table” in the cafeteria. Also, being acknowledged by other Black students. She said, “ Now, you may walk across campus and barely get someone to look up at you from their phone. I hope we will get back to acknowledging the humanity of everyone.” She mentioned “Black Joy” while playing cards, dancing, or stepping to raise funds for charity.

Black History and “Black Joy” are intricately woven into the tapestry of the American Story; Black History is American History.

Last updated on February 10, 2023

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