Black women face a double whammy when it comes to discrimination — being a member of more than one marginalized group leads to more opportunities for prejudice, and the damage caused by racism is distinct from other forms of trauma. With so many legitimate reasons for Black women to feel despair about the world, sharing light moments is a distinctive, even radical choice — and it may be why “Black joy” has resonated with so many.
According to Google Trends, interest in the phrase peaked in December 2018, but the movement traces its origins to 2015, when writer Kleaver Cruz founded The Black Joy Project. Why Black joy, and not just “human joy”? In the age of #AllLivesMatter, it’s important to address the significance of a hashtag intended exclusively for Black people. Cruz wrote on his website, “I decided that my social media timelines needed some smiles amidst the sharing of important information, thoughts, art, photos and videos that can be upsetting and at its worst depressing and traumatizing.” Like many social movements, #BlackJoy spread rapidly because of the internet — Cruz also shares firsthand stories on an Instagram account dedicated to The Black Joy Project.
For women especially, the act of being joyful while Black can on a particular resonance. Bustle spoke to seven Black women about what Black joy means to them, and how they express it.
“Black Joy. It’s the joy I find in the candid conversations and belly laughs I share with my ‘kitchen cabinet’ (my closest friends that encourage, advise, and hold me accountable). It’s also the joy I feel and know is mine because it is hard earned by proxy of my historic position and my lived experiences. I find joy in my family being safe, my daughter thriving and being carefree, my personal wins, and the bold and unapologetic experiences of all the women I know and have never met that continue to do dope things while being and because of being Black AF and woman AF.”