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Black Joy: When Nothing Else Is Left

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

By: Anthony Ragler

July 13, 2013: It’s about 20 of us, turnt up on a Saturday night, trying to figure out which party we’re headed to for the night. Life is good, we’re young, carefree, and fly as fuck…. Then two minutes later, everything crumbles before us.

“…Guys, they found that mother fucker Zimmerman not guilty!”

Literally every one of us was overcome with the same combination of emotions. The silence between us was only verbal, as the hopelessness on our face spoke for us. A good ten minutes had passed before somebody finally screamed out “How!!”

What happened next was a mixture of rage, pain, agony, a desire to be understood, and a desire for revenge. Every person within earshot needed to be held accountable for our joy being stripped from us. How do you explain to a group of Black and Brown adolescents that kin of theirs has been murdered and no one is guilty of murdering them?

About an hour passes, and this overwhelming grief is still with as one of my friends says he needs a drink. We wash down our trauma in 4 Loko cans, weed smoke, and music. Somehow, through all of this, we find a way to party. And not the “I’m sad, but let me try and shake it off and have a good time.” type of party. This was desperation. The “We might be killed tomorrow, so make this one count.” sort of partying. There are things that happened that night that our friend circle considers unmentionables, even up to this day. Almost three years to this day, that gravity has overcome me again.

This week has been unbearable. Black bodies being taken down basically for sport at this point, Facebook deciding we need ESPN highlight recaps on autoplay, and race baiting, “All Lives Matter” trolls scavenging for reasons to justify Black death. It’s all too inescapable. For many of my brothers and sisters, the only refuge we can take is in our joy.

We live in an era where we laugh at our greatest pains. The meme generation has made it possible to encompass some of life’s most hilariously specific moments in a caption. Black twitter has time and time again shown that our people may be the best and most precise comedy writers in history. We’ve had #AskRachel, #GrowingUpBlack, #ThanksgivingClapback, the list goes on and on, but our greatest assets on this planet is our ability to laugh at and with ourselves. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that can keep us sane. The desperate plea for our livelihoods staying intact becomes exhausting. Many times, we need a break from it all, and what better way then celebrating. If not for those moments in which we drown out all the negative, we would be fully encompassed with darkness and despair. Some days, our joy is the only thing we can claim belongs to us that can’t be taken away by a bullet.

With that being said, I’ll be spending the remainder of my day playing Pokémon Go, blasting music, and avoiding Facebook’s autoplay feature. My Black family, y’all have all the right to be angry, to mourn, to rage — all of it is honest, and is necessary. Self care however, is as well. Whatever it is that you need to keep pushing forward, do it. Binge watch that show, buy those shoes you keep passing in the window display, party as hard as you want. Claim that joy, because it is yours, and you deserve it, despite all that surrounds us.

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