Black Boy Joy Week: What does “black joy” mean?

Cassidy Jackson, Audio Editor

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CASSIDY JACKSON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Cassidy Jackson. Thanks for tuning in. This week, The Collective, a community that seeks to empower and educate black men on campus, is dedicating a week of programming to black boy joy. Some of the week’s events include a spa night, a basketball game and an end of the year barbeque. To gain an understanding of the week’s purpose, I asked leaders of The Collective how they define and experience “black joy.”

MATT REWETA: A lot of the time black men aren’t painted in a good light, and we’re not necessarily encouraged to openly celebrate a lot of things.

JACKSON: This is McCormick first-year Matt Reweta, The Collective’s membership chair.

REWETA: As black men, I feel like a lot of the time we don’t let ourselves express joy in the ways that we should. And this week is, it’s an opportunity to do that, to appreciate ourselves and to recognize each other and to just be happy.

JACKSON: How do you define black joy?

REWETA: It’s a celebration of us as whole individuals, you know?

JACKSON: For McCormick sophomore Devon Dulan, black joy is about loving your blackness despite the challenges you may face.

DEVON DULAN: This sense of black joy is just like despite, you know, a lot of the hardships, whether it be at Northwestern or just existing as a black person, having so much to celebrate, such a rich culture, such a rich existence in general and like loving who you are as a black person I guess. I love who I am and I would never change that. Like I do experience black joy then, in terms of loving my skin, my hair, what I come from.

JACKSON: Caleb Holland, a Weinberg sophomore and president of The Collective, said black joy has no set definition. It’s personally defined.

HOLLAND: I don’t think there is one answer. I think, for me, joy is really just about being comfortable, being confident, feeling free to express yourself. Putting just a blackness twist not even necessarily black boy, I think there’s a lot of the opposite of those things that come with being black. You know, I think it’s a little extra special when it’s black joy. And then I guess on the boy aspect, There’s a lot of suppression just around our emotions in general. Black joy, black boy joy is kind of radical in a way, but really just freedom, free to express yourself.

JACKSON: According to Reweta, it’s hard to experience and express black joy in everyday life, because being black in America comes with hardship.

JACKSON: Do you feel like you do a good job of being able to express joy?

REWETA: I believe that I do. But then… nah that’s a lie. I would like to say that I let myself feel joy and everything like that, and it’s not that I don’t feel joy. It’s just that I — I don’t know. I feel like with everything that still needs to be done, it can be tough to kind of just relax for a minute. And just all the implications about what’s going on outside of this institution and in the general country. And I’m from Tanzania, so even things that’s going on at home. It’s like, I don’t know, just a lot to consider all the time. We need times like these to celebrate the small things I guess.

JACKSON: Holland wants exactly that — for students to be able to get even an ounce of joy out of Black Boy Joy Week.

HOLLAND: I think for the black boys that come, I hope that they actually feel something, would be nice, but hopefully that thing is joy. And I hope it’s real, you know. I hope it’s a thing that they can feel, and whether it’s just for a second, whether they can hold on to it, I want them to feel that, at least in the time that we have.

JACKSON: Thanks for listening. Be sure to check out our other podcast with members of The Collective about durag culture. This has been Cassidy Jackson, and I’ll see you next time.

Email: cassidyjackson2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @cassidykjackson

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