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What is Black Joy?

Written by Michelle D. Jackson

Michelle Jackson, founder of the Black Writers Workspace (BWW), and poets Leonora Martelly and Cameron Sykes share what Black Joy means to them.

For those who may not understand why I love the phrase ‘Black Joy,’ it is essential to remember that the harrowing realities of slavery, poverty, discrimination, lynchings, and police brutality have stained the Black experience in America. To reverse the impact and to maintain our crown, I find joy, peace, acceptance, and laughter in moments shaded by cultural acts of pride. Simple pride. Fierce pride. It doesn’t matter because I know that where Black joy exists, pain diminishes, and authenticity thrives.

Black joy is happiness. It is when you walk into your grandma’s house, smell the warm buttery flavor of a sweet potato casserole browning in the oven, unbutton your jeans and get ready to eat all day long.

Black joy is empowering. It is a spades game where slamming cards on the table rattles from every corner of the room, and boastful pride permeates the air you breathe.

Black joy is acceptance. It is sharing your truth with your tribe, crying tears of reflection, and screaming in the face of inequality with no judgment.

Black joy is unity. It is never knowing your homeboy’s real name because calling him by his nickname is how you honor the strength of your bond.

Black joy is winning. It is a celebration for being ‘the first’ yet refusing to settle with one accomplishment because Black excellence is a way of life, not an isolated incident.

Black joy is honoring what makes our blackness pure magic.

In celebration of Black joy, the Black Writers Workspace, an online community of writers and avid readers, featured poets sharing original work about the black experience. Poet, author, and community activists Leonora Martelly’s work Black Girl Joy illustrates her love of blackness, authenticity, and sisterhood. Click to listen:

IG: @whois.leonora

Poet Cameron Sykes’s poem, Black Boy Joy, serenades Black men with an inspirational song about joy, pain, faith, and brotherhood. Click to hear him recite his work:

IG: @storiesbyprophet

Honoring Black joy is not about dishonoring the joy of any other race. Instead, it is our way of celebrating what makes us unique and extraordinary. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to follow the Black Writers Workspace.

To connect with Michelle D. Jackson IG: @jackson.Michelle, FB: authormichelledjackson or email

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