We are navigating unprecedented times. And while Black Americans are no strangers to struggle (see: the timeline of the last 400 years), things feel particularly catalyzing this time around. Protecting our joy feels especially vital.
At the top of the year, COVID-19 — which has impacted communities globally — hit the states. And while it’s undoubtedly taken an unconscionable toll on our nation, it has especially impacted Black people. We’ve watched as the novel virus has ravaged Black communities, putting our people — many of whom are essential workers — on the frontlines of devastation and, in turn, their families at increased risk. Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters who sit at the marginalizing intersection of being both Black and queer have been painfully overlooked, with LGBTQ+ coronavirus victims being unequivocally excluded from the coronavirus conversation at large.
The devastation was followed by weeks of protests in response to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Dominique Fells, Oluwatoyin Salau — among countless others. Which points back to the question we posed on Juneteenth, echoing the sentiment of Frederick Douglass: what is “freedom” to the enslaved Black American?
Despite “freedom” being granted to slaves in 1865, it seems that “freedom” has yet to materialize. But as R29Unbothered’s very own Danielle Cadet stated, we’re no longer waiting. Instead, as the nation is thrust into reckoning in the face of its history in a way it hasn’t before, we’re reclaiming a cultural narrative that has long been dominated by struggle. And to echo Bitch Media Editor-in-Chief Evette Dion, “joy is a revolutionary force. We need it as much as we need anger because it is joy that will help keep us in these bodies long enough to enact justice.”
This is why, R29Unbothered is teaming up with VSCO for the #BlackJoyMatters project to debut a series of first-time joint programming to amplify the Black experience. Led and curated entirely by Black women, our #BlackJoyMatters programming will celebrate and spotlight Black voices and stories throughout this summer. With this initiative, we will feature a series of collaborators and multidisciplinary Black creatives across the media, tech and creative industries. It is through this work that we are documenting our realities, celebrating our skin, and reclaiming our joy.
We’ll spotlight a #BlackJoyMatters art series, with anecdotes from each featured subject highlighting how they are thriving and staying well in our current climate. We’ll uplift conversations about how to heal. We’ll share access to roundtables with select voices across activism, wellness, photography and more. Oh, and you’ll get to learn more about us! The Black women who’ve poured into R29Unbothered.
Black people don’t just deserve to be alive; we deserve to be happy. So we’re doing what we always do, and we’re leaning into the reasons we have to celebrate — no matter what.