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The Joy, Happiness, and Beauty of Celebrating Blackness

June 25, 2021

Filed in: Race & Equity

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Celebrations with a focus on identity can provide youth with an opportunity to uplift one another, and love themselves and their identities fiercely and proudly. Developmental science shows the many benefits of not only understanding, but of feeling joy about our identity, especially during adolescence, when we’re figuring out who we are and where we belong.

Summer is here, and it feels like I can finally take a breath. After the year we’ve had, I set a few goals for myself this summer with the intention of restoring my soul and rejuvenating my spirit. In recognition of these personal goals, I attended a Juneteenth festival last weekend. It was an outdoor event with one purpose: to celebrate Blackness. For me, it was an opportunity to celebrate my own Blackness, and even how that intersects with my identity as a woman. There were tons of Black-owned businesses to shop from, Black performers, and overall a community of Black people just having fun. We laughed together, sang songs, danced in the rain, and appreciated the beauty of our identity.

This event reminded me of other moments where I soaked up the opportunity to celebrate my own Blackness. For example, when I was in high school, I went to a diversity conference in downtown Atlanta, where one of the activities was attending an affinity group for Black youth. It was my first ever affinity group, so I truly had no idea what to expect. When we got there, they told us that the sole purpose of the event was to relax and have fun. They played really loud music and we all danced around, and laughed for what felt like hours. After getting out some initial energy, we wrote poetry and talked to one another about some of the experiences we have been through. I felt the most understood I had felt in a long time, being surrounded by so many people who could so closely relate to my everyday experiences.

Though these celebratory events are interspersed and sometimes last only for one night, the impact of them stick with me forever. The wonderful experiences I get to be a part of because of my identity as a Black woman amplify the joy I feel, and refresh my soul unlike anything else. Embracing that pride in my identity has really worked to boost my self-confidence, personal feelings of self-value and self-worth that I internalize, and has also helped to ease a lot of anxiety, worry, and general fears that I carry with me on a daily basis.

Developmental science makes note of these benefits of not only understanding, but of feeling joy about our identity, especially during adolescence, when we’re figuring out who we are and where we belong. In general, celebrations can give any community an opportunity to uplift one another and love fiercely, and to feel “good, happy, and proud.” Researchers call this good feeling about racial identity “positive ethnic-racial affect,” and have shown that it improves well-being and reduces health risks.

There are also many ways to celebrate Black joy even if you don’t personally identify with that community. Show your appreciation for Blackness by creating spaces where Black people feel comfortable, and safe to relax and enjoy themselves. Spread positive messaging about Blackness, shop from Black-owned businesses, and honor Black creativity in whatever ways you can. Take the time to educate yourself, instead of placing the burden of education on people of color. Do your research, learn some history, and read a few books. All of these things are crucial to being an ally towards communities of color.

It’s important to acknowledge the history of Black people in this country and around the world, remember those that we’ve lost, and actively engage in social change. With that being said, it’s just as important that I remind myself that there is more to my identity as a Black woman than pain, suffering, and grief. There is also joy and happiness and beauty in Blackness, and attending events such as affinity groups and Juneteenth festivals are the perfect way to remind me of that.

Here’s to a fun summer!

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