In Pursuit of Black Joy

I planned on writing this piece weeks ago, but my pursuit of “Black Joy” came to a halt after the now-infamous Conservatory flyer incident. Since then, however, I’ve been trying to actively preserve my peace more often and do things that bring me joy. Black people are essential in anti-racist work and education, but we are far more than tools to teach and help others. I’ve been martyring myself for weeks because I felt the job wouldn’t get done without my help. Even under immense stress and while managing a micro-internship, I’ve spent weeks maxing out my hours for Senate.

I don’t want people to feel bad for me because I enjoy a great deal of this work, even though it can be spiritually taxing. I’m just reflecting and processing the issues I encounter in my work on Student Senate and other aspects of my life. From this reflection, I’ve realized I couldn’t do my most efficient work while running on fumes. As such, the past several weeks have consisted of me indulging in more self-care. I’ve canceled or simply ghosted many Zoom meanings, written poetry to process my emotions, and generally taken time out for myself. I’ve also taken time to write this piece, figuring that if an article needs publishing every two weeks, this is just as important of a story as any work I do to help other Black people or the larger student body. 

While I’m writing this, Derek Chauvin stands trial, which has only given me more incentive to preserve my peace. I will keep myself updated on the crucial details, but a vital part of self-care is recognizing when something is too much to handle. The trial is far too consuming and not what I want to focus on but as usual I, like many Black people, don’t get to choose whether or not to think about racism. 

One of my favorite pastimes is spending time with my siblings, and I’ve had more time to do so with the slightly lower workload I’ve imposed on myself. We have a space at home dedicated to playing video games, and I’ve kept sane and grounded by using that space with my brother and sister. We love to hang out, play multiplayer games, and have a great time. Some of our favorites are the Super Smash Bros. and MarioKart series, and the memories I have with these games and my siblings over the years (but especially during the pandemic) will stick with me forever. 

We also enjoy listening to music and playing board games, but no matter what the activity surrounding our family time is, the bonding is what makes it worth it. Life is hard enough outside of the house, so having a place you feel somewhat comfortable returning to every day is irreplaceable. My siblings and I have to deal with minor disagreements occasionally, and I loathe helping them with Zoom University while I’m supposed to be taking a break from that. Regardless, I love them and wouldn’t trade them for anything. 

A favorite recent memory of mine was celebrating my little brother’s birthday, where we had just a few family members over (with a heavy emphasis on vaccinated people and people who prioritize social distancing for invitees). One of the things that always makes me feel better is laughing, and while I’m not sure about myself at points, I’ll die on the hill that most of my family is hilarious. 

I also enjoyed seeing the Black Renaissance event go over well. I may not have been on campus to experience the event live and in person, but I loved what I saw from the live stream and felt an enormous sense of pride in the event going well. I don’t necessarily need verification that students know how to organize better programming than the school. Still, I’ll let the lack of student backlash and high turnout from this event speak for themselves. I did feel slightly sad we weren’t able to get live virtual performers — mostly because I would’ve loved to perform a poem or song. 

Thankfully, I found a way to fill the void slightly by performing in a recent Song and Word virtual space. The Queer Creatives Liberation Collective hosted the event to raise money for a Black artist’s college tuition fund, and were so kind as to let me perform. The event went relatively smoothly, and I felt content assisting a good cause in a space surrounded by supportive and talented artists. The event was also helpful personally since it rekindled my love for writing poetry while I’ve focused more on Student Senate work and my Review articles over the past months. I used to vent more through my art, but I guess amid all of the countless Zoom meetings, writing my pieces, and my internship work, I lost sight of what grounded me. 

While I’m on the subject of my internship work, I’ve also gotten joy out of my continued work with the San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium. In the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a series of articles summarizing my research, working with the Consortium, and discussing different aspects of medical racism. Tentatively, I plan to release the first of these next week, and I’m very excited for my work to finally pay off. 

I’m not going to pretend that the Derek Chauvin trial is the only hard thing I’ve endured over the past several weeks. My Senate work outside of the racial justice work has been confusing and stressful at various points. I’m planning a collaboration within the coming weeks detailing just one of these situations. But for now, just know that the article will not be the most optimistic. As much as I may not like the feeling of canceling an appointment for a project or job, I regret nothing I did to protect my peace during this period. Another crucial part of self-care is not indulging in toxic positivity by acting like bad things don’t happen or matter. It is okay to be hurting, and recognizing when life is too much is vital to setting boundaries and healing.

I don’t think I ended up finding what I’d call “Black Joy” at this time, but I’m okay with that. I found a bit of myself and rediscovered why I care about the things I do while reflecting. Maybe I should expect more out of life, but as of now, that’s enough for me. I can live with my pursuit of “Black Joy” being an ongoing, non-linear process.