I am reminded to choose…joy

This blog was originally posted at our Circle Mobilizing Because Black Lives Matter blog here. It was written by Bethany Stewart.

I spend way too much time on the internet. WAY. TOO. MUCH. But I find it difficult to disengage from social media and the news in this current political climate. Something hilarious, bizarre or heartbreaking is happening literally everyday and it is impossible to escape it.


With that being said, I notice myself succumbing to anxiety-inducing news everyday. I recently watched a video on Facebook in which a Philadelphia police officer was chasing a black man in the middle of traffic on Columbus Boulevard. As the officer and man bobbed through traffic and onto the other side of Columbus Boulevard, the officer, clearly frustrated, drew his gun on the man. I immediately felt “it.” I’m not even exactly sure how to describe “it.” “It” is an all too familiar feeling when watching these kinds of exchanges between police officers and black people in America. It’s almost like watching a poorly written horror movie. You know what’s going to happen next, you begin to become frustrated with the character in front of you: “Run stupid! Don’t you dare fall. Damn it, she fell” becomes “Please, just listen to this officer, please,” then you wait in anticipation of the kill. Only, this is real life, and I know the character in front of me is a real person with a real family that loves them. I begin picturing their Thanksgiving dinners, their children, their mother…my breath shallows, my heart rate quickens, my chest and jaw tighten, I begin to anticipate the kill. In this case, nobody died, which is unfortunately an uncommon plot twist.

It is hard to feel joy knowing that any day, this predictable Black-American horror story that seems to be played over and over again on social media may involve my cousins, my father…myself one day. I wrestle with that reality in my mind daily as my breath shallows, my heart rate quickens, my chest and jaw tighten. It is an eternal internal struggle in Black America and yet some days, I choose joy.


Angela Davis puts her fist in the air as she arrives in court in San Rafael, Calif., on June 28, 1971, for a pretrial hearing. (Associated Press)

As a black person, choosing joy is an act of resistance. It’s not an easy or simple decision by any means. But sometimes, black joy is a necessary decision for survival. I envision myself as an Angela Davis type every time I choose to breathe in joy, deeply and slowly. It may come in the form of watching Black Panther for the umpteenth time, oiling my God-given kinks and coils or simply being in the presence of other beautiful melanated sisters. As the leader of Circle Mobilizing Because Black Lives Matter, it’s been important to me to host events in which we radically choose joy. When I become weakened by the joyless narrative of Black life in America, being historically devalued and ended by state sanctioned violence, I am reminded that my hope is not in the state. “Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!” Romans 15:13. I am reminded that my hope cannot rest in the hopeless state. I am reminded of the goodness that follows joy and I feel hopeful again (and sometimes, I’m still just pissed and that’s okay too). I ask to be filled so that I can continue to do the good work of resisting this joyless narrative and choosing joy.


Texas Juneteenth Day Celebration, 1900 (Austin History Center, Austin Public Library)

This past Juneteenth 2018, Circle Mobilizing chose joy by organizing a fundraiser at Crime & Punishment Brewery in Brewerytown. For each beer sold, we received $2 to go towards our efforts to support the Black Lives Matter movement. As such, we raised about $500 total from the evening. As I sipped my fruity and citrusy beer (only God can judge me and my beer choices), I was reminded of what choosing joy looked like. My soul was filled and so was my cup… literally.

– Bethany


2017 Afropunk attendees

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