Arts and Culture

Black Joy

Titilayo Bamgbose

It’s the August Bank Holiday of 2019. It’s 30 degrees and sweat drips down the back of my neck. My friend passes me a water bottle – it’s not full of water but instead [CENSORED]. I grimace after taking a swig and pass it to my other friend. Our favourite song comes on and I am immediately pulled into the arms of my friend – we dance, we laugh, we smile, we sweat and then it’s midnight. I can barely remember the day but I am happy, full of joy and love for my friends and I don’t want this to end.

I remember sitting between my mother’s legs, head resting on her knees and a comb in her hand. I wince in anticipation of the pulling feeling and blink away tears. She puts on our favourite show, hands working adeptly, forming plait after plait, braid after braid, and I forget the niggling feeling of hair being pulled tight. I laugh and she smiles at me, finally done, my head silently ringing in pain but completely full of contentment of laughing with my mum.

Candy by Romeo comes on at prom and we all immediately rush to the dance floor, finger foods dropped and drinks left behind. The lines are formed, my friends and I at the forefront of it all before I count them in – two steps to the right, two to the left, two steps back and one forward before we all leap forward. The ground shakes on impact and we scream, shout and make inhuman noises. Our teachers look on, smiling while sad to see us go, that rambunctious, too-smart-for-their-own-good group full of black joy.

It’s April 2019 and I have just returned from one of the best trips of my life. I meet up with friends, gift bags in hand and the biggest grin on my face when I enter the restaurant. We eat, catch up on everything and the glee reflected in their eyes when they see the little trinkets I got them from Hong Kong and South Korea makes it even more worth it. My friend reveals she booked us a karaoke room and I have never screamed my lungs like I did then outside of a concert setting. I still remember how sore my throat was and the tears and laughs we all shared in that room, squeezed onto too small couches and panting in exhaustion.

It is moments like these that remind me of what it is like to be happy while Black. All too often, our stories are coloured by suffering, trauma and sadness and I forget the moments I cherish most with my Black family, my Black friends and my Black environment. With these memories, I want to show a narrative full of the positive aspects of Blackness. Black Joy is a statement, a mode of resistance and a marker of small freedoms. With my happiness and Blackness, I am free.

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