The words of Queen Ramonda in the award-winning film Wakanda Forever boomed through the theater walls as many of us in the audience imagined our own losses: “Have I not given everything?” she screams through tears and enraged depths of powerlessness.
White supremacy and all of its evil derivatives rooted in systemic racism consistently rob, abuse, and murder treasures of the Black community and always come knocking for more. Dangerous policing, unjust health care systems, and insidious political mechanisms of oppression are among the top of the list of culprits. As was beautifully depicted in the film – and as many of us have experienced in our own life journeys – despite braving a carousel of emotions and being pushed to the brink of our emotional capacity time and time again, our community is resilient. And joy prevails when we can hold space to honor our history, combat present injustices, and imagine a bright future.
Amplifying Black joy, Black dreams, and all of the shining lights of our resilience sends a clear message that the story will not end with our traumas, we won’t be silenced and siloed, and systemic racism will not have the final word.
Centering rest, dreams, and joy in the midst of glaring brutality and injustice for Black communities can feel like an impossible task. As a Black woman, advocate, and therapist, I am reminding each of us that embracing our sacred spaces of joy and dreams is not only important, but vital. Systemic racism tries to further us from protective factors like rest and joy, but today we put this tired vehicle of oppression to rest.
You may be asking, “What does it look like to prioritize my joy?” or “With what time can I rest?” These are deeply intimate questions, and to be clear, the most important person you can ask is yourself. However, here are some ideas to get you started:
- Sing and dance whenever you feel like it, even if the stage is a steamed-up shower.
- Spend time in nature and feel the breeze and sunshine on your skin.
- Your joy space and dream space might look like spending more time with a community or support systems. Family (chosen or biological), friends, churches, social clubs, and other communal experiences can remind us how much we are loved and enrich our imaginations by increasing our sense of safety and belonging.
- Learn more about Black joy in practice by watching our webinar, Black joy: Impacting the mental health of Black communities.
- Check out our hub on Black mental health resources for Black History Month.
These self-care strategies have origins in ancestral practices, and when done with intention, can liberate our inner world even as we navigate the perils of the outer world.
Niya McCray-Brown is the community engagement manager at Mental Health America. She is also a licensed professional counselor and mental health advocate, particularly for people of the global majority.