Health

5 Ways I’m Centering My Black Joy and Protecting My Peace

Joy is the human expression of gratitude, laughter, and celebration. Black joy, specifically, situates itself within the Black experience, often as it relates to our collective self-preservation in the face of constant racism and trauma. As a Black woman, I can experience joy and Black joy simultaneously. Black joy is an affirmation of our humanity, our breath, our love, our laughter. But Black joy couldn’t exist without the presence of anger.

Anger gives us the fire to create the world we want to see; it’s often rooted in a deep love for humanity and hope for better days. However, I’ve found that I need to process my anger so it’s not “hot” anger that will overwhelm me, but “cold” anger that gives me a greater sense of purpose. Both are valid feelings, given everything that’s happening in this country and the world at large, but for me, cold anger is where the potential for change and growth really lives.

Artist and community organizer Chaka Mkali provides an insightful distinction on the relationship between hot anger and cold anger. “Hot anger is emotional, like an uncontained fire that will overtake you and eventually burn you out,” Mkali tells SELF. “Cold anger is calculated, allowing you the opportunity to think and strategize. You’re in it for the long haul.” That cold anger doesn’t snuff out my Black joy. Instead, it makes my Black joy even more meaningful.

When I give myself permission to just be with the entirety of my emotions, Black joy rests at the center. It means I am no longer asking for the construct of whiteness to validate my worth and have instead deemed myself worthy simply because I exist. Thus, self-care and Black joy become a radical embodiment of liberation, as Audre Lorde famously expressed. Here are the tools I use to cultivate my Black joy and protect my peace.

1. Yoga

I’ve used yoga as a continual practice to support my self-care journey over the past 14 years. After a 200-hour training, I became a registered yoga teacher and cofounded BK Yoga Club in Brooklyn. As a Black woman experiencing very visceral attacks on my humanity, meeting myself on the mat has become an essential part of my day. Some days during yoga, I am actively cultivating joy, while other days I am being present with my feelings of anger and sadness. Yoga is an invitation to be with it all.

2. Breath work and meditation

Intentional breathing and meditation help me affirm and connect with my existence. The practice of meditation allows me to sit with the complexity of my emotions, observe my thoughts, and pause. My morning meditation practice includes sitting with myself in silence for at least one minute, focusing on taking deep inhales and exhales. This pause gives me the opportunity to shift from a reactive response to my emotions to a more proactive one, while also creating space for joy and new possibilities.

3. Community self-care

My individual self-care practice wouldn’t be possible without community self-care. While I may continue on the path of self-transformation, my personal experiences of internal and external oppression are connected to much larger structures and systems of oppression.

“There is no ‘I’ in wellness,” Rebeckah Price, wellness advocate and founder of IRISE Yoga, tells SELF. “If we cultivate a practice of self-and-community care, then by default, we are able to reclaim spaces of joy. Our collective joy is directly connected to the collective ‘we’ in wellness.”

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