Accomplishment in the black community is an act of resilience

For Black History Month, we're exploring history and identity through the lens of joy. Black joy is the ability to love and celebrate black people and culture, despite the world dictating otherwise. Black joy is liberation

Greg Corbin, 36, executive director of Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement

Watching people evolve and become leaders in the community -- it brings me so much joy. When you look at systemic oppression, the obstacles, and the trap doors that are put into our community from years of sabotage based on interference from other entities; when you see accomplishment happen in our community, it's not just accomplishment -- it's an act of resilience. That's a muscle that we need to continue to build because that's what our ancestors had. We're using that level of resilience and that act of love to continue to move on. Some say it's an act of resilience to still be here. Being able to smile in the face of the devil is a form of resilience.

It makes me think of the first time I heard about police using fire hoses during the civil rights movement when the youth would go out and protest. The children would make up games to get away from the water. They would laugh. These are stories we're losing because we don't have enough griots and storytellers who are doing the real work and research to hold on to the archives we need.

Camera icon michael bryant / Staff Photographer

Last year, I was at a conference for black male achievement called Rumble Young Man Rumble. I was standing in front of the room of about 200 people talking about stuff I struggled with as a kid and how it hurt so bad to be called names because I was obese, or I had certain things happen that reinforced low self-esteem or insecurity. Now, I'm not exaggerating, I had about 70 black men surrounding me as I was crying saying, "We got you," "Let it out," "This is what it's about," "We love you," "We need you."

Those are the words I heard. I can never forget those.

Camera icon michael bryant / Staff Photographer

That's joy for me. Even if it means seeing somebody let loose and cry. It shows I'm safe enough to show how strong I can be inside of my weakness. That's beautiful. That's what we need. Especially when I see men cry and show emotions that aren't celebrated from a masculine approach. There's strength in being vulnerable. When people hear the strongest person in the room say, "I need help," it changes the culture of the room.

When I think about black joy, I think about limitless possibility. You know how many things we invented? We invented them because we have imagination. Washing machine, lamps, door, door knob, curtain rod, all that. Black joy is science.


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