Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins finds beauty and joy in the most dire circumstances

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.

Malcolm Jenkins, 29, safety for the Eagles

My aunt Cynthia Vaughn is an artist. A lot of what she used to capture was inner-city youth in poor neighborhoods having fun, like double-dutching. So you see these scenes where the environment looks like it’s in despair, but these kids were somehow finding joy in that same environment. As I grew up, I saw that black people, we’ve always been able to find that joy.

We’ve historically been an oppressed people, but you continue to see that joy, whether it's our music, our dance, our style or art. We’re just a beautiful people. Even though a lot of times you look at the surroundings and they’re not ideal.

Every time my family comes together, whether it be in my grandmother’s house or my aunt's house, just being able to have the family under one roof -- because that’s really how we started, when I was a kid, my entire family lived at my grandma’s house -- we would come back together a couple times a year. That’s when you don’t pay attention to your surroundings.

I try to take advantage of those opportunities.

Sometimes we struggle with finding that beauty within ourselves. 

Camera icon michael bryant / Staff Photographer

There’s an oversaturation of negativity, whether it’s what we watch on TV, the news, we’ve been painted into a certain identity. So if you’re not black, or even if you are black, and that’s all you see, that’s what you identify [blackness] with. It isn’t until you get out of your own environment, go to an HBCU or meet black people around the world, you see the differences in all of us, and how although we’ve been different and have different paths, the struggle is always the same. People still found a way to overcome and find that joy and beauty in what they do.

Camera icon michael bryant / Staff Photographer

That’s the biggest thing where we’re at now: shedding what we’ve been brainwashed to see, and to see the humanity within black people, especially those who are in underserved communities or neighborhoods riddled with crime. There are some of  the brightest minds,  the most creative and brilliant people, in those communities. They’re waiting really for opportunity. Those who are able to come out from under the rug and let themselves shine create something brilliant. That’s why our culture is probably the most copied in the world. We’ve got awesome creativity and talent. Oftentimes that comes from the ruggedest of spots. We can see that picture of poor kids double-dutching and see the beauty in it. 


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