“Choosing to have joy is one of the most radical things I can do during times of depletion.” How Three NWLC Staffers Are Celebrating Black History Month

K. Brockenborough

Celebrating Niecy Nash-Betts’ empowering acceptance speech at the 75th Emmy Awards evoking self-love and reclamation:  

“And you know who I want to thank? I want to thank me. For believing in me and doing what they said I could not do. 

 And I want to say to myself, in front of all you beautiful people, ‘go on girl wit’ yo bad self!’ You did that! 

Finally, I accept this award on behalf of every Black and brown woman who has gone unheard yet over-policed, like Glenda Cleveland, like Sandra Bland, like Breonna Taylor. As an artist, my job is to speak truth to power and baby, I’m gon’ do it till the day I die.” 

Enough said. 

Fatou Keita 

I stepped into this year’s Black History Month wrapped securely and safely in bell hooks’ All About Love: New Visions. Her words are holding me tightly like a newborn. Similarly to many of my girlfriends, I recently found myself returning to the pages of All About Love and finding comfort in the wisdom shared throughout the book about what love is and isn’t. 

As I planted myself in different corners of my nest, soaking in ms. hooks’ brilliance, I was reminded the following about love. 

  • Love is community. In this love, I am fully wrapping myself in the love and care of my community, particularly my soul sisters, who all remind me of the love I desire within myself and the one I share with others. The kind of love that leaves my heart so full as I witness it between Celie, Nettie, Sofia, and even Shug Avery in The Color Purple.
  • Love is anti-capitalist. This forces me to further release the “self-ness” notion fed to us in the capitalism system. That I am in fact weaved and nurtured in a web of community and in “each otherness.”
  • Love is solitude. I am finding comfort and safety in my own thoughts, giving them a place of sanctuary to be expressed, unrestricted. I am nurturing my conscious and subconscious thoughts and finding peace in my alone time with them.
  • Love is metaphoric. In this, it is ever shedding and evolving, and each time blessing me with a new skin that radiates, stronger than the previous one.
  • Love is loss. This gives me a deep hope that what I lose will in fact be returned to me in a beautifully different form. Like some trees as they let go of their beautiful leaves in the fall, knowing they will return in the spring.
  • Love is faith. This love allows me to release the heavy weight of life itself and give my load to something bigger and ever more mysterious than myself.
  • Love is me. I am wrapping myself with a massive embrace, kissing my body with gratitude for holding me up and carrying me always in this moment we call life and living.

Sky Sheppard 

In a crowded but cozy restaurant in Washington Heights, friends and I gathered over food and drinks. As if it was a Sunday, we knew what it meant to gather around a table, pouring libations for the soul, grounding us in an opportunity to catch up. We couldn’t wait to talk about all the things that the group chat could not contain. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that we were all coming to the table with grief and fatigue despite being excited to share space with one another. 2024 came in swinging: the Katt Williams interview on Club Shay Shay, the ongoing fear for our rights to reproductive care, and the inability to escape inflation and increasing child care cost, has truly been daunting—and let’s be real, has many of us spiraling. Admittedly, I am in my jaded era; I came to this table wondering, “Why am I doing this work? What is the purpose?” 

Yet, with a long list of my work to-dos in mind, and the dread I felt from doom-scrolling, I made my way, feeling vulnerable, ready to be exposed. The thing about a group chat is that there are ways to hide how you’re really feeling. Behind the phone screen, you can share a link to a podcast episode that has you in your feelings. You can rely on emojis and GIFS to respond to real life events. You can even write an analysis of what Beyoncé’s Act II will do to amplify the history of Black artists that created the genre. But when you come to the table with your people, there is no hiding sadness and grief, and the frustration you feel about all the injustices in the world. As we talked about our work, and the things we’ve been experiencing, we fell into each other with love and gratitude. I was reminded how important it is to lean on community to share intimate spaces and imagine a more just world. Drawing from bell hooks, “the love we make in community stays with us wherever we go. With this knowledge as our guide, we make any place we go, a place where we return to love.” While the feelings of rage and grief are ones that we should acknowledge, and can absolutely fuel action, it is crucial to take moments to process them.  

For so many years, I have used rage to move me in my identities as a Black woman, as a survivor, and a gender justice advocate, and while it’s been useful, I am now learning to transform these feelings for a different kind of mobilization. I am relearning the value of community and organizing and finding pockets of joy. The act of choosing to have joy is one of the most radical things I can do during times of depletion. In fact, it has been crucial for our survival as a people. While this year may be an uphill battle, I have decided to lean into joy a bit more by leaving the chats and showing up more in-person. Embracing loved ones, a little longer. Savoring time with my elders and my child. Challenging myself to step out and try new things. Honoring my ancestors and continuing their fight. And celebrating that I am still here.