It’s beginning to look a lot like a Black Joy Christmas.
Please, tell me you sung that. Ok, the tempo may be a little off, but you get the gist.
It’s finally time to break out the sparkling tinsel and lights and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year without being side-eyed for celebrating it too early. If you were an early bird, I hope you got a little bit of a pass this year. If not, tell the haters that 2020 is too crazy for them to be acting that savage.
Speaking of singing, a young actress with Alabama ties is captivating hearts across the nation as she stars in the Netflix holiday hit, “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.” Madalen Mills lived in Tuscaloosa until she moved to New York City at 8 years old. She wasted no time with her talent and made her Broadway debut playing Sophie in the hit comedy “School of Rock — The Musical” when she was 9.
At only 11-years-old, Mills performs alongside acting legends Forest Whitaker and Phylicia Rashad in “Jingle Jangle.” In the movie, Mills plays Journey Jangle, the granddaughter of a toymaker who lost his joy after his apprentice betrays him. In true Black magic fashion, the kind and hopeful Journey helps her grandfather find his imagination and happiness again just in time for Christmas.
Did you feel the warm fuzzies? I felt the fuzzies.
I also felt goosebumps when I heard Mills sing “Square Root of Possible,” which is one of the songs from “Jingle Jangle.” A clip from the film was shown during Mills’ appearance on the Kelly Clarkson Show last week. Both the audience and Clarkson were awed Mills’ vocal talent.
During her interview, Mills talks about meeting John Legend, one of the film’s producers, and how she carried the joy of music wherever she went.
“Music itself has always been a huge part of my life,” Mills told Clarkson. “I would sing wherever I was, when I was in the shower, in the bathroom or just walking around the house.”
Since we’re talking about musical joy here, I whipped up a playlist filled with Christmas songs by Black artists as promised from my last Black Joy post. Prepare to jam out to classic hits like the Jackson 5’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as you continue reading Black Joy or going throughout your day.
Need a COVID-19-friendly activity to enjoy with your family? How about binge watching your favorite Black sitcom from the 80s and 90s?
Now is the perfect time, too. HBO Max just dropped the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion last week and I’m ready to be washed away in a flood of fond memories about the show. I also read that Janet Hubert, who played the first (and the best) Aunt Viv, and Will Smith have a heart-to-heart about Hubert leaving the show. That’s a must–watch!
At a time when the pandemic is still acting foolish, nostalgia can be the medicine we need, according to Dr. Alicia Little Hodge. On the Georgia-based podcast “Therapy for Black Girls”, Hodge explains that watching our favorite shows can help soothe our pandemic anxiety.
“Because the times are so uncertain, it can be nice to revisit something that gave us fond memories, good feelings, just the warmth of it,” Hodge said, “In a lot of these stories, the cast members feel like friends or family to us. So although we are watching the show with different eyes due to life experiences, it feels very comforting to not have to follow a plot in great detail.”
So, I asked members of the Black Magic Project’s Facebook group to vote for their favorite Black sitcom. Out of 12 choices and 48 votes, “A Different World” came out on top with 16 votes. Shows like “Kenan and Kel” and “The Wayans Brothers” received no love. Ouch.
What says you? Vote in the poll below.
A Young, Southern and Black Christmas
Last week, 20-year-old Opelika political star Jamie Lowe told you how he finds Black joy during Thanksgiving. Now, let’s bring on the Christmas cheer with Birminghamians Kat Files and chef Steve McIntyre.
Lowe, Files and McIntyre were interviewed for Reckon’s Young, Southern and Black series, which amplifies the voices of African American southerners under 30 who are building a better South.
For Files, Black Christmas joy is self-care. As a professional dancer, model and actress in New York City, Files had a front-row seat as the virus shut down Broadway – and claimed lives. Now she is staying at her parents’ Birmingham home, where the family is transforming the basement into a dance studio.
Music runs deep in Files’ bloodline. Her paternal grandfather, Curtis Files Jr., was a legendary guitarist who was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2014. So, she can’t wait to place an album on her parent’s turntable and improv to Marvin Gaye songs. But family time will turn out to be the most grounding experience for sure for Files.
“Normally, I wouldn’t have this type of time at home ever,” Files said. “Seeing my parents for this long, I’m soaking it all in because I know that when I go back to New York, I won’t be able to see them like I have been this whole time. That is my joy right now for sure.”
Steve McIntyre, 27, is a chef who moved to Birmingham last year after completing culinary school in Montgomery. His dream job is to teach other Black the next generation of Black chefs.
Since he is a chef, I thought I was going to have a banging recipe ready for y’all to try out. But no. McIntyre’s favorite dish is (drumroll).
And not the fancy cranberry sauce with the berries either. No, he wants it straight out the can. Usually people buy one can of cranberry sauce, but McIntyre said his mom would buy a second can just for him.
“Yeah, turkey is good. I like sweet potato pie, dressing and all that stuff,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but I like cranberry sauce. I’m not going to lie to you.”
Rona may have ruined a family Christmas tradition of gathering at his mother’s home, but McIntyre’s Black Christmas joy is rooted in his family’s resiliency.
“I’m still remembering that Christmas time is a time of celebration,” he said. “This was a rough year, but we’re still here. We are still able to smile and laugh. That is getting me through.”
Hope you found some joy in this post. Now, do your neighbors a favor and stay indoors. Keep spreading your Black magic and not the Rona. Until next time, Happy Holidays!
Your weekly roundup of Black Joy is produced by the Black Magic Project, a Facebook group where we celebrate and discuss Black culture and community. You can join the group and spread your own melanin magic by clicking here.