Dear Black family, we showed out this week!
From praising Black women who have spent years slaying voter suppression (I already got you covered with a list of Black women led initiatives you can support today) to the first Black Miss Mississippi securing the top crown of Miss USA – that’s a lot of powerful Blackness to cover for this week’s edition of Black Joy.
People were literally dancing in the streets Sunday in downtown Birmingham during a block party organized by three Black women who run their own nonprofits: Cara McClure of Faith and Works, LaTonya Tate of the Alabama Justice Initiative and Erica “Star” Robbins of Be a Blessing Birmingham. As folks were cha-cha sliding across the Black Lives Matter mural painted on 1st Ave South, 54-year-old Birmingham native Theresa Jackson Jordan captivated the crowd with her baton twirling magic to Beyonce’s cover of “Before I Let Go.”
Yes, sis. Step on ‘em. Step on ‘em. Step on ‘em. Step.
Ready for some melanin magic? 💫 Check out this video of Theresa Jackson Jordan using her batons as an extension of her #BlackJoy as she and others dance in the streets of Birmingham to @Beyonce cover of "Before I Let Go" pic.twitter.com/7wxzTxJ3da
— Jonece Starr Dunigan (@StarrDunigan) November 13, 2020
After Kamala Harris, a daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, became the first Black and Asian American woman to be elected vice president, Jordan said she wanted to celebrate with her batons, which are the extension of her Black joy.
“Black joy in my opinion is knowing and believing in yourself,” Jordan said. “No matter what has happened in the past or present, you always look forward to the future and do the best that you can.”
Now, this isn’t a newfound hobby for Jordan. She still has the first batons her parents brought her when she was 12. It was a much-needed upgrade from the sticks she previously used. Wooed by any music, she has expressed her happiness through twirling ever since, becoming a majorette at both her high school and college career at Troy University. Jordan sees baton twirling as a lost art. But she is bringing it back as she has helped many girls, including her daughter, discover their dance and twirling talents during her 18 years at Corky Bell Dance Studio. She coached a team of twirlers for the 2018 Gardendale Christmas parade. Building that team back up is on her list of post-coronavirus plans.
To those who have let go of their favorite hobbies because adulting is ghetto sometimes, Jordan said dust yourself off and start again.
“I will twirl until the Lord says I shouldn’t twirl anymore. #TwirlingIsLife,” she said. “If you are stuck and there is something that used to bring you joy and you haven’t done it in a while, I think you should start anew. Whether it’s dancing, exercising, or coloring. No matter how old you are, I’m sure there are some flag poles laying around. Bring them out. Get in the backyard and start twirling away.”
To be Young, Southern and Black
I grew up in Alabama hearing the same warning over and over: If you want to grow, get out of the South. And with that warning I weaved a future for myself that included me embracing every opportunity coming my way as I lived in the glamor of New York City.
But now that I’m noticing the stigmatizing statements people make about the South, I’m like, “Nah. I’m not going anywhere.”
Plus, NYC is too cold for me, anyway. What was I thinking?
The South is my home. And if you want something better for your home, you fight for it.
That’s the premise of Young, Southern and Black, a new Black Magic Project series amplifying the voices of Black southerners under 30 every Monday and Wednesday. These folks are building the South into the place they want to be in multiple ways, such as increasing voter awareness, or crafting their own businesses and nonprofits.
Alexus Cumbie is a University of Alabama graduate who gathered her fellow students to increase voter registration on campus. Fitz Webb is originally from Georgia, but is a graduate student at Auburn University who is eyeing a dream to become Georgia’s first non-binary senator. While the series doesn’t start until Monday, I thought I would give y’all a preview of who’s up first by having them talk about how they find the liberating power of Black joy, starting with Alexus.
With so much oppression going on towards Black people, where are you finding Black joy today?
Alexus: I think Black people are prioritizing joy and laughter. We do that through the communal efforts of sharing memes and music. I’m really enjoying the statues, the political memes and videos people are sharing, which sort of builds out from the sadness people felt at the moment.
Fitz: Just seeing Black queer people and Black women succeeding and being loved on, it is so heartwarming and refreshing. I don’t feel like I see it a lot. It matters to me because I can’t tell you how many times in my life when someone told me, “That’s great, but I think you should aim for this instead.”
From sports to school spelling bees, since I was a kid people would count me out or put me down. I remember the idea of going to Auburn was kind of foreign because my school was in a small town and we didn’t make very much. But I pushed and I pushed and I pushed (to go to Auburn). I was very fortunate to have teachers who were there for me when I was put down.
To see Black people, Black queer people, Black women, etcetera, being successful, it makes you feel like the top isn’t lonely. They are loved, respected, and cherished. It lessens the tensions I had with being queer.
What has your self-care plan looking like these days?
Alexus: I make sure that I work out every day for 30 minutes and I write every day, pen to paper for 15 minutes. Sometimes it’s a poem or notes of gratitude. Sometimes its just ranting and brain dumps. A lot of the things I have been tweeting are part of the brain dumps I’ve been having.
Fitz: Well, one, I have been going to therapy. Journaling for sure. Therapy brings me Black joy because I think there’s still stigma. My mom still calls it a shrink sometimes and my dad is like, “Oh, I’ll just talk to my dog. I don’t have a therapist.”
Growing up I learned you just have to be strong. You don’t cry, and you definitely don’t let people see you cry.
But No. You are human. It’s definitely OK to cry and to be upset, especially if something is offensive. It’s OK not to be able to talk about your feelings yet because you need some time to process them.
It feels good to have someone in your corner. I feel like there’s a level of self-critique that happens that can lead to one’s mental demise. Just to have someone who is supportive and is able to assist me to understand my emotions, is super helpful.