For me, it was when I finally felt a strong maternal connection to my son. I struggled when I had him. My pregnancy was tough. My mother passed away when he was 6 months old, I was going through marital issues, and I had severe, severe postpartum depression.

It wasn't until my son was almost 2 years old. One day he was watching cartoons, and he was just laughing so much, he just loved it so much. The sound of his laughter just kind of did it for me. I finally looked at him and I was like, "This is my baby."

I knew that I was put on this earth to be his mother. It felt as if a burden was lifted. And in that moment, I think I grabbed him up and was smothering him and kissing him. That was when I really felt what black joy was about: to be a mother to this black boy.

Michael bryant / Staff Photographer

I think if we're talking about particularly black women's experiences of black joy, it's important that people understand that there's a lot of people that work to make sure we never experience that. They work very hard just as a society to deny black women the experiences of joy because they need us to labor for them and be there for them and prioritize them over ourselves.

What we'll find is when black women are expressing their joy, there's always somebody that comes and tries to tell them that they're wrong for doing so. Or tries to snatch it away from us.

It's really important in my messaging to folks, especially black women and younger black women: Claim joy and embody it whenever and wherever you can, even if it's the smallest amount. Keep experiencing it as defiance. 

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