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West Dayton Stories is a community-based story-telling project centered on the people and places of Dayton’s vibrant west side. WYSO brings together community producers to tell stories reflecting its proud history, current complexities, and future hopes.

West Dayton Stories: Stillness…to Joy

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Our community producers have been considering the notion of Black Joy on West Dayton Stories, and this week, Tiffany Brown uses the performance art of spoken word poetry in her piece, “Stillness…to Joy”.

Our ancestor Ossie Davis spoke of a thing called Black Joy, saying, “I find in being black a thing of beauty, a joy, a strength, a secret cup of gladness,” but sometimes y’all, being Black feels like a rolling sea of sadness. From waves of water cresting on high, like when a mother hears her baby's first beautiful cry, to crashing low like a mother's tears flowing with the saltiness of knowing her child's life was cut short and his precious dreams stolen.

I'm so thirsty for that cup of joy, imagining it like ocean water, while sometimes on the surface seeming calm and still, I’m appreciating that there is movement in this stillness when we have the courage to go within.

I am remembering Black movements. There was, of course, Civil Rights, which we always want to highlight, but there was also Black is Beautiful, which reminds us that we are beauty-full, and thank you, Godfather of Soul, for proclaiming “I'm Black and I'm Proud” just in case folks didn't know. So those are the movements.

But in the stillness is where I can feel soulful drumbeats and my own heart beats in rhythm and rhyme to a time longed for but not forgotten, when we were free. But too often today, when the beat drops, like when a heart stops, the stillness is stifling.

Because on the outside of us, as we move in a foreign land, in a formation that was forced by brutal hands, we can feel and hear ancestral drumbeats, but only in the stillness. As those beats drop, we can reimagine our journey and dreams to reach mountaintops, lifting as we climb, yet leaving behind what has never served us.

Stillness is like Mama's big cooking pot, stewing the juices of our beauty, brilliance, and power of creation. And to that, I'm adding abundant self-love, illuminating light and liberation, to let it simmer some more.

Mmmm, I’ve tasted this stew many times before, but now with new seasoning I am savoring Black Joy.

West Dayton Stories is produced by Jocelyn Robinson at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices and is supported by CityWide Development Corporation.