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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: An Immense And Defiant Joy

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We’ve been reflecting on Black Joy on West Dayton Stories and our final commentary on the topic is from amaha sellassie.

When I think of joy, Black Joy, I often reminisce about that phrase: “Don’t let them steal your joy! They take so much from us, but never let them steal your joy”. Some may ask, why Black Joy and not just joy? For me Black Joy is my space of resistance, it is my medicine for navigating a world that is often anti-Black, a space I create in the midst of turmoil to protect my health. I appreciate how scholar Imani Perry describes it: “Joy is not found in the absence of pain and suffering. It exists through it…Blackness is an immense and defiant joy.” For me Black Joy is a liberatory act that transcends the trauma of exclusion that Black bodies experience as we traverse spaces marked as white. I find Black Joy in the self-determining freedom of no longer catering to a white imagination dictating how I should wear my hair, dress, define my existence, or how I show up in a space. This joy is my super-power I draw from when I meet obstacles and adversity.

I experience Black Joy in drumming, as I summon the ancient power and wisdom of my ancestors. I experience Black Joy laughing uncontrollably out loud at simple things. I find it in listening to music, spending time with my wife and my family, reading, exercising, witnessing a heartfelt moment with another human being, or nature.

Recently, I’ve been blessed to witness firsthand Black Joy at the beginning of the Gem City Market, as the community realizes its power to co-create and self-determine its physical environment. I’ve seen joy in the eyes of many as they walked in the market for the first time after enduring decades of living in an unacceptable underdevelopment of food apartheid, and in the parent whose child proclaimed, “Mom, this is my market!”

Born out of resilience and survival, yes my people, never let them steal your joy!

As it becomes safe to gather once again, look for West Dayton Stories community producers at events throughout the summer. We’ll have a new series of profiles and stories coming this fall!

West Dayton Stories is produced at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices and is supported by CityWide Development Corporation. For more information on the project, visit WYSO.org.