Books

Young people wrote a book around the theme of Black joy. It will be released in Boston this week.

“It was just important to give them a platform to express themselves about the happiness that’s going on.”

Leaders and activists in Boston pushed forward efforts to focus on Black joy last fall, urging members of the city’s community to think about what brought them happiness and elation, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rage.

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One of those initiatives will enter the world this week with the publication of “To My Kin,” an anthology of stories, poems, and narratives written by youth around the theme of Black joy, which is being released on Friday.

Thaddeus Miles and his Black Joy Project partnered with 826 Boston in October for a youth writing contest, asking young people across New England and New York to submit their poems, narratives, essays, plays, and artwork around the theme of Black joy. 

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The project ended up receiving more than 50 submissions, and members of the 826 Boston’s Youth Literary Advisory Board ultimately selected 26 submissions for the anthology. The youngest author to be featured is 11 years old, while the oldest is 20.

The book, the title of which is taken from one of the submissions, is available for pre-order and will begin shipping on June 18. 

Rashawnda Williams, a writer’s room coordinator for 826 Boston at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester who worked with Miles on the writing contest, told Boston.com it is exciting to see young people be given the platform to define what Black joy means to them. 

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“Given the social climate that we’re in right now, our just constantly getting bombarded with a lot of trauma, especially as it relates to the [Black Lives Matter] movement, it’s just like we’re constantly hearing about a lot of the negative things happening related to the Black community and we don’t really have space in the media to really focus on the joy and the positivity …  I especially feel like with young people being so plugged in and engaged with social media it was just important to give them a platform to express themselves about the happiness that’s going on,” Williams said. 

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Family, resilience, and empowerment emerged as themes in the collection of submissions, she said. 

A book release party is being held at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury on Friday from 4:30-6 p.m. Williams, poets Ashley Rose and Durane West, Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, and representatives from My Brother’s Keeper Boston will be in attendance for readings from the book. 

The book launch is free and open to the public. Register for the event here. Pre-order the book here

Below, read some excerpts from the anthology written by young people living in the Boston area: 

A Spark That Will Never Fizz

By Jaela Ramos, age 15

Black Joy is something that should be celebrated

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Not something that should just be stated

Something that people should be happy about

I say that with no doubt

It’s a spark that will never fizz

Now, that’s what Black Joy is.

What is Black Joy?

By Mahali A. Cook-Wright, age 13

Black Joy, 

each person can have a different perception,

to me it means being true to your black self,

even when people don’t want to accept you,

Black Joy,

being yourself, celebrating your culture, no matter what.

Black Boi Joy 

By Tariq Charles, age 18

Black boi joy is being with the homies. 

Black boi joy is feeling like god because you’re the Original man and cops can’t strip that in a strip search. 

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Black boi joy is love in the face of loathing. 

Black boi joy is hurt. 

Black boi joy is intangible. 

None else can describe. Only one can feel. 

It’s healing, What lost innocence steal.

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