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Black history is incomplete without Black joy

Here’s how some Black members of the Ryerson community have been finding joy during these difficult times
By: Surbhi Bir
February 18, 2021
Book cover with questions. What does Black joy mean to you? How do you express it? What song embodies it? How can we increase it? Name and describe someone who embodies it.

Created by three Ryerson students, The Little Book of Black Joy explores different ways the Black community experiences joy.

Most conversations around the histories and cultures of the Black community focus on their challenges and struggles. 

Hoping to balance out the images of Black trauma inundating their news feeds, Ryerson students Mir Asoh (creative industries), Imani Busby (creative industries) and Adele Lukusa (journalism) began exploring the idea of Black joy. 

Through their Little Book of Black Joy, external link, the three students are highlighting how their Black peers have found joy during the pandemic and the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Black joy has so many meanings for different people and it can’t be defined,” said Busby. “Just like being Black in itself can’t be defined as one thing or another because we’re not a monolith and one person can’t speak for everybody.”

The book features a mix of creative artwork, writing and design and will be previewed at the Black in Motion: Behind the Camera event on Feb. 26, hosted by The Catalyst at Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design.

“Black joy is so expansive. I think being able to feel joyful and experience joy despite all the difficulties is revolutionary,” Asoh said. “So just having a space to celebrate Black people and for us to celebrate ourselves is key.”

To illustrate the manifestations of Black joy, we talked to a few members of the Ryerson community, including Busby and Asoh. Below are the many ways they’re maintaining joy in their daily lives.

Mir Asoh - Fourth year, Creative Industries

Mir Asoh

What was the last TV show you binge watched?
I May Destroy You. 

What’s your favourite comfort food?
Anything with shrimp

Would you rather watch a new show or rewatch an old favourite?
I’d rather watch an old favourite, because I know that I already like it.

What’s your favourite quarantine trend?
Baking.

What’s the one thing that you can’t go a day without?
Water. I need to stay hydrated.

Imani Busby - Second year, Creative Industries

Imani Busby

What was the last movie you watched?
I watched it with my sister – The Silence of the Lambs.

What’s your favourite comfort food?
Hot chocolate. I've been going on a lot of nature walks and since it’s cold outside, I make hot chocolate when I come back.

What’s your all-time favourite book?
Black Futures by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. It has essays, critiques, advice and it primarily focuses on Black artists, curators and being Black in the art industry and curatorial spaces.

What’s your favourite quarantine trend?
Taking the time to focus on myself, practise self care, reflect on the past year and take a break. I haven't necessarily been following trends, but in my own way I’m focusing on self discovery, activism and art.

What’s the one thing that you can’t go a day without?
Going for a walk and talking with a friend just to check in.

Denise O’Neil Green, Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion

Denise O'Neil Green

What was the last movie you watched?
Nappily Ever After.

What’s your favourite comfort food?
Banana pudding with layers of bananas, vanilla wafers, vanilla pudding from scratch and whipped cream on top. Also macaroni and cheese casserole style, with layers of different cheeses baked in.

Would you rather watch a new show or rewatch an old favourite?
Watch a new show, like The Masked Dancer. I also enjoy listening to a new audio book.

What’s your favourite quarantine trend?
Zoom coffees with friends and binge watching Netflix for an evening.

What’s the one thing that you can’t go a day without?
Playing a mindless game on my tablet and giving or getting hugs.

Thoywell Hemmings, Senior Manager, Career Integrated Learning, Career and Co-op Centre

Thoywell Hemmings

What was the last TV show you binge watched?
Is the Queen's Gambit a TV show? If so, that one.

What’s your favourite comfort food?
I love some Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish, with some boiled or fried dumplings.

What’s your all-time favourite book?
Outside of the Bible, it would be The Shining.

What’s your favourite quarantine trend?
I’m not big on trends but I did watch Hamilton when it came out on Disney Plus.

What’s the one thing that you can’t go a day without?
Every morning, I wake to read my bible and pray. I never start off the day without doing so.

Donna E. Young, Dean, Faculty of Law

Donna Young

What was the last movie you watched?
The Age of Innocence - I’ll never get those 2 hours and 19 minutes back.

What’s your favourite comfort food?
Anything my mother makes. Literally anything.

Would you rather watch a new show or rewatch an old favourite?
A new show.

What’s your favourite quarantine trend?
Binge watching old TV shows I missed the first time around.

What’s the one thing that you can’t go a day without?
Coffee.

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