• michaelabennison

Joy is Resistance

I didn't watch any of the videos depicting Saturday's fascist protests. Call me a millennial snowflake if you will, but I knew those images would upset me and after an emotionally exhausting week I needed a rest.

But I wasn't completely immune; my active, survival-mode brain couldn't keep me off social media completely. And during my intervals scrolling down my various feeds, I was met with angry, white, male faces over and over again, contorted with vitriolic rage.

Then I came across a video from the Black Lives Matter protests in Liverpool. Black protesters were drumming and dancing on the steps of what I assume was a government building - white, neoclassical columns galore - while onlookers cheered.

And I wrote a tweet into the twitter-spere:

This was not an original observation on my part. I've heard activists far wiser and more seasoned than I make this point. "Joy is an act of resistance," is also the title of a poem by Toi Dericotte, which is a new thing I've learnt today. I've seen other black writers, influencers and personalities speak of the need to make space for black joy, as well as black anger and grief. Celebrating and supporting the work of black people is an integral part of creating positive change.

Writing this post on the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire which killed a confirmed 72 people - the true death toll is still unknown - joy is difficult to feel. Joy is an emotion that seems better suited to carefree times. Summer road trips and sunset walks.

But in the faces of those angry, white men throwing punches at officers, spitting at picnickers, raising Nazi salutes at the Cenotaph, there were so many things I didn't see. I didn't see love. I didn't see hope.

I didn't see joy.

Those of us taking to the streets in the name of #BlackLivesMatter, do so with the hope of a better world. With love for ourselves not shown by the system and love for our allies who fight for our cause. If joy is suited to the carefree moments, we must train it to manifest even when we are careworn. When all we can muster is that love and that hope we rely on for our survival. Joy is a vital tool.

Those angry white men want to break us. Those typing "All Lives Matter" and "what about us?" would be more comfortable if they succeeded. Black folks cheering and smiling and dancing on white stone steps sure as hell aren't broken.

That is how joy is resistance. And that is what the alt-right lack.

On Saturday, Black Lives Matter weren't there.

The police didn't stop them.

They got what they wanted.

Still, there was no joy.

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