Griot Spring Series 2024
Joy: Centering and Embracing the Fullness of Black Humanity
The Griot Institute Spring 2024 Speaker Series demands a focus on joy as an indispensable subject of academic and social inquiry. For good reason, we are usually more attuned to Black suffering than to Black joy. A critical challenge raised by Language and Literature Professor Moradewun Adejunmobi is the question, "What would studying African pleasures, beyond censorious judgment, look like?" If we extend this question to the global African Diaspora, what might Black joy look like beyond hypercritical assessment? What would happen if we were approving, sympathetic and admiring of Black joy? As Tracey Michae'l Lewis-Giggetts contends, authorizing ourselves to examine and experience Black joy is an act of resistance.
As scholars, we are trained to critically analyze, identify and disseminate social critiques of the essentialized and problematic. In relation to Black lives and cultures, the perniciousness of racism makes a focus on joy feel frivolous against the physical, social and economic violence daily inflicted on Black people.
Admittedly, joy is complicated. Just Black joy is elusive and entangled with grief, antagonism and brutality. The hazardous precondition of Blackness — resulting from the paranoid perceived threat to Whiteness — leaves Black people in a perpetually perilous state of subjection and subjecthood robbed of joy. Deprived of unfettered joy, Black subjects and Black agents unapologetically make joy through creative expressions of Black humanity, which Arthur Jafa has referred to as "Black visual intonation" and Genevieve Hyacinthe has called "radical virtuosity."
Centering and embracing the fullness of Black humanity demands an intentional and multivalent examination of Black joy. In an effort to explore Black joy as more than frivolous and irresponsible but rather as an essential subject, speakers will discuss — through the various disciplines and intellectual traditions — how one achieves and expresses joy through art, fashion, language, philosophy, social media and more.