As a part of Harris Public Policy’s celebration of Black History Month, we asked what Black joy means to members of the Harris Community. These are their opinions and perspectives, informed by their own life experiences and worldviews (and do not necessarily reflect the views of Harris).

Aremu Mbande
Aremu Mbande, Associate Director of Diversity & Inclusion

Alegría negra es resistencia (Black Joy is Resistance). I met this phrase engraved on a wall inside of a local diner during my first journey to La Habana. Galvanized, I began journaling observations of my long-lost cousins throughout the stay. I watched Afro-Cuban boys laughing hysterically on the Malecón; observed chocolate children dancing to rumba while elders sang and drummed; and grinned my face sore as Black Americans posed with pride for photos in front of Casa de África. From Chicago to Cuba, and everywhere between, near and far—Black Joy resists any place that dehumanizes her.

Black Joy is revolutionary. She honors her Black Mississippians, fleeing the Apartheid South, rushing off trains in Chicago Union Station and rejoicing to be received by siblings, children, and parents. Black Joy cherishes the depth of romance enslaved lovers experienced in antebellum Louisiana, living on plantations separated miles apart, only to hold one another for moments in the dead of night, risking lives for Black bliss. Black Joy radiates in the memories of ’70s babies, picking out their afros to match their Panther parents en route to community schools in Oakland and Los Angeles. From enslavement through Jim Crow to mass incarceration through urban gentrification— Black Joy revolutionizes any era designed to destroy her. 

Black Joy is ritual. Debating in crowded barbershops. Feasting at beach cookouts. Strolling at HBCU homecomings. Running 32 on double-rims and concrete. Watching your daughter read I Am Enough and Skin Like Mine all by herself. From jumping brooms to jumping ropes, Black Joy remains rooted in ritual. 

Black Joy is radical. Black Joy is radiant. Black Joy is real. Through it all, she remains.

About Aremu Mbande

Aremu Mbande is the Associate Director of Diversity & Inclusion. He brings nearly a decade of experience working with diverse students at the community college, undergraduate, and graduate levels to Harris.

Aremu is also a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he is studying educational psychology with an emphasis in human development and a concentration in black studies. He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at UIC related to youth development, emerging adulthood, and social research methods. His current academic work explores how gender and race socialization emerge in community-centered spaces for men of color.