My Joy is Protest: The 9 Things that Give Me Life and Purpose While I Fight for Justice

by Candace Simpson Last semester was intense. It was my first semester in seminary. It was also the peak of direct action protests in ...

by Candace Simpson


Last semester was intense. It was my first semester in seminary. It was also the peak of direct action protests in New York City, where I live. When I finally had a few weeks to take off for winter break, I found myself having to explain why it was okay for me to rest. I didn’t find much comfort even in the rhetoric of “self-care”. We tell Sisters to “take care of themselves,” but then we flood their email inboxes with requests, we soak their text messages with invites to prayer breakfasts and brunches, we shame them for being single, and we tell them they’re crazy for not siding with Bill Cosby.

Few people are actually invested in the self-care of Black women.
After spending the holiday season with my family, I learned that taking time off was more than “self-care.” Taking time to intentionally love myself and others was an exercise in reminding myself of life’s joys.

In recent months, For Harriet and other media spaces have spent so much time documenting the leadership of Black women in protest. But we must also be sure to explore how Black women find joy and manifest happiness in their lives. This is crucial in keeping us motivated and inspired to staying engaged in the movement building work we do so well, but that also takes so much out of us. In the spirit of resistance, I’m going to name the things that give me life.

1. Memories and good times with my family.

I have an awesome family. They’re supportive, loving, challenging, and ridiculous. When I’m feeling sad, I think about the time my mom called the cops because she thought there was an intruder. We later learned it was a squirrel, and we chased the furry-tailed rodent all across the house. Or I remember the time my dad dressed up as Santa Claus when my brother and I were toddlers. These sweet memories are what I cling to when the days get hard and the nights get long.

2. Spending quality time with good girlfriends.

No one gets me like my best friend. When I’m really in need of some sister-time, she shows up to my apartment with a bottle of Pinot Grigio. She knows where the wine opener is, too. Usually, none of the world’s problems are solved at the end of the night, but I do feel loved enough to press forward to tomorrow. I often imagine what it would be like if everyone had a best friend like her. The world would be a much better place.

3. Listening to the "***Flawless" remix with Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj.

I could tell you that Beyonce and Nicki’s duet was something significant to the discourse of Black Feminist and Womanist Thought. There’s a really strong case to be made that this duet did something important that we’re missing. That’s true. But when BeyoncĂ© says “Onikaaaaaa,” my inner fan-girl falls out. No matter how late I am to class or work, I must have at least one dose of this song before I leave my apartment. Now that I think of it, many people have been spared my wrath on the crowded A-train because of this song. It’s magical.

4. Hitting the shmoney dance with my younger sisters and brothers.

I’ve never been here for moralizing Bobby Shmurda’s contagious song and dance. I happen to believe that our children’s teachers, doctors, lawyers, and elected officials have a lot more to do with their success than Bobby Shmurda. So I just dance. When we dance in community, we’re building relationships, releasing endorphins, and getting people active. These are kind of important to our survival. So, shmoney on!

5. The notes in the pages of books I’ve read years ago.

As I reread favorite books, I think about the woman I was when I first read them. The notes I wrote in the margins years ago are laughable to me now. The words in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” that once shocked me in college are now part of my core beliefs as an educator. I couldn’t hear much of what bell hooks was arguing in “All About Love” when I was in that ugly relationship, but I hear her now. And Melissa Harris-Perry’s “Sister Citizen” makes much more sense to me now that I’ve been looking for a nuanced and historically accurate argument to talk about Sorority Sisters and Love and Hip Hop.

6. Having good hair days.

There are two patches of hair in my head that never want to behave like the rest. On the days when the Gods of the Fro decide to smile upon my follicles and bless me with some consistency, I rejoice. Nobody can tell me anything.

7. Finding money in my jeans after laundry.

I’m a full-time grad student living in Brooklyn. Any time I run into money, I have to do my dance. It’s a shmoney-inspired, “***Flawless” routine. Except, my version includes dance ribbons and glitter.
8. Grandmas, all of ‘em.

Grandmas always have good stories, good snacks, and good shade. An afternoon with your grandma will have you sitting at the table reevaluating your life and feeling proud of who you are. At the same time.

9. The sound of children playing in the street.

Hair beads bouncing rhythmically to the sounds of double-dutch rope on the pavement. The faint cries of “I’m on base! This is base!” during games of tag. Hugs covered in potpourri of sweat, dirt, and the sugar from a cherry icee. As much as adults have a responsibility to teach children who they are and where they come from, we also have a responsibility to allow them to be kids. I enjoy watching them enjoy the goodness of this Earth.

I'm a firm believer that Love and Hope fuel the Revolution. Otherwise, we wouldn't be invested in making the world a better place. We dream about what the world could be only because we know there’s something greater out there. In writing this short list, I’ve been reminded of the urgency of the work we choose to do. Everyone deserves to be happy, feel loved, and find the song that makes them come alive. Whenever Black women decide to be happy about something, that is protest.

Photo: Shutterstock

Candace Simpson is a seminary student in New York City and a Brooklyn native. You can follow her tweets at @CandyCornball.

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