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A person stands in front of a microphone. They are pointing to the side. Several other persons sit in chairs behind them. 
Courtesy of Chapter 510 by Rob Sweeny

Celebrating “Black Joy”

“Black Joy allowed Black boys to imagine themselves in a different light through poetry. Poetry or ‘truth-telling’ in its rawest form forces you to search deep within yourself.” – Daniel Summerhill

In 2019 Chapter 510, an Oakland-based youth writing, publishing, and bookmaking organization, partnered with Nomadic Press to present “Black Joy: Poetry with Young Black Men,” a twelve-week poetry workshop series supported by a Humanities for All Quick Grant, for young Black men, ages 13-18. This program included the expertise of Daniel Summerhill, an Oakland-based poet, teaching artist, and Assistant Professor of Poetry/Social Action and Composition at CSU-Monterey Bay, who designed and led this workshop series that explored the meaning of Black joy and its cultivation through poetry.

For this program’s participants, “Black Joy” offered a supportive space for mentorship and shared learning that was open to writers ranging in experience from new to more accomplished, confident writers. Each week the youth participants contributed to building a positive and nurturing circle of creativity while forging bonds of friendship, respect, and growth as thinkers and writers. The program culminated with a public reading and the launch of the book: “Black Joy: An Anthology of Black Boy Poems,” featuring the poetry created by the youth participants of this program.

Back in September 2020, California Humanities collaborated with Chapter 510 and Nomadic Press to present The Art of Storytelling: Black Joy, a virtual poetry reading that reunited youth writers Samuel Getachew and Elijah Hynson with the Black Joy workshop teaching artists Daniel Summerhill, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Darius Simpson, and Vernon Keeve III, who shared reflections on the program and original works of poetry.

According to Summerhill, who has recently joined the California Humanities board, “The Black Joy Workshop was a cardinal experience. Writer James Baldwin notably said, to be Black in this country is to be in rage almost all the time. Of course, this rage is due to the continuous racial injustice and inequality. The Black Joy Workshop was, in large part, a means to carve out space for jubilation in the lives of young Black boys in Oakland, CA, a place that is no stranger to racial injustice. Black Joy allowed Black boys to imagine themselves in a different light through poetry. Poetry or ‘truth-telling’ in its rawest form forces you to search deep within yourself. The query, in this case, was for unadulterated-unstained joy!”

We invite you to explore the poems created from the “Black Joy” project, with Elijah Hynson’s poem “One of A Kind.”

One of A Kind
by Elijah Hynson

Squad, my squad.
There ain’t no other like it
and there will be no other like it.

Team, my team.
At the house playing video games,
with countless hours being dashed away
into the void that is time.
An audience circles around a portal to another
realm with our only link to it
four gamecube controllers.
Every attack is followed with a smattering
of trash talk and amazement.
Electric bolts of excitement
strike through us with each victory.
Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero.
Captain Falcon vs. Ganondorf.
A portal with infinite realities.

Unit, my unit.
The craziest and best conversations are held
within these circles.
With laughter so loud
it borderlines on obnoxious at times, but devil may care.

Friend, my friend.
The quakes of life
will shake our base from time to time.
What matters is do we have strong
enough support not to crumble
when they do strike.

Say what you will about the lone wolf
but who will be there to help him rebuild his wreckage
when disaster arrives?

From simple break up to
shattering divorce
we shall not crumble
for there is no one like us
and there will be no one like us because
my brothers are my brothers.

Black Joy is supported by a Humanities for All Quick Grant and the Art of Storytelling initiative.

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