Today marks the end of Black History Month. Here at Very Good Light, we believe that Black stories should always have a space in the light—not just for 28 days of the year.

The Black experience is complex, rich, and, sometimes, one of trauma. It is also one of tremendous esteem and joy. To close out this month, we wanted to highlight that joy.

Who better to do that than those who experience it firsthand? We spoke with 21 Black folxs under 21 that grew up all across the country (and then some!). We invited them to tell us about their Black joy and identity. We were eager to listen to what they had to say. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Eli Marshall (they/them)

Savannah, GA

I've been told that I don't "act Black enough," which I don't think is something that really exists."

"Black joy in 2022 is about Black self-expression and community appreciation. I used to struggle with my identity as a Black individual — I was definitely less appreciative of it because, at times, It genuinely felt like the world was against us. I wish it didn't take a period of intense injustice during the height of the pandemic to make me realize how proud I am of my identity, but I'm definitely glad it did.

I've been told that I don't "act Black enough," which I don't think is something that really exists. However, there is such a thing as expressing your culture and your experiences as an individual, but that shouldn't define how much of something you are or aren't. You shouldn't have to change yourself for anyone.

I am a non-binary queer POC which is really weird to write out because I typically don't focus on labels. Society and culture call for it so people can interpret something that they don't understand, and I won't deny that some people can find comfort, self, or even community with labels, but it's incredibly important to not get caught up in them because you can fall victim to losing the definition of you."

Genesis Fields (she/her)

Melbourne, FL

Being authentically yourself is Black joy!"

"The pandemic provided me with the opportunity to actually learn about myself, as well as to love and care for myself.

I absolutely convey my Black joy via how I dress and how I color my hair. My clothes and hair tell a story, and I'm an open book! It's scary but also invigorating and joyous as a Black woman to fulfill that dream.

In terms of my sexuality, I've always felt really at comfort with myself. The comfort factor contributes to the joy. [Being young, Black, and joyful] is exhilarating!

Oz Osbourne (they/them)

Austin, TX

My gender and sexual identity are enhanced by my Blackness."

"Black joy is being your authentic self. Wearing your hair the way you wanna wear it, being loud and 'eccentric,' not coding the way you speak to people.

The pandemic has forced a lot of people to be introspective and sit with themselves because that's the person we're around all day. So right now, there's a lot of reinventing of ourselves. Dusting the cobwebs and dealing with our cultural and generational trauma. This pandemic has reminded us that life is short, and we need to live it to the fullest and without fear of how we're going to be perceived.

I express Black joy through my hair and through dancing. I went through a long journey of deciding to go natural, and it's one of the best decisions I made. And Black people have had a ton of influence on the dance scene, so it's important to me to learn the stories behind the movements.

I think in some ways, my gender and sexual identity are enhanced by my Blackness, like the feeling of camaraderie that is innate in Black culture is important to me when I'm extending out to other communities. However, the Black community still has its battles with LGBT liberation. Even though I'm proud to be a Black, queer, non-binary person, the intersections of these communities still have a long way to go.

To be young, Black, and joyful is not hiding where you come from, embracing your roots, and setting the tone for future generations. It's not letting how the world categorizes you define who you are. To have young Black joy is to be powerful. To stand tall and proud in spite of the obstacles that are placed in front of us. This lets the world know that we are a force to be reckoned with and that we will always get back up when we are knocked down."

Jasmyn White (she/her)

Los Angeles, CA

​To me, to be young, Black, and joyful is to feel free."

"​Black joy in 2022 is building community and fostering stronger connections. For me, the idea of Black joy has evolved into a bit of a rollercoaster. All of the tragedies and knowledge brought forth from our government being exposed on a more massive scale have really shifted my view on race and my perception of how our society feels and thinks about it.

Seeing how many people came out to support the movements for victims of police brutality was amazing. It was beautiful to see people of all colors and from all sorts of backgrounds come together for a common issue. It was also very disturbing to see some of the more negative reactions to the issues that came to the surface and sad to see people disagree with basic human rights due to their prejudice of Black people.

​I express Black joy by seeking out opportunities to connect with and support my community where I can and when it feels most genuine to me... I do love to share important things I come across, but as a writer, it's important for me to be working on ideas or projects that feature diverse cast members, prioritize diverse crews, or showcase diverse stories.

There's still a lot of progress to be made in the Black community and for people of color in general that don't identify as straight. I think there are still harsh stigmas around it for families and even how society perceives and treats POC that are LGBT. Being a Black female that isn't straight, I often feel like I have to fight both the stereotype of being too masculine as a Black person and fight the box society wants to put me in, not being an overly feminine-presenting woman. These categories can be confusing to navigate as there's always pressure to be labeled, but I feel pretty secure in my identity and try my best to remember that I'm an individual at the end of the day, and these groups or labels don't define who I am or how I should present myself.

​To me, to be young, Black, and joyful is to feel free. As a Black person in this country (and even in this world), it can feel suffocating knowing all that stands before you and against you. But there's a power in knowing that times are changing and will continue to do so. We are entering a time in America where POC are gaining more of a voice and having more of a say in what happens to us.

There's still a lot of work to do, but for me, at least, reminding myself that I have opportunities that my grandparents and parents could've only dreamed of keeps me going and excited for what's to come."

Anita Parrott (she/they)

Pittsburgh, PA

I think there's a lot of joy in letting yourself be the person the younger you would be obsessed with."

"For me, Black joy is having the confidence to take risks and being supported by the people around me. It's mine and is uniquely intertwined with being able to create and embody art. At the beginning of the pandemic, when everything shut down, I kind of realized that I was capable of creating something out of nothing whenever I felt like it, whether it was in my writing, or performing, or filmmaking — anything I could get my hands on really.

Once I got that permission from myself, that was the beginning of finding joy, especially during that time for me. That and my wonderful friends and family, whose company acted as really sturdy lifeboats for me. But now, it really is just setting my sights on something and knowing that I have a place there and that I can achieve it.

I like to try to live as freely as I possibly can. Over the course of my life, I think the way I move through the world has been maybe a little against the grain, but now I really love that about myself. I think there's a lot of joy in letting yourself be the person the younger you would be obsessed with.

Coming into myself was very closely tied to my sexuality and, more recently, my gender identity. For a lot of people growing up, coming out seems like a very binary step across the line in the sand that is kind of drawn up automatically in the society we live in. So much of my journey has been realizing that that line never truly existed in the way it's upheld institutionally. Gender and sexuality are spectrums. Having that realization and getting to have that room to exist has been one of the best things to happen to me.

It's easy to find joy when you know that existing as you are is kind of the perfect and most authentic description of where you fall on either of those spectrums. At least that's how I like to think about it."

Sedona Sky (she/her)

Bermuda

Black women are the most resilient of all from that we all have to face."

"Black joy is being beautiful and strong in a world that sometimes doesn't want us to have joy. It's about uplifting myself and my community. During the pandemic, it has evolved for me because it has been shaped into a passion to not allow myself to be what society wants me to be. Just because society may see me as less than or hold me to another standard, I still have a right to my own voice and happiness.

I express Black joy to myself as being proud of who I am and where I've come from, as well as my family and ancestors and what they have been through and done, and allow that to fuel me and my fire.

Being a Black woman is something I am proud of, as well as being gay. Intersection is a part of who I am, as minorities build who we are. As a Black woman, it makes me feel powerful and undefeated, and it makes me feel a part of a community and home even when times seem hard. Black women are the most resilient of all from that we all have to face.

Being young, Black, and joyful is being able to be okay with my hardships and worries, not letting them bring me down, and allowing myself to feel my emotions while staying confident and a role model for other young black girls. Especially being in a career in musical theater where representation is very low, and the standards and respect do not match the ones of my white counterparts. I have learned to be the role model and activist I wish I had seen. Black joy is having a voice in a room and being the person you wish you had."

Faith Campos (she/her)

Winnipeg, Canada

Black joy is really pouring that pride that I have in being a Black person into my work."

"Black joy truly is the pride and beauty you have because of your Blackness. Black joy in 2022 is just taking that pride that you have for being who you are and using that in your work, in your art, in your creative spaces. Whatever it is you love to do, take that pride and joy and pour it into what you love.

Black joy has definitely evolved for me during the pandemic because I think I can speak for almost everyone when I say that the pandemic has forced a lot of people to spend time with themselves and really learn about themselves and grow. Also, through the pandemic, social media has evolved, and I see more Black creators with larger platforms.

Black joy is really pouring that pride that I have in being a Black person into my work. Whether it be poetry, dance, or whatever it may be — that's Black joy to me, and that's how I choose to express it.

You know this is what our ancestors fought for. They did everything they did — standing up for the rights and future generations and our joy — for their joy. Even though we are not 100% there as a society, and Black people are still to this day fighting for their rights, it is being young, and it is being Black, and it is being joyful in this day and age that is going to help future generations. That is why all of that mixed together is resiliency."

Imani Jackson (she/they)

Elizabeth, New Jersey

I knew I was good but never enough — now I'm free from that lie."

"My definition of Black joy experienced a shift during the pandemic after George Floyd's death. Black joy is choosing to focus on the people who stood up for what's right and spoke their truth. In the midst of those protests, there's dancing, laughter, and a guaranteed sense of optimism. For outsiders, it may not be perceived as such, but this genre of joy is truly an integral part of the Black experience.

Now, there's this awesome influx of unapologetically Black artists, content creators, and influencers that aren't watering themselves down to be more digestible to the masses. Just taking up spaces with so much pride because there's endless beauty in Blackness.

As an artist, the Black experience is present in all my bodies of work, but the way I express Black joy most freely and authentically is through my voice. Whenever I'm singing, I feel like I'm walking on air and all of my troubles cease. Growing up, I was surrounded by music, feeling most loved by the gift of sound, but my intense passion for music and inspiration comes from my grandmother.

Gammie had a voice that could move mountains if she wanted to. Whenever she would get on stage, she would release her magic and pull the heartstrings of everyone listening — the first time I sang for her, I started off by saying, "Look, I can sing like Gammie," and she was in shock, wondering where her three-year-old learned how to sing like that!

I was secure in my gift until I was 10 when I started doubting myself and my capability. I knew I was good but never enough — now I'm free from that lie.

There's a generational power in my voice, and it'd be a disservice to my ancestors if I wasn't growing that gift and sharing it, as they will never be depleted. Because of that, I'm excited to say that I'll be releasing music this year! My most authentic expression of Black joy is whenever I sing, and when I do, I know some mountain out there is moving.

As a queer and Black person, I'm trying to figure out how they can coexist and complement each other. Being a queer person in the Black community is a hard reality that is faced with hate and rejection: from non-Black people, you receive hate for being Black, and from Black people, you receive hate for being queer.

Sometimes it gets tiring. I have to remind myself there are others living the gay Black experience like me. Empathy is key in dealing with pain and creating your own community that simply wants all parts of them to be loved and celebrated. I find comfort in that small group of people that share my experience, and it is then that I understand both of my realities coexist.

Being Black is a compliment. It is raging for what's right and doing it with grace. Being Black is a beautiful thing, and to have the privilege to simply say that I am brings me so much joy!"

Emmy Louisma (she/her)

Texas

"Black joy is seeing my people do well and excel even though all the odds are stacked against us."

"During the pandemic, it became more clear that we were at a disadvantage. Coming to the realization of this as a collective pushed us to go after what we truly deserved and wanted, which was a beautiful image to watch.

Every time one of my goals has been completed, that peace of mind is my Black joy. I like to think of it as a personal feeling of humble accomplishment.

It's great that the world is mine to explore. Now, I'm not shying away from who I am for anyone as I continue to celebrate my greatness because I deserve it."

Astro (any pronouns)

Brooklyn, New York
[Editor's note: Astro asked to have their photo omitted. I obliged!]

Black joy in 2022 is celebrating the achievements of those who came before us and being excited for the future of those who will continue to make their mark on our society."

"I express my Black joy through my style of dressing and the things I create. I think art is a great way of making internalized feelings and emotions become externalized so they can be shared with everyone!

I love being able to experiment with my gender expression and sexuality. Finally understanding myself now that I am an adult has definitely brought a lot of joy for me.

To be young, Black, and joyful in 2022 is amazing! Although society as a whole isn't where it needs to be yet in terms of acceptance, we have still come a long way. I am happy that it is a lot easier to be who I want to be now, even compared to just 10 years ago."

Reyna Papatto (she/her)

Myrtle Beach, SC

It brings tears to my eyes to see little Black girls see themselves represented in all sorts of creative ways"


"I am finally being seen and heard not only as a Black individual but as a Black artist, a Black storyteller, and a Black writer. My Black joy has only gotten stronger through the pandemic. When the world shut down, it gave everyone time to be still and reflect. Especially creatives. Those who have been oppressed and been through the wringer had the time to digest and vomit out all of the pent-up emotions and put it through art/film/dance/song, which led to the creation of a sort of unknown Black joy movement. Although still oppressed, we have seen the beauty within the storm.

I express Black joy uniquely to me through my passions. There is something about exploring the creative roots of my ancestors that lights a spark in me to convey it through my desired art form, especially through acting. I love to step into a role that was not specifically designed for my race, but it allows me to be one with it. It's scary but also invigorating and joyous as a Black woman to fulfill that dream. I've always wanted to be the it girl. Because of the Black joy I have received, I have the confidence to be my own version of the it girl.

I, as a Black woman, feel like I am so overlooked. I don't feel as though I will ever be good enough to be successful in a white-dominated world, especially in the show business industry. Although things are changing, Black people of different genders/sexual identities are having their names tossed around in headlines and winning awards. They may have made it, but are they ever going to be respected? My hope is to be respected truthfully in order to experience Black joy in that realm.

I pray that 2022 is the time for young Black creative females to shine. It makes me beyond joyful to see a young Black girl on a big screen/stage that finally looks like me. I rarely had that growing up. It brings tears to my eyes to see little Black girls see themselves represented in all sorts of creative ways. It is sad to say that this is just beginning, but at least I can now CONFIDENTLY say that this is just the beginning to see a thriving nation of empowered Black women in the world."

Alanna Johnson (she/he/they)

Montgomery, Alabama

Some people don't see how gorgeous Black hair truly is!"

"I feel like Black joy in 2022 is just being surrounded by your people and your culture. I don't mean just physically. Seeing other Black people prospering in media and Black characters being featured in films, advertisements, and even books brings Black joy. Since it is Black history month, people are posting unrecognized Black history, such as Black athletes and inventors that don't get talked about in textbooks.

I'm actually mixed, so being able to see not only Black people represented but also fellow Black mixed people represented brings me a lot of joy and feel seen.

I feel like the pandemic has forced a lot of people to turn to the internet more, and because of that, I'm noticing more representation in everyday things. I know better representation has already been in the works before Covid, but in my eyes, the pandemic pushed it to happen faster and to be more accurate. Some issues are unfortunately still glossed over or not put to the forefront.

For instance, the murder of Amir Locke. I found out about it from a Tik Tok video before I heard any news station report it. Obviously, another Black man being murdered isn't "joyous" to hear about, but I'd rather it be talked about and protested over than having him die in vain.

I mainly express Black joy through my hair. I have a large afro, and it makes me beam with joy when other Black people talk about their hair and how they want to either go natural too or simply learn how to take care of their hair better. A lot of times, even to this day, Black hair has been seen as 'unprofessional' or 'not socially accepted,' and some people don't see how gorgeous Black hair truly is! So if I have to power to influence those around me and promote natural Black hair in a positive light, then I will!

My sexuality and my Black joy used to be separate from one another, but now that more people who are both Black and part of the LGBT+ community are being exposed to me, they have started to work together. And honestly, I think it's mainly because I only recently discovered my sexuality. Right after I did, I went to college and was surrounded by others who identified the same way I did, so it was very comforting to experience! I'm being exposed to Black LGBT+ content creators, Black LGBT+ artists, and other people involved in that community, and it's really cool!

For me, being young, Black, and joyful in 2022 is just being myself, embracing myself, and uplifting those around me. The recent years have been rough for everyone in different ways, whether it be on a personal scale or a political one. It's unhealthy to put all of one's focus on such emotionally heavy topics and conversations, so having a break from that, being able to look up and see people getting along, being happy in their body, and not letting the world stop them from their hopes and dreams is important. We need to carry on those joys and celebrate the good that happens, so when it does come time to talk about those heavy topics, we have enough strength to face them."

Kayla Glodman (she/her)

Summit, New Jersey

My gender and sexuality are woven into everything I do. "

"Black joy is the expression of love for our culture and its products. Whether that be with others or alone, Black joy in 2022 has become something so beautiful because there are so many new ways of sharing said joy. When Black people post videos of traditional dancing from other cultures, and more people of other cultures get to witness the joy radiating off the dancers, it fills them with a sense of togetherness among those dancers. Even if you've never known them, you can openly connect with others because of this mutual love and background, especially during the pandemic when society has felt so isolating; this reminder of cultural connection has become vital to Black children growing up.

I personally express Black joy through music, dancing, and comedy. I love Black music, whether it's blues music, jazz, or more modern spins on those. I love to listen and try to emulate them in my own way. This goes hand in hand with dancing and with comedy. I love to appreciate classic comedians, dancers, and musicians to really connect with those who started it for us. Those who showed their joy so loudly and proudly that they're remembered through history. I emulate those styles while adding my own spin to truly create my own Black joy while incorporating Black history.

I think my gender and sexuality are woven into everything I do. It may not always be clear, but with expressing myself, I'm expressing all of myself, which includes my femininity and my bisexuality.

To be young, Black, and joyful is hard in 2022 with the way that this country treats its fellow Black society members. It's appalling, especially since our culture is weaved into this country's upbringing and real creation. But there is also the sense of overwhelming love from other Black individuals trying to bring back the cultural connection that all Black cultures have, whether through TikTok, new products, websites, and apps. There is so much Black love being spread to remind the younger generations that there are so many ways to be joyful and loving even when the world feels like it is against us all."

Lenny Butler (she/they)

Atlanta, GA

To exist in happiness is exceptional."

"'Black joy' generalizes the individual experiences that make us happy, but I think what makes it so significant is, as Black people, we are under constant pressure and attack. So to exist in happiness is exceptional. As Black people, our joy itself, no matter the experience, is worthy of acknowledgment. It should be more 'Yay, Black people are having fun,' rather than 'What do Black people do for fun?'

What makes me happy individually is expressing my anger and aggression and being assertive unapologetically in spaces where my identity is taboo or 'diverse' because I then challenge the space with my candid presence and test its limits and expose its flaws.

I feel that as a queer person of color, it's hard to find comfortable areas where they intersect, but I feel that my queerness is simply being radical and rejecting the norm, so in that sense, my gender and sexuality challenge the spaces I am in just as much as my candid Black identity.

To be young, Black, and joyful in 2022 is still a question for me because I'm still learning so much that scares me for the future but also gives me so much excitement, but I'm forced to live in the moment because nothing is promised. I'm always in danger, but I manage to wake up breathing each day with a close call around every corner or rare moments where I kind of forget where I am, who I am, and what I look like, and sometimes that's nice."

Kemi Magombo (she/they)

Austin, TX

To be Black and queer is to be powerful."

"[Black joy is] being proud of who I am. Historically within the Black community, I was taught to shy away from our Blackness and culture. It is joyous to know that we are powerful, we're creative, and we do a lot of amazing things. Being in quarantine has drawn a lot of exposure and attention on Black issues in America because we were spending so much time on social media.

With the elections going on and the Black Lives Matter movement, it definitely helped shine a light on topics that Black people have been trying to get the world to see for so long. Because I had all this extra free time on my hands, I'd spent a lot of time with my friends and family, and it really brought us closer together as a community, especially during those tough times.

I express Black joy through my creativity and by being accepting of myself and my Blackness. To always be unapologetically Black and bold. To always uplift the accomplishments our community has done and showcase our talents.

I feel like now more than ever, being a queer Black woman and having those identities in a society that looks down upon bringing awareness to the fact that these social identities often overlap causes even more hardship. If anything, it almost feels like it has made me express Black joy even more because both identities influence me equally. And with the many platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube, Black queer influencers and artists are able to thrive. Having such icons brings so much Black joy and inspiration to all.

To be Black and queer is to be powerful."

Hannah Harris (she/her)

Miami, Florida

The opportunities are endless if you are young, Black, and joyful in 2022."

"2022 is a real celebration of Black creativity across fashion and beauty. Creators have the chance to complete dream projects. It's different now than before the pandemic because everything was centered around pain and history that we see a lot in movies. Now, it's shifted into a celebration we see in photography, fashion, and beauty.

I'm a very optimistic person. I wake up every day to believe in the world, not as it is, but what it could be. The world can be kind of depressing. But also looking at Black joy not for what it is, but what we can be and can do.

Being a Black woman has its own set of many challenges and things to consider and be aware of. But we, as Black women, have created a community. Rooting for each other at every stage of life, these women will never let you down or never not be there for you. The community is strong.

The opportunities are endless if you are young, Black, and joyful in 2022. You can do anything. People are looking for you and your creations. If you have a dream, the resources and support are abundant. It's the time to start creating and pushing those dreams."

James Gray (he/him)
Canton, Ohio

Black joy doesn't have to be organized; it can be messy, sporadic, and scrappy."

"I thought Black joy meant the only way I could support my Blackness was standing up front, protesting, and being against something. It started evolving for me after reading an article from Vogue that said, Black joy doesn't have to be organized; it can be messy, sporadic, and scrappy. That resonated with me, and I began to realize everyone is expressing their Black joy in their own unique way.

[I express my Black joy] by understanding and celebrating what past Black men have done. They have accomplished more than the world gives them credit for, so celebrating that and understanding the sacrifices is how I grow and express myself.

My gender plays a role in the idea that it gives me the influence to speak to a very specific group of people. I see that as a positive because it allows me to speak into people's lives in the way of showing them what Black joy means to me, understanding Black joy if they don't know, and becoming a Black male figure to people who may not have one.

I think [being young, Black, and joyful in 2022] is two things: celebrating Black innovators in the past and changing the narrative. A lot of Black men get a stigma, and I think being able to embrace my Black voice has given me an opportunity to change that stigma for the better. Being Black and Mexican, I understand that having a lighter skin complexion gives me more privilege than other people of color. With having that privilege, I get the chance to still influence. I can use my voice in certain places to be able to advocate for other people of color."

Kris Hankins (she/her)

Detroit, Michigan

I love Black women and femininity. I feel like we are different because there is a certain elegance and strength to Black women that have been developed over time."

"[Black joy] is being able to find the good in really any situation. For me personally, 2020 was a really hard year for many reasons, so just trying to spread the light. Just more joy moving forward.

I am very proud of who I am. I find joy in my uniqueness. I am also the co-director of the multi-culture club at my school, and I get to learn a lot about culture and appreciate others, and work a lot with other students. It gives me an outlet to express who I am.

I love Black women and femininity. I feel like we are different because there is a certain elegance and strength to Black women that have been developed over time. There's a trauma for sure, but there's such a uniqueness to Black women. I love being part of this community.

I'm only 20, but it goes fast. We are in a stage of self-discovery in our life. There's so much to discover about the world and who we are. There are amazing opportunities that we have. In college, I want to do more sharing and get people more willing to understand and listen and embrace differences, even if it doesn't involve them personally. I just want them to be more understanding."

Kerane Marcellus (she/her)

Winter Haven, Florida

Black joy, just like Black people, isn't a monolith and will be different for everyone who wants to partake in it."

"Black joy in 2022 is taking steps to help yourself heal. It's going to therapy or taking a break. It's loving yourself and doing what self-love and self-care look like to you. Black joy, just like Black people, isn't a monolith and will be different for everyone who wants to partake in it.

I realized that Black joy isn't just a fleeting moment of happiness every now and then, but joy is a constant, and to keep something consistent, there are actions to take. So what I've learned to do is prioritize myself first by doing therapy, saying no, doing what I love, and not taking what anyone says personally.  

Gender and sexual identity are definitely intersectional for a lot of Black people, and all of those play a huge role in embracing Blackness and partaking in Black joy.

I celebrate Black joy by embracing every part of myself and my Blackness. I don't have to have the same story as another Black woman, and that's totally okay. I love supporting Black artists by going to their exhibits and galleries that are Black-owned as well as buy from small Black-owned [businesses]."

Amunique Swan (she/her)

Washington, DC

Black joy, for me, is wearing my hair naturally and falling in love with my curl pattern. It's wearing what I want when I want."

"Black joy means Black people succeeding, getting opportunities, and having the ability to take up space. Black joy means feeling unapologetically Black and feeling no qualms or reservations about how other people feel about it. During the pandemic, issues were brought to light about the harms against Black bodies. Instead of cowering in fear, I find myself proud of how my community can come together and speak about the injustices in a way that is so influential.

Black joy, for me, is wearing my hair naturally and falling in love with my curl pattern. It's wearing what I want when I want.  

My identity does tie into my Black joy because I identify as a woman. I see how strong Black women are painted. Black women are something to be revered and looked at in awe. All my life, I have been surrounded by strong Black women, and I take pride in that being my identity as well.

It's an interesting time to be young, Black, and joyful in 2022 because, for a long time, we were not represented in mainstream media. We were always trying to fit into a mold to be accepted and trying to feel deserving of love and attention. Now that there has been a shift in society, younger Black people can finally have the freedom to love and fall in love with themselves because of their differences."

Ashley Helrich (she/hers)

Staten Island, New York

I live limitlessly — not in fear."

"Black joy in 2022 to me means the ability to feel comfortable and not intimidated among my stereotypical peers that are deemed as the top of society. Feeling comfortable in my own skin and having my past experiences be validated instead of ignored. That's what makes me feel like Black joy is at its peak.

Black joy is acknowledging my growth, my ability to succeed in my career just as anyone else in this society, and the ability to rise above the discrimination I've experienced in the far past.

Being a Black and white female in society empowers me so much and motivates me to achieve the next best thing possible. I have an undying ambition to be better than white men and better than the people that suppress their talents because they think certain races or genders are better at succeeding at certain things in life than others.

To be young, Black, and joyful in 2022 is just to take life by the horns and enjoy it like everyone else until the squeeze has been ‘squoze.’ I live limitlessly — not in fear. And I hope every Black person can grow to feel the same way."

Cheers to that.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Reported by Olivia Hawkins, Nicole Swiggard, Isis Gutierrez, Lily Price, Tess Gatts, and Grace Lodico.


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What’s it like to be a black man in the beauty industry? We spoke to 7 of the biggest black boy beauty influencers to see what it’s like.
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in Look, Features, black joy, Real Life