Prioritizing Joy

Photo source: Twitter @chadwickboseman

It’s been another heavy couple of months - catastrophic fires, more police violence, more strife around the pandemic, more overt racism, more empty commitments to #BLM, more clashes between protestors, and now the shock and sadness of memorializing a hero much too soon.

With all this despair it’s easy to lose sight of the positive. It’s easy to lose hope.

But as I read and learn more about Chadwick Boseman, I find light. I am cherishing the thought that he instilled in people globally – and particularly young children – the idea that Black heroism and ancestry is something to be revered, honored and celebrated, and that we should aspire to create a world where whiteness does not reign supreme. I’d like to take comfort in the belief that kids around the world are more familiar with the images of Black Panther than the senseless violence inflicted on Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others.

As the news spread of Chadwick’s passing, no longer were our feeds filled mostly with attacks on Black lives and other people of color. Instead, we saw inspiring and uplifting videos, interviews and tributes to a man that prioritized bringing joy to others over his own suffering, and a man that spoke out when Hollywood tried to make him propagate negative Black stereotypes and as a result rose to become a King to all of us.

It is these thoughts that give me hope for the new babies we are welcoming into our PTBi family. Thank you to Julie, Brandi, TaNefer, Breezy and Loren for being incredible moms and moms-to-be and sharing with us the immense joy of bringing a new life into the world. While these babies are arriving into a society where so much is broken, they are also coming into a new generation that has grown up watching Black Panther, the Obamas and has witnessed the first Black and Asian female candidate to be added to a presidential ticket, where “Black Lives Matter” and systemic racism is part of everyday global discourse, where awareness of Black doulas, midwives, providers and academics are growing and where more birth researchers are approaching their work through a race equity lens. This was not the case when I was a child, and I need to remember this.

Just as Chadwick committed himself to bringing joy and serving his life purpose, we can honor his legacy by sharing positive, uplifting stories about Blackness rather than accounts and videos of abuse and killings.

Is it wrong to find, celebrate and share joy when there is so much sadness? Absolutely not. It’s more important than ever.

The powerful images of birthing people everywhere celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week is a perfect example of this. Almost immediately after giving birth, PTBi moms shared their birthing experiences and first latchings, and these life-affirming stories will have more impact than we will ever know (shout out to Brandi and Breastfriends Oakland and TaNefer and the Midnight Milk Club).

More people need to see Black joy. More people need to see us counteracting the historical and ongoing trauma and negative narratives. More people need to help uplift the villages of people who are helping to bring positive change and better health and birth outcomes to our communities.

To all my non-Black colleagues and friends out there, I encourage you to read the sentiments expressed by Ashlee Marie Preston in an article she penned for Marie Claire: “Sharing images of Black death on social media won’t save Black lives. Instead of eradicating our murders, it normalizes them.”

I urge you to consider Preston’s eight ways you can help destabilize white supremacy in America instead of posting videos of Black trauma and the questions to ask yourself when you are deciding whether to share them.

  • “What is my intention in sharing this?”
  • “How could sharing this help and how could it hurt?”
  • “Will sharing this contribute to a social ecology that produces these types of outcomes for Black people?”
  • And, most importantly: “Other than sharing this content to spread awareness, what am I willing to do offline to help break the vicious cycle of anti-Black violence that destroys Black lives?”

And for all of us, I treasure the words Chadwick shared in his Howard University commencement speech, “Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how need to fight it.” It’s Chadwick’s fight that made him King, and it’s today’s fight that is giving birth to heroes.

Rest in Power, Chadwick. Wakanda Forever.