One of my favorite displays of Black Joy are Black people outside, having a cookout, uncles gathered under trees drinking and carrying on, children’s mouths open with laughter rolling around in the grass, their clothes picking up the distinct smell of outside. These spaces of joy, safety, and laughter are a kind of rebellion.
DéLana R.A. Dameron, founder of Saloma Acres, would agree. A South Carolina native, Dameron, created Saloma Acres as a safe space for Black folks to “unwind, connect, play and be in communion and community with the natural world.”
As a storyteller and descendent of folks who stewarded the land, particularly in her home state, her vision for Saloma Acres was both intentional and, quite frankly, destined. A first-generation college student and the first in her family with a Master’s degree, Damereon’s parents pushed her to strive for educational excellence in order to have more opportunities than they did. She would eventually move to New York and begin building an “urban life.”
But you know the saying, you can take the girl out the South, but you can’t take the South out the girl. Dameron soon realized that when she made the decision to move back home.
“I started feeling the pullback south… and then my father passed away in 2018. And I made the move at the end of 2019…On that drive, I started dreaming about what it would mean to be an adult in the South. I wasn’t when I left, [so] what kind of living would I pursue having lived my whole professional life in New York City? And talking out loud with my husband, I was like, ‘I think I want a farm. I think I need land.’”
Of course, before we got settled into 2020, Covid-19 happened. But that didn’t stop Dameron. It even helped set the foundation for the outdoor space she was envisioning. Like most of us, she had to reimagine what being in community looks and feels like while navigating a deadly pandemic.
So, at the beginning of 2021, she began brainstorming ideas for safe outdoor activities.
“I was like, ‘horses’ is the thing. I’d love to learn how to really ride horses, but I want to do it with black people…I ended up finding someone [who] was doing lessons. And within a month of doing that I turned to my husband [and said], ‘Well, I think I need to get a horse farm.’”
For a lot of folks, it was a struggle being so isolated from family and friends. People who had money and resources could whisk themselves away to a second home off the grid. But that was not the experience of the vast majority. This was something Dameron was thinking about when her vision of a Black Play Space became clearer.
“Watching folks, particularly black folks, experience of COVID here. . . [some] people literally had no place to go…And so, I tried to marry all these things, like horses, safe spaces for black folks to be outside, [and] my own desire to have more room to breathe.”
For Dameron, Saloma Acres is about play, community, but most importantly rest. As she puts so eloquently: “Folks don’t want to see us resting. That’s the resistance.”
Like her brilliant audacity to imagine and then bring to life a space she needed and knew Black folks needed, resting is an act of protest. Resting is Black joy.