Black Joy

Land, liberty and the Black American Dream | Black Joy – March 24 2023

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Happy Friday, friends!

I hope you were greeted with as much sunshine as I was today. After a series of cold snaps, I think spring might finally be getting settled in. Thank goodness for that.

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we want to honor Black femme writers who’ve shaped how we think about Black joy and liberation. Take the Black Femme Literary Icon quiz to find out which of these writers you channel the most!

We’ve also been thinking about the collective power of the people, and the ways we show up for each other. We center joy in all that we do and that includes the liberation of the most marginalized among us.

That’s why today we’re featuring stories about Black farmers fighting for justice and formerly incarcerated leaders and storytellers who are transforming the criminal justice system.

We hope these stories leave you inspired!


This land is your land – until it isn’t: why Black farmers are demanding debt relief

A couple weeks ago, Black Joy took a trip up to the White House for a Black farmers’ protest in honor of the 25th Anniversary of a landmark lawsuit against the USDA. We heard some amazing stories that we’ll share in the coming weeks, but to give y’all some context, we’re providing a brief history.

A common thread when discussing Black land loss and dispossession is generational wealth — these injustices are not solely about the individual farmer. Everything stolen from a single farmer was also stolen from their descendants both born and unborn.

It might be just as hard to retain Black land in 2023 as it was in the 50s and 60s. While Black folks make up a little over 14% of the population in the United States, they own less than 1% of rural land. Additionally, a study found that Black farmers lost about $326 billion worth of land between 1920 and 1997 across 17 states.

The rapid decline in Black-owned land is, in part, due to decades of discrimination perpetrated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), local banks and other agents of the state. Black farmers built a successful case against the government, but the win turned out to be merely the beginning of what would become a decades-long fight.

Read the full article on the Reckon website.

Represent Justice is using storytelling to transform the criminal legal system

Reckon and Represent Justice, a nonprofit dedicated to using storytelling to transform the criminal legal system, are excited to bring you a collection of stories created by formerly incarcerated leaders and storytellers across the country.

Audience editor Clarissa Brooks is popping into this week’s newsletter to highlight a beautiful collaboration between Reckon News and Represent Justice:

Reckon and Represent Justice, a nonprofit dedicated to using storytelling to transform the criminal legal system, are excited to bring you a collection of stories created by formerly incarcerated leaders and storytellers across the country. These stories, produced by Represent Justice’s seven Ambassadors, are the culmination of a yearlong storytelling training program that documents the breadth and impact of mass incarceration — and those who work every day to dismantle it.

Over the last two months we shared a collection of short films, which cover everything from the immigration-to-prison pipeline, prison labor, parole reform and so much more. And for many of the ambassadors — including some who just came home during the pandemic — this is the first time they’ve been behind the camera or had a sense of authorship over their own stories and experiences.

Meet the Black Represent Justice Ambassadors

Twyana Davis is an artist and native of Columbus, Ohio. Her artwork has been featured at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Akron Art Museum and The Stone Age museum in New York City. Davis’ film, Broken Systems, is based on her true-life experience that highlights arcane and arbitrary rules of the parole system that can sometimes result in people’s re-incarceration. “The system, to me, it’s not broken,” she told Reckon. “It’s running exactly the way that it’s set up ... and I believe that it is, to a certain degree, set up for failure.”

Nelson Morris grew up in Chicago. A youth mentor, he works with young people to help them navigate what seems like bureaucratic red tape to improve their communities. Morris also successfully lobbied the Illinois General Assembly to abolish sentences of life without the possibility for parole for children. The state’s governor signed the bill this winter. Morris centered his project, It Takes a Village, around a kind of intervention in the life of a young man having problems at school that he feared might escalate to violence. “Our life isn’t less-than because we were (system) impacted. As a matter of fact, you can be productive if we utilize them right,” Morris said.

Waleisah Wilson is a native of Columbus, Georgia, and now lives in Atlanta. For her, the modern prison industrial complex is slavery by a different name. “We’re seeing vans on the side of the road, (people) in orange jumpsuits, cutting the grass, landscaping all these pretty flowers and stuff on the side of the road. That is just not a good look, that you’re supporting slavery,” Wilson said of governments that use the labor of incarcerated people. She added: “Particularly with us being in the South, which is supposed to be the Bible Belt — because in my Bible it says that you’re supposed to show grace and mercy. My Bible says you’re supposed to forgive.” See Ms. Wilson’s film, Working in Captivity: A Woman’s Quest to End Slavery in GA here.

Read more about this collaboration on our website.

Have a great weekend and remember to spread Black Joy! See ya!

Danielle Buckingham

Danielle Buckingham

Danielle Buckingham (she/her), affectionately known as Dani Bee, is Reckon’s Black Joy Reporter, and a Chicago-born, Mississippi-raised writer based in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2021 Lambda Literary fellow, her work has been published in MadameNoire, Midnight & Indigo Literary Magazine, Raising Mothers, and elsewhere.

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