Black Joy: Strolling to the polls, Black firsts and curing election exhaustion

Whew, y’all. We made it.

I don’t care if you’ve cried all week long, if your anxiety is high-key, on 10, or you’re acting as cool as a cucumber. Lift up your hands and shout because you made it to the end of the week.

Which means you made it to another edition of Black Joy, your weekly roundup of all things to remind you that our Blackness is our superpower. Point (clap) Blank (clap) Period (Clap, clap, clappity, clap).

Speaking of powers, checkout these kids who participated in Black Lives Matter Birmingham Chapter’s first Halloween trunk-or-treat. Now, you may be thinking, “Starr, wasn’t that last week?”

Listen. It’s 2020. People already got their Christmas trees up and singing the Black Christmas anthem Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” There’s no order to the world, and BLM Birmingham Co-founder Eric Hall’s statement about Black joy is true year-around.

“Where society has told Black people to ‘be quiet’, or that we’re ‘too loud’, reveling in joy is an act of resistance,” Hall said. “As our feeds become even more inundated with images of trauma, joy can help us heal, too.”

So, feel that happiness surge inside of you as look at images of Black Hulks, Bat Girls, Captain Americas, and Egyptian goddesses. As was pointed out in our last issue of Black Joy, it is important Black children see themselves as superheroes, princesses, or whatever they want to be.

How the first Black woman on the Madison County Commission ditched her stress and found her joy

Violet Edwards has an impressive track record of turning any idea, plan, program into gold. Christmas Charities Year Round, a Huntsville, Alabama nonprofit that helps low-income families in multiple ways, boomed during Edward’s eight years as executive director. She is now developing solutions to help the homeless community as president of the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless.

So her legacy as Madison County’s first Black female commissioner looks promising. She won the Democratic primary runoff to become the commissioner for District 6 in July. Since there wasn’t a Republican candidate in the race for Tuesday’s election, Edwards will soon take office.

For a woman who ran a campaign during a pandemic while being a mother of three and leading a nonprofit, Edwards is filled with so much life. So I interviewed her about how she cultivates Black joy, how she learned to take off her Black superwoman cape and the state of Black women in the South following this hectic year.

Does it ever shock you that you’re now the first Black woman on the Madison County Commission? I’m also from Madison County as well and I was like, “You mean to tell me there hasn’t been someone who looks like me all this time?” 

It was one of those moments. Like, “We have been in existence for 212 years and this has never happened?”

Running as a candidate I didn’t really focus on the fact that I’m African American. I did focus on being a woman because my shoes were so different from everyone else’s. I didn’t ask people to vote for me because I am a woman, but I did recognizing that I am a woman who has a different perspective than the decades of men before me – everything from working as a mother to being a woman in leadership positions.

With COVID-19, the election and racial tension, what brings you Black joy during a time of such madness?

While the world is in chaos, I don’t feel like it is my purpose to save the entire world. It is to bring joy, peace and understanding to my small sphere. If I just focus on that small baby bite, then I am doing my part. I’m not allowing myself to be overwhelmed with everything that is going on. I just focus on what role can I do and what role can I play to make it better.

Once I found the things I wanted to do or the goals I wanted to accomplish, even the small things like getting up in the morning, making breakfast and getting the kids to school, if I can touch and make the things around me better, then I know I am doing my part.

Sometimes it is all about making a phone call to somebody I haven’t talked to lately or sending a nice text message. I just think things like that helps calms anxiety and lets people know we are still connected. It lets them know there’s someone who cares about them. That even with all the foolishness that’s going on, we are still one and we are still connected.

I think you hit on something I think a lot of Black women struggle with and that is that we can’t be superwoman all of the time. We can’t save the whole world, but we feel like we have to because we have seen our mothers do it. Thus, we do that also. How did that journey play out for you? When did you decide, “Ok, I am just going to focus on these little things?”

I will use the kids’ socks as an example.

I walked through life and for so long, you know, thinking everything had to be perfect. I thought everything had to be right in a row and that we are going to be successful, but I didn’t have my own definition of what success was.

I don’t know where my need for perfection came from. It could be from watching the women in my life strive for it. My mom and my sister, we were raised just to go forward and always put your best foot forward. Then there’s my background in media and marketing, where you’re always the face of a radio station. You always have to have the perfect makeup, hair or whatever.

All of that builds up and adds up. Before you know it, you question your outfit, your hair and your fingernails. At the end of the day, we just have to breathe and think, “What is really important?”

Then I had a revelation one day with my son’s socks. He was getting dressed and it was a big deal that I couldn’t find matching socks for him. So my kid went to school one day with mismatched socks. And then I thought, “Nobody cares about the stinking socks. So why do my kids have to be perfect? What is perfection? My son was perfectly happy. He had been fed and he was clean.”

So it is really about what that expectation is. What is the goal? Since we are talking about kids, if I want successful, thriving, happy, productive members of society, do I really, really, really have to focus on two matching white socks? That’s not going to get me to my goal.

So that is how I manage perfection. Come up with a goal. And if something is going to stop me from getting there, then let’s not even fuss, fight, stress or argue about it. Let’s just keep it moving.

How do you feel about the state of Black women across the South?

While 2020 has been a year of survival, I just see us being on fire during 2021-22. I think we evaluated what was important to us this year and we see the power we have when we come from the shadows.

Based on the conversations I’ve had and the threads I’m reading,  I won’t say there’s been a wake up call because I don’t think we ever fell asleep, but I do think there has been a call for action especially with (U.S. Sen.) Kamala Harris on the ticket. You’re going to see a lot of Black women stepping up, answering the call, getting on out there and supporting each other.

It’s important to find out what our purpose is and what we want to do and pursue that – That I don’t try to be Mary and Mary not to try to be Violet. You know? It is OK to just be ourselves and do what we are good at. If everyone does that and try not to be clones of each other, compete against each other, live in our purpose of what we are put here to do, offer support to others as they do what they are called to do, then I think we will see tremendous growth and success.

Stroll to the polls

As we at Reckon scrambled to interview folks at polling precincts across the South on election day, one thing that got me smiling was seeing the historically Black Greek organizations known as the Divine Nine show out at the polls in multiple ways. I spotted Omegas and Alphas handing out snacks as people waited in line in Birmingham’s West End neighborhood. Here are few videos of AKAs showing out.

First up, Erica Robbins and her line sister Chasiti Shepard in Birmingham, Alabama.

Shout out to Anitra Jarreau, an AKA from Mobile, Alabama.

Aimetta Prince, 41, and her daughter, Tiana, 24, spoke to me after voting at West End Academy in Birmingham, Ala. Both women are Deltas and they told me they were honoring themselves with their votes on Tuesday.

“A hundred years ago, we weren’t even able to do this,” Aimetta said. “It’s a power in our voices.”

There’s medicine in self care

If your head is still spinning at the end of this, you’re not alone. Here are a few self-care tips from therapist Dominique Cecil, of Yellow Bird Counseling, LLC in Birmingham.

  1. Validate your feelings: Acknowledge any ambivalence you may have about the election. Identify a safe person to talk to about your mixed feelings. Ideally that would be your therapist. Stay aware of how you are being affected emotionally. A tip I would add to this, write it your feelings in a journal if you don’t have someone safe to talk to. There is more than one way to process emotions.

  1. Monitor social media usage: Stay off social media as best and as often as possible during this time. Also, try to stay away from controversial conversations if it is affecting your mental and emotional health.

  1. Practice self-care: Plan some time for self care this weekend to regulate yourself. Some ideas include:

  • Taking a walk
  • Watching lighthearted movies
  • Listen to your favorite songs/podcasts
  • Making a special dinner
  • Make time to do nothing
  • Arts and crafts
  • Dance

Remember, there is medicine in your breath. Take a deep one for me and give yourself some rest so you can continue to spread your Black magic.

Your weekly roundup of Black Joy is produced by the Black Magic Project, a Facebook group where we celebrate and discuss Black culture and community. You can join the group and spread your own melanin magic by clicking here.  

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