The Black joy of Black excellence

Turn to your neighbor and say: “Your black excellence is magic.” 

Notice I said “your Black excellence, which doesn’t have to be this big, golden star achievement.  

You kept your business afloat despite the pandemic? Black excellence.  

You learned about the liberating power of rest this year? Black excellence.  

Your day went all the way left, but decided to give your day another chance after things? That can be Black excellence, too. An achievement to one person may not be achievement to another person, but that doesn’t make it any less of an achievement for that person.  

And we got a big boost of Black excellence the beginning of this week when Alabama native and Ret. Army Gen. Lloyd Austinwas tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to become the first Black person to lead the Pentagon as secretary of defense.  

According to the Associated Press, it looks like Biden is relying on Austin to restore the civil-military balance.  

“He is the person we need in this moment,” Biden said. 

Strolling with your sons 

It’s that time of year. No, not Christmas – the time when many Black fraternities and sororities celebrate their founders days.  

Alpha Phi Alpha was the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity for African American men, founded on Dec. 4, 1906. The organization started as a support group for Black students enduring racial discrimination at Cornell University during the early 20th century. Today, that organization as well as other Black fraternities and sororities, continue their community service missions. 

Dressed in black and old gold, Florence, Ala. pastor Wesley Thompson decided to celebrate the Alpha’s founder’s day last Friday by stepping with his sons Miles5, Bradley3, and one-year-old Jeremiah. It’s been 10 years since Thompson graduated from the University of North Alabama, where he pledged  Alpha. But stepping gives him an nostalgia that he wanted to share with his sons. 

Those memories include midnight practices after a long day of classes and studying, tempers flaring when one brother didn’t perfect the step and sometimes scrapping practice all together “because a brother who was having a real tough situation confided in his brotherhood and as Black men we all cried with and loved on that brother to help him get through crisis,” he recalls. 

He also recalls the times they talked about the day they might one day have sons of their own. 

“That’s the power of joy,” Thompson said. “It can linger with you long after the experience took place, and it can linger with you in such a way, that even though a decade has past, you still want to share it with somebody, hence my boys.  

He continued: “In that video is the Black joy their daddy experienced 10 years ago with his Alpha brotherhood and still feels today. It’s the Black joy their daddy takes pride in sharing with his three kings, and the Black joy their daddy hopes they will one day get to experience and possess for themselves as young college men in a fraternity…and that fraternity better be Alpha Phi Alpha.”  

How to turn trauma into joy 

Hopefully you got a glimpse of how a Black, queer renaissance is forming in the South during this week’s “Young, Southern and Black” story. If not, well, let me introduce you to 21-year-old Devin Franklin and 22-year-old David Parker. The University of Alabama at Birmingham students and theatre creatives are leveling up the performing arts game by producing ground-breaking work the centers Black LGBTQ voices. One of those mediums is includes their podcastcalled “The Queer Code, which has themes that range from humorous  takes  about quarantine to emotionally raw rants about how white privilege perpetuates Black trauma.   

The continuous loss of Black life at the hands of law enforcement triggered a grief that sat heavily in Franklin’s body. Franklin, who uses he/them pronouns, transformed and healed their trauma through movement and community. The private dance sessions in  Franklin’s bedroom allowed them to get rid of pent up energy.  

“I’ll just allow my body to feel the music. Like, almost let it possess me, in a sense,” Franklin said. “It’s a way for me to transcend and just get through whatever I’m going through.”  

The word unity is in community for a reason. Franklin decided to really make an effort to find love and support this year so he would have the space to feel safe, physically and spiritually.  

“Having meaningful relationships as a human being, but especially as a Black personthat’s what gets us through such hard, difficult times.” Franklin said. “I can provide myself with everything else that I need, but just knowing that I have people to create space for me when I do feel weak and I don’t feel like I’m strong enough brings me immense pleasure.”  

Hope you find unity around you and within yourself as you keep spreading your Black magic – whatever that looks like. See you next time.  

Black joy is a weekly series by the Black Magic Project that focuses on how the Black community liberates itself through laughter, excellence and other forms of happiness. Have an example of Black joy you want to share? Tell us more about it by emailing Reckon journalist Starr Dunigan at 

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