When the world reminds me that black skin and bullets remain in a forced relationship, I get to lay in bed and try to forget. I get to sleep away the creeping dread that seeps underneath my skin and renders me worn out and tired. I get to hide from reality. I get to avoid the fear of being next. I turn my bed into a tomb.
When Philando Castile’s trial went the way I expected, I did the same thing I did for Korryn, Tamir, Rekia, Freddie, and Mike. I went to bed. I tried to shake off feeling. I tried to hide. I didn’t care about resisting, I just wanted to survive. I just wanted to breathe.
I often felt like I wasn’t fighting hard enough. I wasn’t doing enough to combat the trauma and distress of racism and institutionalized hate. I felt like I was hiding. But then I sat down and looked at the work that I do. It’s beyond the details. The core of the work is facilitating joy. As I heard David Tutera describe it, the burden of wedding professionals is to create a “bubble” moment that envelopes everyone and allows them to escape.
When I see two people so in love look at each other with a lightness that defies gravity, I feel hope. I feel that light grow. When those couples have joy stolen from them on a systemic level, I feel it even more. To bring joy, to BE joy in a world that would rather leave you dead in the street is revolutionary. I get to be witness to that.
To bring joy, to BE joy in a world that would rather leave you dead in the street is revolutionary.
I remember conversations I had with friends after the Pulse shooting. We all shared this irrational fear of not making it to 30. Many psychologists attribute that to trauma as if it's an isolated event. But what happens when trauma is so ingrained in your existence you can't isolate it? Is that fear so irrational? What happens when everyday you're afraid of someone thinking your black, your queer, your hair, your being is so offensive they have the right to diminish it? If the thought of that kind of living seems oppressive to you, it's because it is. Imagine being a foot but being forced to live in a world that wants you to be an inch. Imagine feeling stomped. How do you live underneath a boot? What could possibly make you forget it's there?
I’m not saying levity is a replacement for activism. But I do believe it exists alongside it. It has to. It’s not enough to just survive. It’s not enough to make it to another day without context, without a reason. Joy gives us the space to examine ourselves, to forget our worries, to be as we are where we are. It can’t solve the problems ahead of us on its own but it needs to be just as witnessed, practiced, and upheld as our activism.
Everyday there are new attacks on the joy of transpeople, people of color, Muslims, women and every intersection in between. These attacks are often made as a response to their celebration. Nabra was attacked after spending time with friends observing Ramadan. The 49 people who lost their lives at Pulse were just having a good time. The girls gathered at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester wanted to see their favorite star. The nine congregants of Emmanuel AME Church were gathering to fellowship. Joy is powerful. If it’s enough for people to want to take it from us, it should be important enough for us to protect. It’s a reminder to engage in it as much as we can while we can. Do not take it for granted. Do not push it off until tomorrow. Create it, embody it, and spread it around because tomorrow is promised to no one.
Jordan A. Maney is a San Antonio-based wedding planner and owner of All The Days Event Co. She she started her company as a planning haven for all the couples the industry chooses to ignore. Instead of just making a brand, she's building a community. Find more of her sass, humor, and Southern hospitality at allthedaysweddings.com.