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For Black Communities, Prioritizing Celebration is Essential

Trinity Alicia

If there is one value that I have carried with me into adulthood, it’s the joy of celebrating all of life’s milestones.    

Growing up, our house was one of the prominent places in my community, where classmates, relatives, church members and neighbors could enjoy great food, fun and fellowship. My parents prioritized celebrating every single turning point in each of our lives as well as those close to us. It started with intentional household celebrations centering the transitions we all go through — holidays, academic promotions, sporting events and so on. 

While we were celebrating our ability to achieve that 4.0+ GPA status or become an athletic team member, my parents reminded us that someone somewhere else wished they could do the same, so it was all the more reason to be grateful.

Celebration and gratitude are two vital values that connected easily for me as a child, and even more so now in my adult life. However, even beyond this image of celebratory gratitude, my parents taught me what they learned as children: When our people gather together, it symbolizes cultural participation. From dancing, music, celebratory foods and holiday traditions, the Black community has served as a model for everything related to entertainment and celebration.    

Kool & The Gang’s 1980 post-disco hit “Celebration” set the standard tone for celebrations by demonstrating a prime example of encouraging our community to celebrate to the fullest, no matter what.

For all the pain Black people have endured over centuries, it’s past time we made it a priority to constantly acknowledge, promote and celebrate ourselves, our Black joy and our Black excellence. 

During the slavery institution era, African-Americans were not permitted to gather in groups of more than five in many states. Despite restrictions, enslaved people congregated to dance, worship, celebrate and mourn in areas outside white control to avoid white interference, express lineal traditions and claim their bodies for themselves. 

Another tradition that arose from this type of gathering was Black people hosting teas to demonstrate refinement and respectability. They got together to socialize, conduct business and organize movements for social justice. These events provided an opportunity to celebrate their inherent dignity in a society determined to vilify them.

In a similar fashion, I use this ancestral power to celebrate and cherish Black joy and celebration. I’ve seen the favorable impact it has on our community, especially in a climate where Black joy has never seemed as prominently comparable as Black struggle. As a Black woman, this corresponds to my inherited role as an architect of culture. Black women have traditionally been regarded as a representative for all things innovative and nurturing, known for cultivating a quality atmosphere of love and support. 

Black women are honorable, and a host of honor focuses on establishing an intentional celebratory space for anything to happen (as opposed to ensuring perfect results), making room for the fondest of memories. 

Between this historical context and my familial significance of prioritizing celebrations, I become the host of honor I was raised to be and gain profound cultural awareness. In a society that seems to always put us down, it can be difficult to validate even our smallest victories. But in the darkest of times, I’ve learned that it’s always worth it to uplift yourself and invite your support system into that very experience.   

The most meaningful part of celebrating with my support system is that as much as I always want to involve them in my joyous journey, they are always equally excited to participate in my agendas as well. My friends and boyfriend are professionals at meeting me where I am in my celebratory visions and helping me bring them to life. I couldn’t be more grateful for them and that a Black woman’s needs is something they want to prioritize as well. 

The vitality of fellowship is necessary for humans to develop stronger connections to the world, to themselves and to each other. Quality time spent recognizing the changes that life brings is even more important — and nothing beats being surrounded by your support system on celebratory terms. 

Being forced to find community at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was a necessity, but it was daunting. For many of us, it was our first experience with mostly long-distance relationships. Virtual spaces and social media platforms created a sense of community and gave people the hopeful solution to rekindle in-person connections.

And while long-distance relationships of any kind are difficult to navigate, I believe the pandemic forcing me into long-distance relationships help me feel like I’m doing okay at maintaining the ones I have now, which are the most important to me. The prospect of celebrating progress in these relationships serves as motivation to grow deeper within them. 

Through FaceTime, social media avenues and other online mediums, my long-distance support system and I can reserve commemorative time to celebrate various milestones with each other.

Traveling has become one of my fondest adult pastimes, and as someone who is primarily involved in long-distance relationships, I find myself discovering new ways to celebrate reuniting with my family members, friends and boyfriend. 

A reunion is a reason to celebrate in and of itself, but the intentional space and time set aside to celebrate reconnecting is the ultimate kiss of life.

It is heartwarming to know I took this value of celebration instilled in me as a child and reclaimed it to foster community in my adulthood. 

So while I do credit my parents for heavily influencing my ability to honor the victories in my life and of the people around me, I look at it as a gift to myself, from myself, to be able to center the light and joy of a Black woman through celebration. It’s a testament to where I am in my womanhood and a principle I am proud to have implemented in my lifestyle.

It is unfair that the public narrative is that Black people are always struggling, having hard times and being traumatized. The mere fact that we are a jubilant people and the prototype for creativity and celebration should be popularized instead. 

Not only is it important to celebrate our victories in life, but it is also worthwhile to set aside time to recognize the freedom we now have. Gathering is something we can do today without fear, and the Black community must commit to reclaiming this truth.

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