You are currently viewing Black Joy in YWCA Youth Learning Centers

Black Joy in YWCA Youth Learning Centers

Saturday August 12, 2017,  the world awoke to images from the night before where dozens of White nationalists went marching through the University of Virginia Charlottesville carrying torches and chanting “you will not replace us.”

Taking in the images from Charlottesville and considering them against the backdrop of other apparent and undercover displays of racism in recent years, I was reminded of the extreme emotionality of racism and its outcomes on Black children.

Students preparing to play a game at YWCA’s Southside Youth Learning Center during the Winter Celebration party.

In a world that seems like Black children are mistreated for expressing anger, fear, joy, or for simply existing, it can be a daunting task to figure out how to best safeguard them from harm while also allowing them to live and flourish unapologetically.

A volunteer helping a student play charades at YWCA’s Southside Youth Learning Center.

During this time of year, I reflect on the beautiful experiences YWCA Central Carolinas is providing to black and brown children from Mecklenburg and Union county. Our youth learning centers prioritize surrounding children with love and countless opportunities to remain joyful. Each of our youth learning center site coordinators pride themselves on having positive, warm, and supportive relationships, both in and outside of youth learning centers, which can buffer against the negative impact of racism.

Such warm and supportive relationships are a reminder to children that they have people to turn to and that they are loved, lovable, and have massive value. In addition to everyday love and support, our staff are consistently sending children counter messages and positive affirmations about blackness, which we have seen boost our children’s confidence and self-esteem.

Despite decades long violence against Black lives and the partnered trauma, our Black children continue to persevere and remain joyful. Black joy is resilience. Most importantly, Black joy is healing.

A volunteer greeting students at YWCA’s Southside Youth Learning Center.

Jasmine Hemphill is the Literacy and Engagement Manager at YWCA Central Carolinas. She has served as a public educator and literacy facilitator for over 14 years.