Juneteenth: Joy is not the vinyl. It’s the record player

Seattleites reflect on freedom, resistance and joy to honor the day liberation from slavery finally arrived, over two years after Emancipation.

Multi-genre writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist, Anastacia-Reneé. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

Anastacia-Reneé is a multi-genre writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. She received the 2018 James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award for Washington artists and served as the Seattle Civic Poet from 2017-2019.

Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.

— Audre Lorde

My Joy is too Big to be a Hashtag

— Anonymous

It’s no wonder in horrific and hopeful awake-o-lyptic times such as these that very often I hear the layered voices of brilliant people I love saying that small and large things “give them life,” that small and large things are being magnified and multiplied as examples of “Black joy.”


When I think about things that give me life or turn the level of joy up inside my heart, they are usually not associated with things or people. Pleasure and happiness are. Joy, on the other hand, is the record player that does not move. It is the constant needle ready to spin no matter what. It’s a blickity-black internal record player passed down to me from survivors whose names I do not know but who truly give me life.

When I am suffering, I am deeply unhappy or full of accumulated rage, but still feel joy. Joy cannot be appropriated, raped or stolen from me. No person can put their knee on my joy. The lineage of Black joy is too big for that.

Once I truly understood that joy, for me, is not circumstantial but constant, my joy-vibrations began to resonate at a higher register. There is true freedom in that realization. I could be full of rage, suffering or sorrow and still hold joy. I have passed this lesson on to my children by reminding them — “joy beginners,” I like to call them — that there is no pressure to be pessimistic or optimistic but instead, resilient and realistic while maintaining their own piece of inner joy.

Read more reflections in our Juneteenth series, published in partnership with South Seattle Emerald, below. For more on the history of the holiday, see historian Quintard Taylor's essay at BlackPast.org.

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About the Authors & Contributors



Anastacia-Reneé is a multi-genre writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. She is the recipient of the 2018, James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award for Washington artists (Artist Trust), and has served as the the Seattle Civic Poet from 2017-2019, and the 2015-2017 Poet-in-Residence at Hugo House.