UK Black History Month: What does Black Joy mean to you? 

UK Black History Month: What does Black Joy mean to you? | Soho House

To mark the celebration, members of the Soho House team describe what this year’s theme signifies for them

Saturday 1 October 2022     By Sagal Mohammed

To mark this year’s UK Black History Month, we’re continuing with our theme of Black Joy. Too often, the public discourse around Black and Black British history is only focused on pain, trauma and the fight for freedom. It has centered oppression and suffering in portrayals of Black people and communities, while neglecting the beauty of our varied lives, cultures and traditions, and the happiness that thrives within them. 
The concept of Black Joy shines a light on this narrative by spotlighting the things that make life joyful. Just as there is no monolithic Black experience, there is no one definition of what Black Joy is and what it feels like. It can be anything that inspires, supports and uplifts Black culture and people in unique ways. Journalist Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff’s anthology book titled Black Joy explores this perfectly, sharing 28 Black British voices who each describe their experiences with joy and what it means to them.
Black Joy is… 
UK Black History Month: What does Black Joy mean to you? | Soho House
Choko Mhango, Safety Support Partner 

‘Black Joy is a very special and personal feeling for me. It’s complicated to explain, because it feels uniquely mine. To describe it, I have to really analyse myself and the occasion. But the more I look, the more I realise that my joy is the same colour as everyone else’s. 
‘I’m so glad to be alive to see the changes that are happening now. My dad was a revolutionary and he brought us up to be aware of who we are and what our history is. However, he was from a generation that had a harder time and he tried to prepare us. 
‘We think we had it tough, but it was nothing compared to what he went through. Since the Black Lives Matter movement took off in 2020, we have seen a shift. It was endearing to see people coming together from all walks of life to support. My generation was more militant, but passively militant. We would get in trouble, but this new generation knows their rights and they act upon them.’
UK Black History Month: What does Black Joy mean to you? | Soho House
Tumi Atolagbe, Data Protection Officer 

‘It’s a number of things. We know it’s anything that supports, uplifts and furthers Black culture, but what it means the most to me is safety. Black Joy is expressed when there is safety. 
‘Some Black people often feel unsafe to express themselves. Passion is mistaken for aggression and boundaries are mistaken for being “stand-offish”. We don’t always have spaces that harness safety of expression and therefore we feel stifled. Black Joy turns all of that around because it lives in spaces that are safe for us. 
‘Displays of Black Joy are more accessible than ever thanks to the digital world we live in. You can go on TikTok and find content from someone who you may not previously have had access to. And with that comes equity in storytelling and the diversification of the types of stories told about our experiences because they come from us. The idea of having something “for us by us” springs to mind, and the benefits of that are two-fold. Black Joy is seen, heard and felt more because the freedom to create and express is facilitated by ownership of the stories told, art created and experiences lived.’
UK Black History Month: What does Black Joy mean to you? | Soho House
Aliyah Plummer, Lead Membership Manager for east London
‘Black Joy to me is being able to always be my authentic self, in all spaces, unfiltered and without limits. It’s freedom. It’s a resistance against the negative stereotypes put on us and our painful history. 
‘It’s a conscious decision to change the story and celebrate who we are.’
UK Black History Month: What does Black Joy mean to you? | Soho House
Michael Bello, General Manager at Electric House 

‘For me, Black Joy means celebration. Being in Portobello for so long, when I hear the term Black Joy I instantly think of a moment where you have pure happiness, and that moment for me is Notting Hill Carnival. 
‘We go there with one intention and that is to have fun, just immersing myself in music and the community. It’s a major celebration of Black culture. There is a beautiful feeling you have when you go there – that moment to me is Black Joy.’
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