Photographer and community activist Thaddeus Miles, director of Community Services at MassHousing, tries to find joy in most aspects of his life, and encourages others to do the same. He is such a proponent of joy, in fact, that through his advocacy and determination, City Councilor Julia Mejia passed a resolution declaring this Saturday, Sept. 12, Black Joy Day in the City of Boston.
“With so much constantly going on—from the COVID-19 pandemic to the pandemic of racism these past months, to the Boston Marathon and other events this weekend—I just thought, ‘Can we just take a day and focus on joy?’” says Miles.
“We must always find times to smile and to build our resilience. We can’t sustain this movement through pain or anger.
Photographer, community activist and director of Community Services at MassHousing
The celebration is the latest development in Miles’ ongoing “BlackJoy” project, which he describes as a collection of writing, poems, interviews and photos that reflect the multidimensional experience of Black joy.
“For me, accepting your blackness without any obstructions, while embracing ‘BlackJoy’ in all its magnificence is not only captivating, but one of the most potent sources of power and beauty,” Miles explained in an artist’s statement on the project’s blog. “‘BlackJoy’ is my contribution to the collective narrative of the power and influence of black traditions in the world. It is a testimony of the strength and resilience of our people. Most importantly, it is a love letter to Black people.”
For Christyanna Egun, senior director of Boston Partnerships, Equity and Inclusion for the Mass General Center for Community Health Improvement, this event provides an opportunity to give voice and validity to the accomplishments and resiliency of Black people throughout the United States. “On behalf of the Boston, Revere and Chelsea youth who are empowered through the Mass General Center for Community Health Improvement—Youth Programs, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Miles in recognizing Black Joy and the inspirations and aspirations of who our young people are and what they have to offer the world.”
Egun says Miles serves as co-chair of the Becoming a Man (BAM) organization, a valued community partner and youth mentoring organization whose young men participate in the MGH Youth Scholars and MGH Summer Jobs programs. He also has spent the past year showcasing and highlighting events around Black Joy, beginning with a Black Joy kickoff event in February at the Museum of Fine Arts. He also has been traveling the country photographing Black Lives Matter marches, which he also hopes to portray positively. “I try to see the joy within the marches and not the anger. My focus is seeing the human part of these people.”
Miles encourages people to commemorate Black Joy Day by taking time to fully embrace the things that fuel your spirit and bring peace and joy, be it spending time with family, enjoying a song and dance, eating good food or simply finding a moment of calm.
“We must always find times to smile and to build our resilience,” says Miles. “We can’t sustain this movement through pain or anger. That’s really the challenge I’m facing. This one day at least is to get people to think about joy and focus on joy.”
For more information about Black Joy Day events, or to watch them livestreamed, visit Miles' Black Joy website.