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The Power and Importance of Black Joy and What it Means to Me

February 25, 2021 by Cody Renard Richard
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Photo by Corey Rives

I’ve always operated from a place of joy, and when I think about the power of Black Joy, I am inspired beyond measure. Black Joy, to me, is loving myself, being true to my essence, showing up unapologetically, and enjoying the moments that I’m blessed to experience. Black Joy IS self-love and self-care. It’s affirming my journey. It’s pride. It’s sharing my light. Black Joy is freedom of expression, peace of mind, and laughter. It is big and loud, but also gentle and quiet. It is living my best life, even in situations that weren’t built for me to succeed. It is uplifting. It is motivating. It’s me. 

In a world that constantly tries to dim our light, I’m always reminded of the power of Black Joy. Black Joy is in itself a form of activism. When we are constantly being told that we are “too much,” “too loud,” “too different,” or whatever the “too” may be, Black Joy is an act of resistance. There is freedom in Black Joy, because there is freedom in being completely true to who you are. 

Black History Month is a time to reflect on our rich history, which celebrates triumph over years of struggle and pain. It is extremely important that we honor our past, but also remember that in the darkness there is always light, so even in pain and grief there can be joy. Society tends to place Black pain at the center of the traditional Black experience. However, Black Joy should be what we allow to characterize us the most: being buoyant, happy, joyful, unapologetic, unstoppable, and most importantly, free.

Black Joy may seem rare at times, especially when movies, TV shows, Broadway and other media outlets tend to only focus on Black pain and struggle. So, when I think about Black Joy, I know it’s more than Black People just being happy. It’s reclaiming our power, humanity, culture and strength in the face of society and history that has long tried to suppress the very existence of Black Joy. 

Simply put, Black Joy is the shameless acknowledgment and acceptance of Black culture without apology or guilt. Black Joy shows up in many forms. It’s Black People giving this pandemic a nickname like “the ro-ro,” “the ’rona,” and “the panny.” It’s Black Twitter making the best out of any situation. It’s the Antonyo Awards celebrating Black excellence in the theatre. It’s BroadwayVS honoring our legends. It’s the endless memes and challenges on TikTok. It’s seeing Billy Porter host NYE. It’s rewatching Jazzmyn Sullivan singing “Home” for the 10,000th time. The list goes on, because it’s everywhere. Black Joy gives the Black community a platform to recognize personal growth, while uplifting and giving support to others.

2021 is fresh, but there have already been several moments of Black Joy that have inspired and lifted me up. Here are some of my favorite moments of Black Joy thus far (in no particular order): 

  • The outpouring of love from the community for our forever Legend Cicely Tyson.
  • Todrick Hall’s celebration of Brandy/Whitney’s Cinderella.
  • Alex Newell living his full fantasy on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. 
  • Nick Rashad Burroughs’ new single “Tonight.”
  • ALL things Amanda Gorman (and her obsession with Hamilton)
  • Symone’s iconic lewks on RuPaul’s drag race. 
  • Britton & the Sting!

So, to sum it up – it’s really the Black Joy for me! Shoutout to everyone sharing their light, love, and especially their joy with the world. And if no one has told you lately, it’s appreciated and necessary. Shine on!   

Cody Renard Richard is an advocate, educator and professional Stage Manager with a career that spans many genres including Broadway, Television, Cirque Du Soleil and Opera. On Broadway, he has worked as a full time and substitute Stage Manager on 12 productions, most recently serving as the Production Stage Manager for Freestyle Love Supreme. Other Broadway: Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, The Lion King, Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour, Kinky Boots, If/Then, After Midnight, Motown the Musical, Ghost the Musical, Cyrano de Bergerac and Lysistrata Jones. TV: 2019 Tony Awards, 2020 & 2019 MTV VMAs, Jesus Christ Superstar Live!, Hairspray Live!, The Wiz Live!. Cirque du Soleil: OVO, Wintuk. Off Broadway/NY: Porgy and Bess (Metropolitan Opera – Assistant Stage Director), Candide at Carnegie Hall, 5 productions with NY City Center Encores!, The Public Theatre, Atlantic Theatre Company, 2nd Stage, Transport Group, Pearl Theatre Company. Selected Regional: Lempicka at Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Kennedy Center, The Muny, TUTS, Stages STL, Kansas City Rep, Alley Theatre, Repertory Theatre of STL. In addition to his production credits, he has served as adjunct faculty at New York University, Columbia University and Fordham University.

As an advocate for change and equity, Cody has appeared live on CNN and has been interviewed on WNBC. Cody has been featured by Variety Magazine as one of their 2020 Broadway Players to Watch, Out Magazine as a 2020 OUT100 honoree and in Forbes. He launched The Cody Renard Richard Scholarship Program in partnership with Broadway Advocacy Coalition in Sept of 2020 and holds a BFA in Stage Management from Webster Conservatory. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Directors Guild of America. www.codyrenard.com @codyrenard