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October is a month full of awareness days around mental health. As a Black, queer, non-binary leader, I dream of a day when there is no longer a need for this month, as every day will be Black Mental Wellness Day. Right now that is far from the truth. But I’m not here to regurgitate Black pain in an effort to convince you, reader, of its omnipresence. Instead, I am here to speak directly to a future where Black joy is as natural, as ever-present as fresh air.

I grew up as a biracial kid in a New York, Irish-Catholic family, which meant I almost always felt like I was never enough, regardless of what I did. Black joy — my Black joy — was a Disney movie, a fantasy. But there was one place where that fantasy felt like reality, however, and that was Aunt Dottie’s house. Whenever she needed some help with childcare, my mom would send me to Aunt Dottie. Aunt Dottie’s house was a place of play. It was the definition of “choose your own adventure”: I never knew who I would be meeting, or what I would be doing in the neighborhood. Aunt Dottie fed me, talked to me about what resources were available to me and, most important, really listened to me. I felt the care she gave me deeply.

It was the depth of her care that inspired YouthSeen, an organization that provides holistic wellness to queer, trans and gender-non-conforming young people in the greater Denver area. I founded this organization so that I could play the role Aunt Dottie played for me for the young people in my community.

At YouthSeen, we believe that a crucial part of wellness is practicing joy. Joy and hope go hand-in-hand in that, given the times, neither is easily attained. Hope, as Mariame Kaba says, is a discipline, and joy is a practice. James Baldwin teaches us that Black joy is under constant threat, that oppressive institutional powers have tried to outlaw it time and time again. This history — and present — grounds us and provides all the more reason to show up fully in our joy.

How do we practice joy?

We practice joy through celebration. This year, we organized the first-ever Black Pride Colorado to honor Juneteenth, queer resistance, collective power and embodied liberation all at the same time. Earlier this month, we hosted the first-ever Black Fantasy weekend, which included a workshop on the history of Ballroom culture, a Black Fantasy ball, and a brunch the next morning. With hope on our faces, we witnessed each other smiling more widely than we had in a long time.

We practice joy through rest. After some time, it was clear to me that the workers who make YouthSeen possible needed a retreat. I cobbled together some funds to make it happen, and on the way there my staff kept asking me what the agenda was. “Have you noticed that there isn’t one?” I asked. “There’s a reason for that.” It took me a long time to learn to pause and take a break when I am tired, and now it’s my responsibility to pass that lesson on. Resting is being productive. Resting together is an acknowledgment of our collective wellness.

Last, but most certainly not least, we practice joy through owning our enoughness. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I really understood what this meant. I learned that the idea of being “Black enough” was constructed by white folks, and therefore not something I had to address anymore. I learned that by existing, by just showing up exactly as I am and breathing the air around me, I am enough — and that is power.

I learned that I didn’t need a fancy degree or letters behind my name in order to be a leader in the community and, in fact, sometimes those credentials blocked my creative capacity. I learned that being in a community requires me to know that the work is both about me and not about me. It’s about all of us— because it takes just one individual to add to the collective.

All of us at YouthSeen and in the Black, queer community of Denver are practicing Black joy as resistance and will keep practicing until the day when there is universal joy. Until then, we invite you to join us. If you are Black and queer, we invite you by asking, how are you engaging in joy today? And if you are not: how are you supporting Black, queer wellness today?