It’s 70 degrees in New York City—the first nice day we’ve had in months. There are men playing dominoes in front of the bodega as loud spanish music, honking cars and the laughter of children running up and down the street all collide to become the soundtrack of the day. A group of kids in basketball jerseys and ball shorts are standing in front of the icee lady’s cart—all not so patiently waiting for their turn to order.
“I want mango!” “I want coco,” they yell.
Some teens are walking down the hill towards Jackie Robinson Park in their fresh sneakers they’ve been waiting for the perfect weather to break out of the Nike box.
All of this, everything I see in my neighborhood, is carefree to me.
I’m not quite sure when the “carefree black girl/boy” phenomenon first took off, but in the beginning, I was with it. For a long time, being a “carefree black girl” meant you went to yoga, listened to Erykah and Solange and carried crystals—and all of that was me.
Whenever I wore my fro out, the compliments went from “I love your hair,” to “You look so carefree!” When I rocked crop tops that barely covered my not-so-small waist, I was hit with the “Yaaas, queen! Be carefree!” But I didn’t quite understand what was so “carefree” about any of it. I didn’t feel carefree as every time I passed by my reflection, I was subconsciously fixing my shirt or fluffing my hair. I was literally a fresh out of college girl with a sh*t ton of cares.
Lately, there’s been a lot of conversation on Twitter circling around carefree, and what it really is.
To keep it a stack, you not a carefree black boy on twitter unless you look like the total opposite of a "stereotypical" black male.— This me asf lol (@DapperDapo) April 11, 2017
Hmmmm let's talk about it. I have huge gripes with what Twitter deems the "carefree black boy/girl". Has to fit a certain mold. https://t.co/qGpSw4xSSd— This me asf lol (@DapperDapo) April 11, 2017
It seems like being carefree has become a sort of Tumblr aesthetic. Think about it. Boys in crop tops? Carefree.Photo: Giphy
Women with big curly hair and perfect skin? Carefree.Photo: @marihsantosss/Instagram
Men with colorful hair or floral filled beards? Carefree.Photo: Alex D. Rogers
Though it’s a look (to some), this kind of “carefree” isn’t a reality for most of us.
Carefree black Boys are the niggas that walk past you rappin they music and smelling like loud https://t.co/vAJa9StcLq— Kam (@CaughtOnKAM) April 11, 2017
Example of a carefree black man and his son without looking like a jackass wearing flowers or snapchat filters— sad cute heat fan (@RickiRoma) April 15, 2017
In a time where we are searching and striving for visibility in spaces where we don’t exist, it’s time to break the barriers that the stereotypical “carefree black girl/carefree black boy” images have shown us. It’s time to see ALL of us.
Sometimes, being carefree is walking out with a doobie, pin curls, or even your headscarf on, because you just got your hair done and you’re not playing with humidity. Being carefree doesn’t always look like a beautiful girl hitting a yoga class. Sometimes it looks like a shirtless dude on 125th doing pull ups on the crosswalk, or even a group of teenagers playing ball.
Being carefree in my neighborhood doesn’t look like some beautiful sunflower field. Carefree in my hood is when the weather is just hot enough to crack open the fire hydrants and let the children play in the streets. My kind of “carefree” or “black boy joy” is a group of men on the corner shooting dice, with laughs that echo throughout the block as they drink Hennessy and talk sh*t to one another. My kind of carefree looks like 20 men from Polo Grounds riding their dirt bikes through the streets and holding up traffic on a beautiful day. Sometimes being carefree isn’t always roses and twist outs. Sometimes carefree looks like making the block your runway when you’re rocking a fresh haircut and a Nike Tech suit.
Though I’ve learned to appreciate both, my kind of carefree is not one that only exists during a photoshoot. Carefree to me is what I see in my neighborhood everyday. Now, what does your carefree look like?