Briana Franklin and Izabel Eisner strut down Broadway during the fifth annual Black Joy Parade in downtown Oakland on Feb. 27, 2022. Both Franklin and Eisner walked in the parade as part of the Melan-aid group. (Amaya Edwards)
Black is for the people, red is for the blood shed, and green is for the wealth of the Motherland.
These colors adorned countless Pan-African flags that proudly flew at the fifth annual Black Joy Parade in Oakland on Sunday afternoon. For those uninitiated with the idea of Pan-Africanism, it is a school of thought that aims to unite and create solidarity among Black folks of different cultures around the world.
The parade participants represented the diversity of the Black diaspora. There were uniquely American aspects to the parade, like the group of Black cowboys who wore 10-gallon hats while majestically riding their horses down Broadway in downtown Oakland (a favorite among the children in the crowd). Meanwhile, every member of the Divine Nine, made up of the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities (of which I’m a proud brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity), stepped and strolled their way past an adoring public.
There were samba dancers representing Black Brazilian culture; loads of Caribbean food vendors selling oxtails and rum punch; an abundance of people wearing West African-inspired patterns and prints; and even some folks looking to the future while draped in outfits reminiscent of the great Afrofuturist composer, Sun Ra.
This is Black joy in its many forms.
“I honestly think that Black joy is not definable,” Elycia Thomas Knight, BJP’s parade manager, told KQED. “We’re not telling you what Black joy is. We’re just asking you to show up with whatever that specialized Black joy is–unique Black joy is–that you have in you, and just show up and set it out.”
But the joy didn’t end with parade participants, it was also present among those in the crowd. The sun was out and accentuating the melanated skin of Black people of all shades, genders and sizes, gloriously dressed in whatever “Sunday best” looked like to them. As paraders passed by, affirmations of “Go ahead, sista” or “Okay, king!” could be heard. No one knows how to hype you up better than Black folks.
Thomas Knight called this year’s parade a “love letter to the Bay” following its 2021 hiatus due to COVID concerns.
Mia Meredith, a USF student from San Francisco, said BJP perfectly represents the term “strength in numbers,” popularized by the Golden State Warriors in the Bay Area. “I’ve honestly never seen this many Black people in one sitting before,” Meredith said. “I love to see it.”
Care about what’s happening in Bay Area arts? Stay informed with one email every other week—right to your inbox.