Photos: The Black Joy Parade Returns as ‘A Love Letter to the Bay’

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Two people dressed in yellow and flowers pose
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.

A person with short hair, wire jewelry on their face and green lipstick poses
Treajané Brown takes a pause from dancing and poses for a portrait during the Black Joy Parade on Feb. 27, 2022. “I feel like I’ve been struggling recently and I needed some energy to propel me into this next chapter and I knew I could get it from the Black Joy Parade, so I’m so glad it’s back,” Brown said. (Amaya Edwards)

This is Black joy in its many forms.

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“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.”

Two people smile in "black joy" sweatshirts
Elycia Thomas Knight, Black Joy Parade manager, poses for a portrait with her sister at the entrance of the celebration site at 20th and Broadway. (Amaya Edwards)
A group poses with their scraper bikes
Members of the Scraper Bike Mob pose for a portrait during the Black Joy Parade on Feb. 27, 2022. (Amaya Edwards)
A dance group in matching blue dashiki outfits
A sorority dances in the Black Joy Parade on Feb. 27, 2022. (Amaya Edwards)
Two people in letterman jackets wave Pan-African flags from a convertible
Members of the Fo'Fifteen Car Club ride in the parade in their classic car on Feb. 27, 2022. SF Black Wall Street and the Fo'Fifteen Car Club collaborated with the Black Millionaire Development Entrepreneurs, who also walked in the parade. (Amaya Edwards)
A group of eight, children and adults, smile
Priscilla Dodoo poses for a portrait with her family during the Black Joy Parade on Feb. 27, 2022. (Amaya Edwards)
A dance group in green and white smiles
A dancer with Estralas do Samba smiles at the crowds watching the Black Joy Parade in Oakland on Feb. 27, 2022. (Amaya Edwards)
A dance group in white, one woman has "BLM" written on their back
Parade participants covered in white body paint dance down Broadway in Oakland on Feb. 27, 2022. (Amaya Edwards)
A young person roller skates
A young girl roller skates in the Liberation Park rolling rink pop-up. Attendees of the Black Joy Parade could get skates at the event to use. (Amaya Edwards)
A young person in a cow-patterned Western shirt holds the brim of her cowboy hat
KK Brinson poses for a portrait during the Black Joy Parade on Feb. 27, 2022. For Brinson, being able to represent Black women who ride horses competitively was an important part of being at the parade. (Amaya Edwards)
A person in a vest smiles next to a black and white horse
Dan Smith, of the Brotherhood Riders, poses with his horse Suga Mama. The organization trains youth in order to provide them with a positive space. (Amaya Edwards)
Five women in green shirts smile from a float
Women smile and sing while on a float right before the parade starts on Feb. 27, 2022.
A person in a flower-covered space helmet makes the Vulcan hand sign and smiles
Afatasi the Artist, born and raised in San Francisco, poses in her handmade designs on Feb. 27, 2022 in Oakland. “Everything that has to do with like our erasure ... it’s like now you can’t deny when you see us. You can’t not see us and that’s what my designs are about,” Afatasi said. (Amaya Edwards)
Two young people wear brightly colored, futuristic outfits
Kolo and Pharyll show off their fashion before they walk in the Black Joy Parade on Feb 27, 2022. Afatasi the Artist welded the frames and outfitted them with textiles along with sewing each of the outfits. (Amaya Edwards)
A person wears a white fro, antennae and a silver outfit
Honey Brown, a model and cosplayer, poses before she walks in the Black Joy Parade with the Afrocomicon float. Brown expressed her pride in being able to represent herself, pointing out that there are so many different “accents when it comes to African-American culture.” (Amaya Edwards)