Last summer our social content producer, Danielle Young, was daydreaming at her desk about Chance the Rapper and rejoicing in his MTV Video Music Awards performance, and she wanted to use a hashtag to signify just how much joy exudes from his music. And, so, #BlackBoyJoy became a thing.
Chance saw the tweet from The Root with the #BlackBoyJoy tag and his photo and retweeted it. Then, of course, it went viral.
People started posting photos of black men and boys being happy, because that’s essentially what the tag is about. But, of course, there were those who weren’t too happy with the word “boy” being used to describe adult black men. And Young clarified why she wanted to reclaim the negative connotation of the word in a follow-up post:
There is such a thing as black children being innocent and joyful despite society’s constant need to remind us that our young men scare it. #BlackBoyJoy is about the young men who play Nintendo and kickball, and those who kick it on the street corner and the front stoop. Despite what society and police who have occupied our neighborhoods claim, those kids aren’t always “up to no good.” Those innocent black youths exist, too. #BlackBoyJoy is a celebration of smiling, laughter and joy at a time when our people are dying in the same streets on which they live.
Black boys deserve to be happy; they deserve more than a hashtag alerting us that they’ve been killed by police in a city near you. And if social media allows us to spread a message of black positivity to the masses, then we’re going to strap a hashtag to a catchy phrase and keep sharing. Black boys deserve to celebrate their innocence before society forces them to be men; and black men deserve the chance to embrace their boyhood without a history of racist oppression hanging over their memories.
Launched in August, the hashtag is still going strong, and other sites have co-opted it without giving credit to the originators (shade). It seems, though, that rapper Ja Rule has an issue with “boy” being used to refer to black men, specifically the cast of The New Edition Story, when BET used the term on its Instagram page.
Ironically, Ja Rule is the same person who insisted on calling men the n-word in his music, but then gets riled up over a hashtag that celebrates black men. Thankfully, R&B singer Tank came through and dropped some gems on Ja Rule’s little head.
If you can find fault in #BlackBoyJoy, I suggest doing a simple search of it on Instagram and Twitter just to see examples of how it’s being used. #BlackBoyJoy and #BlackGirlMagic are both used to uplift black men and women, something that’s hard to come by nowadays.