BHM has become about commodifying the culture. These creators aren't having it.
If Black joy is an act of resistance, the existence of it on social media is a communal effort. We’re just a week into Black History Month and it’s been hard to ignore the hyper capitalist spirits hovering over the expressions of celebration on your timeline. Both our successes and our struggles (the latter of which are broadcasted graphically every day, not just during BHM) are exploited and commodified. Since our culture is not currency to be spent, creating content that actually empowers us is crucial. And that means making sure every element of it — from the words to the design — is intentional.
When it comes to preserving our peace, the voices and images we consume matter. And the content creators behind some of my favorite wellness safe spaces are serving visually pleasing gentle reminders of self-love, peace, belly laughs and endorphins.
As the month continues to bring us both joy and jabs in the form of performative activism, finding authentic positivity in the far corners of the internet means even more. These are just a few of the creators who deserve props for connecting with us in a meaningful way, and showering us with real Black joy and none of the nasty additives.
Transparent Black Girl
“There's power in being your true self on the internet,” says Yasmine Jameelah, the founder of Transparent Black Girl. Evolving from a vulnerable blog, TBG falls under her wellness collective, Transparent + Black. TBG’s Instagram page carries a tonal flow of a older sibling or a best friend with images of Black women doing what we do best — thriving.
Jameelah’s priority was, and still is to embrace Black women to show up as any self they choose — and to make online content that reflects that. And of course, the vibes are important too. Her page’s brown monochromatic aesthetic was borne of her inner content strategist self that wanted to create a comfortable nook where anyone can step onto a welcome mat.
Jameelah also wanted to figure out how to process current events while still maintaining some inner piece. Her background in journalism allows TBG to tap into today’s headlines while lending sound advice to taboo topics in the Black community such as therapy and the rising rate of suicides in Black youth.
“So many of us have been feeling really down and we're hearing more stories of people dying by suicide so I just really wanted to lean into that and extend love to our followers,” she says. “I think about all the ways that myself and other Black women are healing from trauma we didn't ask for. If I wanted someone to send love to me, what kind of love would I want on this end?”
WE THE URBAN
At the root of visually soothing content is simple relatability. Willie Greene, the founder of WE THE URBAN, helmed the first Tumblr profile to transition to a fashion magazine; his platform took on a new vision during the political tides of 2016. Paired with a new roadmap that spread the gospel of blissful moments and Black joy, Greene’s blend affirmations and poitive messaging serve as reminder to trust your path to self-discovery.
Greene was very intentional with his design, focusing on what would be pleasing to the eye as well as which words would resonate. “If I’m feeling very strongly, the quotes come very quickly — sometimes up to 50 at a time in one session,” tells me. “Other times, I just don’t have it in me, and that is when I have to take time to step away and live a little more life. If I’m not connected to myself, I can’t produce.”
While Transparent Black Girl and WE THE URBAN focus on mental health, creator Percell Duggar of GOODWRK centers on physical wellness. As a fitness trainer to stars such as Winston Duke and Michaela Coel, Duggar takes a holistic approach to fitness, with joyful images of his clients, sweaty smiles and all. “I've always considered myself a creative, and a storyteller,” he says. “I think the wellness journey has given me the canvas to create spaces that empower my clients and community to manifest autonomy over their bodies, in a society that historically doesn't care about your health.”
As a Black fitness expert, Duggar aims to empower clients of color in a wellness industry dominated by the white narrative. He somtimes offers free workouts on social media and insightful tips about the misconceptions of body image and so-called traditional fitness standards.
Duggar’s home is his fitso landscaped; his workout space is inviting and well appointed without feeling indimating to rookies. Alongside with his kettlebells awash in natural New York daylight lies Black art by Fahamu Pecou, Keebs Laurent, Rayo and Honey, and Dwight White. The visuals present a comforting yet energizing playground for not only his clients who want to get it right and tight but those looking for meaningful motivation from their own communities.
All joy does the body good, but nothing is better than genuine laughter. Comedian Mel Mitchell has learned that keeping it simple allows her brand of comedy to flow from generation to generation. Stepping into standup on a whim, Mitchell’s candid approach has made her a staple on Black Twitter and now, a source of joy on TikTok. Her latest viral success are her “The Black Teacher At Euphoria” videos where she asks important questions about our favorite problematic teens at “Euphoria High.”
Mitchell faces some lofty expectations but practices boundaries with social media by not falling into incessant demands for content. “I’ll have a video ready to go but y’all aren't going to drive me crazy for it,” she says. “I gotta put me first!” Mitchell’s brand of humor — both down to earth and refreshing — represent an authenticity that makes her jokes an aesthetic of their own, adorning any space she’s in with levity.