Actress, storyteller, and creator and cohost of Cherry Bomb, Dalila Ali Rajah (pictured above in a photo by Connie Kurtew), was inspired to create the Instagram account @BlackQueerJoy after watching the groundbreaking film about young Kenyan women who fall in love, Rafiki, with her trans son at Outfest Fusion in 2018.
“There came a point where they were in a very heightened state of joy and I had this sinking feeling in my body of like, ‘Oh no. Something horrible is going to happen,’” she says of watching the film with her son.
“It set me reeling. Why, when we see ourselves experiencing joy, do we immediately wait for the horrible thing to come? It broke my heart but it also galvanized something in me that made me really feel like our joy is revolutionary," Ali Rajah told The Advocate.
Since launching Black Queer Joy, which showcases images of Black LGBTQ+ people around the world in moments of pure joy, it has since become a global statement and silent call to action for Black people to reclaim their joy.
“Being joyful and being seen as joyful and living happy lives by itself is a revolution,” she says, adding that for hundreds of years, cultural oppression and systemic racism has perpetuated the idea that Black joy cannot be long-lasting.
“As Black people, with all that we’ve experienced with oppression and generational trauma, it’s amazing that we don’t walk around in a constant rage, as James Baldwin alluded to.”
“Over and over and over again, we as a people find joy, but for some reason, we’re constantly sent images that we can’t keep it, that it can’t be sustainable, that we can’t have happy endings. I wanted to curate a space that’s purely about our joy. I think for Black people in general, but also for Black queer people, those intersections ... it's hard for us to find that space.”
For over a year, Ali Rajah remained behind the scenes, quietly curating Black Queer Joy. But she shared publicly with the Advocate early in June 2020, at the start of the nationwide protests against police brutality of Black people, that she had begun the project to celebrate the revolutionary act of joy.
"I deliberately didn’t tell people I was doing it," Ali Rajah says. "It was just a space for me to find joy for myself and to amplify images of joy."
“If we don’t see images, how can we build up a tolerance for joy? As I started doing @BlackQueerJoy I found that people loved being able to see images of Black and Brown people they wouldn’t normally see in one place," Ali Rajah adds.
View select images Ali Rajah has curated below. And make sure to follow @BlackQueerJoy on Instagram.