A Case for JOY Activism – Kelly D. Carlisle

Let’s start with my RAGE and a reminder of why we do what we do.

I know that I probably don’t have to tell you, but ANV is ALL ABOUT joy.

Every single thing Acta Non Verba does is INTENTIONALLY designed to bring maximum delight to everyone who interacts with us and participate in our programs.

Whether it’s our Camp For Grown Folx Benefit, which was such a hit with all ages last year, that we’re bringing it back – bigger and better than ever next month, our award-winning Camp ANV, which ensures that ALL children can experience the JOY of camp, or ANV’s BeetBox CSA, which connects our local community members with not only our THREE farms, but also farmers of color on the central coast and in the central valley!

We believe that ABUNDANCE and JOY are worth fighting for. And as a staff, board, organization and members of the community, we DO fight for them. Daily. What else are we LIVING for?

Now, about that rage…

A golden opportunity arose recently. It required someone attached to ANV who was under 24 years of age to manage it… and I had the perfect person in mind.

It required a video “audition” and I encouraged a young person that I care about and will protect till the death of me to make that video. 

The young person asked what they should talk about. I pointed them towards camp, which they are VERY familiar with. I said: “How about how transformative Camp ANV has been and how we are resisting oppression through joy?

The young person agreed and created an 10 minute video, with the understanding that this WASN’T the final product… That they were simply giving an EXAMPLE of their speech patterns and articulation.

The response was that our young person, someone who had seen and experienced TOO MUCH for someone not even 21 years old… was not ENOUGH of an activist. The requesting body had a LIST, of previously undisclosed activist THEMES that they “encouraged” our young person to pursue… and offered to “help” our young person tease out.

This young person was confused. As was I. 

Angry, but not surprised.

The young person asked for the help that was offered. There was no response until last week, when the requesting body let our young person down “gently” and offered a free ticket to… “The Show”. (My words, not theirs.) 

The reason I’m writing about this is because I have found that TOO OFTEN, folks want to hear about the pain and suffering of BIPOC.

…And that is certainly there. But what about the joy? What about the EXCELLENCE? What about the RESILIENCE?! What about Making a WAY out of No Way?! Is THAT not a form of activism and resistance?

Yes, the Climate, and YES, BLACK LIVES MATTER. And ABSOLUTELY, STOP. Asian. Hate.

But I would (and WANT TO) argue that JOY. Delight. Jubilation. Are forms of activism in their own right.

Our children need to KNOW THAT.

I mentioned to Aaron, ANV’s newly promoted Deputy Director (send him congratulations HERE!!) that in America, it’s hard to find ANYONE who actually likes, let alone LOVES Black Women. 

He replied that we have Janetria and Latrice to thank for that. They gave him hugs and always had snacks to share and were the dopest classmates he had in elementary school.

Joy. Sharing.  Education. Love. Openness.

ALL of these are forms of activism in a world that continues to try to diminish us and fights the concept of being bigger and better than we ARE.

AND so I ask again: What about JOY Activism?!

Aaron almost made me cry when he was able to name the two young Black girls who taught him that Black Women are PEOPLE and to be honored.

Janetria and Latrice I honor YOU. Thank you for the affirmation and validation to Aaron and, by extension, me. 

…and to this young person, who put their time, energy and heart out there: I am sorry. You NEVER have to bare your soul, pain and struggle for me, ANV or an audience.

We love you as you are and will protect you, yours and your JOY -always.

Aluta Continua  ~ The Struggle Continues. 



2 thoughts on “A Case for JOY Activism – Kelly D. Carlisle

  1. This is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing that I have read in a long time. Thank you for teaching our young people that to be Black and joyful is the one of the most radical acts they can do. In deep appreciation for camp anv and excitment for when my daughter will be able to participate again.

  2. Good day Kelly,
    stopped by your office close, i wanted to give you some information regarding a scholarship for your daughter if interested please call me soon
    if she plans to go to college.
    sister Coleman
    Thank you,
    Charlotte Coleman
    the jelly lady.

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