2020: The Year Black Voters Said, ‘Hold Up!’

Photo: Politico

Politico’s Teresa Wiltz discusses the cultural expression of Black joy as a part of the momentum behind the historic impact of Black voters in the 2020 election. The Burton Wire’s Nsenga K. Burton is quoted in the article. Check it out.

Joy is an essential component of protest, said Nelini Stamp, director of the Joy to the Polls, a nonpartisan, national project that organizes performances for voters at polling places. (It was a “Joy to the Polls” DJ who played the Cha Cha Slide in Philly.) “It always comes out when people are in dire situations, 2020 being a dire situation,” Stamp said. “When there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of economic hardship, music and joy always resurfaces. It’s a radical act.”

Stamp, a political activist, got the inspiration for “Joy to the Polls” after seeing a roving Bad Bunny outdoor concert. Stamp was worried about potential voter suppression tactics and overly long lines at precincts, especially in Black neighborhoods. The idea was to bring a little happiness to voters and deescalate any tension while they waited.

“People were feeling down and out and out of luck,” Stamp said. “We wanted to use a different motivation other than anger.”

For the presidential election, Joy to the Polls set up “pop-up activations” around the country, showing up at polling stations with DJs spinning tunes and mini concerts ranging from Patti Smith to Busta Rhymes. They’re continuing the practice for the Georgia runoffs, with 80 pop-ups around the state, featuring appearances by America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, K. Michelle, as well as rappers Mulatto, Rick Ross and Moneybagg Yo.

Marrying music with a movement has long roots in the Black community, from the gospel song-turned-civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” to “The Bigger Picture,” rapper Lil Baby’s song about Black Lives Matter protests. As the poet Toi Derricotte once wrote, Black joy is an act of resistance.

“Black joy is an essential part of Black cultural expression,” said Nsenga Burton, a film and media professor at Emory University. “2020 shows that Black people continue to choose happiness and joy in the face of great adversity. And that can never be taken away from us.”


Read the entire article at POLITICO.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter @TheBurtonWire. 

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