Joy as a form of resistance.

umzila kawulandelwa
4 min readApr 2, 2021
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I have mentioned that at the core of my DNA I am really a “phuma silwe” and a true daughter of thunder. That means I struggle keeping quiet in the face of injustice. It’s almost a kneejerk reaction at this point. I come across injustice and something in me tells me to speak out against it. I don’t fight physically. I can’t fight for shit but “the pen is mightier than the sword” so yea, I’ll fight you to your death with my proverbial pen.

As I’m growing older I am struggling keeping up with my fighting spirit. The world is bent on breaking me as a black woman. Some of the injustices are provocations at this point. We are being taunted so that we respond and prove that they have always been right, “we are angry black women”. I’ve been having this conversation with my therapist about my struggle with keeping quiet. She keeps telling me that my silence does not mean I’m complicit. She says I can be repulsed, infuriated and still keep quiet.

Sometimes silence is a form of survival. Looking back, all the times I’ve spoken up against injustices I’ve had people quietly and even secretly cheering me on. Those people vehemently agreed with me but they wouldn’t risk their mental health and peace by speaking up. I thought I was the hero for having the courage to speak up but I was actually the sacrificial lamb. I have a dear friend who teaches me a lot about the importance of choosing yourself and self care as a black woman. I was speaking to her earlier and she told me that fighting systems is a lot of work and she wishes black women would divest from that. She says anger has held us back. We need to find our happy places. We need to learn how to divest in love, how to choose ourselves in healthy life-affirming ways.

I love that a lot. All the time we spend being angry and fighting centuries old systems, we pay with our lives. That is not worth it for me. I want to enjoy my experience of being alive. There are a lot of small and big things that bring me joy. I can choose to drown myself in them instead. I now even see joy as a form of resistance. Think of Maya Angelou’s words.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

There are whole systems designed to keep us out and/or break us. We don’t need to be fighting to sit at their tables. We can build our own tables where love and grace are served. I am really learning that, “Sometimes it’s best to wear slippers and not try to carpet the world.” I have to take care of number one cos no one else will. I have to show myself the love I expect from others. I have to really put my back into loving and caring for myself.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Listen, I finally understand this poem. You cannot keep me down. You will not break me. I will protect my joy with all I have. My joy in the face of all that is designed to break me is my form of resistance. I will feed it, nourish it and nurture it.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

I celebrate all the black women who have written about their joy, showing us that there is another way to life that doesn’t involve always being angry. My favorite ‘choose yourself’ anthem is “Lullaby” by Tasha. That song speaks to me on a spiritual level. I’m listening to it as I type this. It reminds me that it is okay to keep quiet sometimes. It doesn’t mean I’m complicit. I am just prioritizing my well-being which is an honorable thing to do.

Black girl, we’ll leave this fight to someone else for now
You can close your eyes, let your hair down
Breathe in, breathe out

It’s ok, you can keep your magic to yourself, keep it tucked away
They’ll have to find another wonder for today
You don’t always have to be the one to save the world

Today I am most grateful for all the black women who teach me other ways of living. Black women who stretch my imagination until I can see clearly alternative ways of living. Black women who hold me up with so much love and grace, reminding me that choosing myself is not a selfish act but the highest of forms of taking care of myself. I love you and I am truly grateful for you all. My dear friend writes about the importance of having black women friends and seriously, I am indebted to her. Go read her post here.

Take care of yourself and choose yourself, always.

Happy Friday! 🌻



umzila kawulandelwa

I tell stories about my experience of being alive. Perpetually day dreaming of reading and writing by the beach