Sustaining Joy in Anti-Racism Work: A Conversation With EbonyJanice Moore & Thea Monyee

EbonyJanice Moore & Thea Monyee – of the Free Joy Experience – discuss the importance of joy in sustaining anti-racism work & transforming urgent white allyship to real, generational change. 

Sustaining Joy in Anti-Racism Work: A Conversation With EbonyJanice Moore & Thea Monyee

The past two months have sparked many important and overdue conversations about anti-racism work that must be done – in our workplaces, our industries, our homes, and our hearts and minds. What does it look like to organize? What does effective activism look like today? What does it mean to be an ally? While these are imperative questions, there has been no real conversation about joy in anti-racism work. 

In missing the joy, EbonyJanice Moore and Thea Monyee explain, allyship and anti-racism work is unsustainable. When anti-racism work is unsustainable, it shows up as a violent form of White Urgency. Here to solve racism today, gone back to one’s usual schedule tomorrow. 

EbonyJanice Moore and Thea Monyee of The Free Joy Experience sat down to host an IGTV lecture with the CUUP community on sustaining joy in anti-racism work – for the months, years and generations ahead. They advocate for racial healing through ancestral accountability and expanding white consciousness and imagination. 

We encourage you to watch this video in full, share your learnings and questions with those around you, and continue to reflect on some of the highlights below as you release shame, cultivate joy and find your lane. Thanks to The Free Joy Experience for sharing this conversation.   

Shame makes one hide. Joy lets you show up for authentic exchange.   

Thea: We’re very clear when people are participating in our ally work: we don’t have any need or desire for your shame. And here’s why we don’t like shame: shame makes you hide. When you hide yourself, when I’m already naturally and fairly suspicious of you and then I can't even see you, how can I expect us to have authentic exchange? 

This is where joy comes in for allies. You don’t have to worry about coming into these spaces feeling shameful and guilty. You don’t have to do this work with your head down in shame. That does not serve. We ask for dignity. To look eye to eye. Dignity is how we will move through. 

EbonyJanice: When you look eye to eye, and release that shame, you create space for an actual relationship. And in those relationships, joy sustains. If you have ever heard of Black twitter, Black Twitter became famous because these traumatic things would be happening, and after about 25 minutes of Black Twitter processing the traumatic thing, Black Twitter would start talking about the funny thing, the light at the end. Finding the beauty, the ease, the joy. 

Activism is diverse. Choose a lane that you enjoy. 

Thea: Using joy to determine where your anti-racism efforts should be is essential. If you are not a front-line organizer, and don’t find joy in that work, don’t do it. Maybe you’re a writer, maybe you’re an artist, maybe you’re good at organizing behind the scenes. Whatever it is, pick a lane that you can enjoy. Activism is diverse. It’s not just happening on the front lines. 

EbonyJanice: Not everybody is a public educator. Not everybody is going to be at a protest. White Urgency shows up and says, ‘Let’s march and beat racism today.’ Then, after two days, when they didn't fix racism, many allies went back to business as usual. No more posts. No more conversation. You weren’t marching, you weren’t at the protest. You weren't looking up information. You weren’t doing any of these things you had started. And that’s because you tapped into an area of activism and community organizing that is not your actual lane – and that is not sustainable. 

To do the work, allies need a new framework. 

Thea: “We say [do the work] – but the best that many allies can do is read or watch a video or listen to Black people. They don’t have a framework to do the inner work; they don’t have the ancestral accountability piece that will actually elevate their inner power to make change within their communities.  

EbonyJanice: The linear white mindset says, ‘That wasn’t me. I wasn’t alive. I didn’t do that. How do I benefit from that? I never owned a slave. I’m not responsible.’ We, as Black people, are very clear that we are descendants from Africa. Sankofa is this ideology that says, ‘reach back and get it.’ We have grown up with the cultural understanding that I am responsible for my grandmother.  

Thea: This framework is circular, but it’s also a spiral. Even if Black people come back around to the same thing, we choose to evolve, because we are naturally innovative and creative. Yet we keep coming back to the police brutality situation, because the linear white mindset continues to reenact the same trauma again and again. We change our responses, get more advanced in our technologies around it,  but we will come back to it, because of the linear white mindset has not released us from this loop. 

EbonyJanice: I’m thinking about the tree. We circle this tree, but we’re not returning to the same spot. There is an elevation with each circle  – but the only way we will get out of this loop and experience this shift into another realm – of liberation, freedom, happiness, joy and pleasure – is if our white allies really do the work of breaking that linear white mindset. 

What makes this time different? Without emotional masks, real change is possible, for the first time ever. 

Thea: Half of White Americans truly did not know they were white until 2016, when 56% of white women voted for Trump. For the first time ever, white liberals had to differentiate themselves, saying, ‘I’m not one of them.’ That differentiation is something Black people have had to do for our entire existence in this country. It was Elijah McLean’s dying breath to say, ‘I’m different. I don’t do those things that you think Black men do.’  He used his dying breath to defend a racialized identity. And White people are just now, for the first time ever, experiencing what that’s like. 

So what makes this time different? You know something your ancestors did not. You are showing up saying, ‘Woah, we didn’t know this was the global perception of us.’ And Black people aren’t wearing the mask anymore. We’re both showing up differently than our ancestors did. So, this is the first time ever that real change can happen. 

EbonyJanice: Now that that perception is out in the open – and you don’t want to be identified in that way – here’s the joy: in being able to make repairs for yourself. There is so much joy in that. Not just for you and very likely not in your lifetime, but for your children and grandchildren.  I experience pleasure knowing what my grandmother and mother experienced, and that I will go further than they did. That’s the joy. 

Black people are not at war with whiteness, but an ideology of whiteness as superior. To release yourself from that war with whiteness mindset, you have to 1) release the white linear mindset 2) release the guilt and shame and 3) actually show up in joy and pleasure. Guilt and shame are part of white superiority, which just wants to take and take and take. With joy and pleasure, there’s something to pour into.  

Thea: Don’t just show up for the death of black bodies. Show up for the joy and the pleasure. Don’t just show up in times that Black people are dying. Show up in times when our joy and pleasure is being threatened. That is how we’ll really know. 

Ready to continue the work? EbonyJanice and Thea invite you to listen in on past and future lectures on The Free Joy Experience’s Patreon, where they break down specific and strategic models of joy and pleasure to sustain anti-racism work.  


The Free Joy Experience is a joint healing venture between EbonyJanice’s The Free People Project and Thea Monyee’s MarleyAyo; focused on spiritual justice and holding space for community building around racial healing through ancestral accountability and expanding white consciousness and imagination. Support The Free Joy Experience’s Patreon

EbonyJanice Moore is a Womanist scholar, author, activist and the founder of Black Girl Mixtape. Support EbonyJanice’s work: @ebonyjanice and

Thea Monyee is an artist and marriage family therapist creating healing opportunities through decolonization, joy, & pleasure. Support Thea’s work: @theamonyee and 

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I read the email description and video sounded promising. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d finish but you hooked me and I loved your thoughts, your references to black leaders and authors, and your idea of white shame & guilt. Brava! I will look for the August 9th episode.

Lohr Kay

Aug 2020

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