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  • Sarah Smith Warren

Like Fine Wine, Black Joy Over Time

It is The Soul Place's one year anniversary, and I am so thrilled to welcome back my friend Nacala Ayele. Nacala was our very first guest contributor and so it is fitting she visits us a year later with a very special project. Nacala's business, Joyful Practices, gives the world joy. Specifically, she helps Black, Indigenous and People of Color to realize and celebrate their own gifts and places of joy. Historically, people of color have been subjugated for their bodies and land, talents and gifts and it still happens to this day, "One of the many ways we have internalized this piece of oppression is to deny ourselves our own magic, only to utilize it in the service of others," Nacala shares. Nacala works to help people access that magic and utilize it for themselves.

In honor of her upcoming project and Black History Month, Nacala shows how black joy is essential for liberation. Like Fine Wine, Black Joy Over Time: The Necessity of Black Joy Narratives to Black Liberation, is an original documentary featuring interviews and stories of black elders sharing their sources of joy. Thank you Nacala for your important work and for using your gifts to lift others, tell stories and honor the magic of Black and Brown people.

Like Fine Wine, Black Joy Over Time: The Necessity of Black Joy Narratives to Black Liberation

by Nacala Ayele, Founder of Joyful Practices

As a Joy Actualization Coach for Black, Indigenous and People of Color, I define joy as the internal sense of wellbeing, satisfaction and contentment that is independent of external circumstances. For Black People, the necessity of prioritizing joy can be a hard sell. How are we supposed to be joyful in the face of viral Black death, police murders, racial, health, educational and economic disparities that are driven by a white supremacist system, and the many other ways that the length and quality of our lives are diminished by white supremacy? During Black History month, we do deep dives into historical trauma, tragedy and oppression, all of which make it hard to consider joy as something that should be prioritized, much less as a tool for liberation.

A Case for Joy

Joy is essential for black liberation because it offers a source of strength, hope and resilience in the face of injustice. It provides a way for Black People to express emotions that are often silenced in oppressive systems and gives people the internal resource to keep fighting for their dignity and humanity no matter what form oppression may take. In addition, joy can be used as a tool for resistance and transformation – inspiring others through uplifting acts of solidarity, celebrating victories (even small ones), and creating safe spaces where authentic expressions of happiness are shared.

Joy is quite more than an emotion – it is a powerful political act that signals to the world that Black People have the power and nearly supernatural resilience to choose freedom even in the face of systemic domination and oppression.

Happiness researchers like Shawn Achor who wrote The Happiness Advantage, say that happy brains are 31% more productive, 37% better at sales and three times more creative than brains that are negative, neutral, or stressed. How does this translate to liberation? It tells us that in the fight for liberation and social justice, centering our joy fortifies us with more tools to advance our work, sustain ourselves and sustain each other.

To this end, the idea for Like Fine Wine, Black Joy Over Time, was born. I wanted to create a collection of narratives that speak to our joy. Not just hopes for a better future, but a deep exploration of how Black community members practiced joy back in the day and how those Elders continue to practice joy today. Joy for our people is not just possible, but it has happened, it still happens and in ever-increasing amounts will continue to grow.

Why Elders and Joy?

Black Elders are magical! In my community their role is extremely important. More than age, it is about the ways a person has contributed to their community. The ways they have modeled personal growth, care for the collective community, self-care and kindness, well-being, accountability for their mistakes, thought partnership and thought leadership.

Elders are hilarious! They know how to laugh at themselves and how to help you laugh at yourself too. They provide historical perspective and context. They understand the long game. They are able to clearly connect the struggles of today to the struggles of yesterday. They have endured and come through struggles with a grounded perspective that helps us to contextualize the struggles and opportunities we are presented with today. The cherished Elders in my community continue to be sources of learning, inspiration and support for me even in my 40’s.

The Project

Like Fine Wine Black Joy Over Time is a filmed collection of joy narratives told by Seattle based Black Elders. The project asks the Elders to share the ways they have and continue to experience joy in their lives and what advice they would give to community members about joy.

This project blesses the local Black community with an inside look at not only the stories of our Elders and their joy in times past, but also with beautiful recollections of Seattle from as far back as the 1950’s. This project is an unapologetic celebration of Black JOY. It is sweet and beautiful, inspiring, and delicious. It is a peek into the backstories of some of Black Seattle’s favorite Superheroes, our Elders.

In the Inaugural edition of Like Fine Wine, Black Joy Over Time, we get to sit at the feet of Baba Khalfani Mwamba. Professor at the University of Washington's School of Social Work and founder of Mshenga A Babu (Message From The Ancestors) Rhythm Ensemble. Brother Khalfani speaks about the role that Black Positive Communication plays in his joy cultivation practice, and how it can help you build up yours too. His current projects include work in partnership with NW Tap Connection and the African language Library. You can support NW Tap by making a donation on their website. Donations of books, manuscripts and media on the topics of African, African-American and African Diasporic history and African Languages are also welcome.

In addition to the filmed joy narratives, Like Fine Wine, Black Joy Over Time offers opportunities for the community to reflect on their own joy practices and joy plans. There are even opportunities to support the work that each of the Elders are doing locally and globally. Be sure to join the joy conversations with Joyful Practices on Facebook at and @nacala_ayele on Instagram.

  • Watch the Black History Month edition of Like Fine Wine, Black Joy Over Time Saturday, February 25th from 3:00-5:00 p.m. PST.

  • It will stream live on Facebook from the Joyful Practices page:

  • A question and answer session will immediately follow the streaming of Khalfani Mwamba’s joy narrative.

  • Mark your calendars to catch the joyful accounts of Dr. Marcia Tate Arunga in March, Ms. LueRachelle Brim-Atkins in April and Dr. Joye Hardiman in May. Find out more about Joy Actualization Coaching at

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