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Thousands crowd downtown Oakland for Black Joy Parade festivities

Thousands crowd downtown Oakland for Black Joy Parade
Thousands crowd downtown Oakland for Black Joy Parade 03:18

OAKLAND -- Tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets of Oakland Sunday, not to protest or express anger but to celebrate the happiness and joy of being Black.  

In 2018, a pair of Oakland women, Elisha Greenwell and Amber Lester, had the idea to bring some joy to the often turbulent streets of Oakland and they wanted an event that would bring the same positive energy as San Francisco's Pride Parade. That's how the Black Joy Parade began.

"They just started getting together with the community, knocking on doors, trying to see if this is something the community wanted. Obviously, it was," said parade director Elycia Knight.

Now, an event that first drew about 1,000 people has grown to attract tens of thousands, with people coming from all over the Bay Area to celebrate the "hyper-positive event."

"We also want to come together and show that there's joy in being Black," Knight said. "And we show off and we show our stuff  and we just march down the street joyful."

At this parade, there were no protest signs, no politics it was just for fun. Parade Grand Marshal, Bay Area rapper and entrepreneur, Mistah F.A.B., explained in the words of a poet how his people's joy can coexist with their struggle.

"One thing about us, the sun-kissed people, we find joy in the darkest moments," he said. "We find bright spots. We've always learned how to -- not so much grieve in our pain to the agony of woes -- but we will dance it away, we will laugh it away, we will sing it away.  And to be able to have forms of entertainment and excitement without ignoring pain is a beautiful thing.  So, the joy in this is we're here for the sole purpose of joy and no greater feeling."

More than 130 groups joined the procession down Franklin Street, each expressing their joy in a different way.

For Emani White, it comes when he puts on a pair of roller skates.

"Black joy is literally life," he said. "It's like essence that shines out of me and flows through me. So, if I'm able to skate and live --and I actually walk better on my skates than I do on my feet -- so, if I'm able to do both, why not? Black joy! I love it!"

Debbie Hicks drove in from Antioch with her husband and two sons and said she finds her joy in family.

"We all getting along taking a day, a time, to just celebrate kindness, happiness, being together and loving on each other, all day," she said.

Dawn Sibley didn't have to define Black joy. She was Black joy as she hugged a young boy standing next to her.

"Oh it means everything!" Sibley said. "This is us! I just told this baby today, everybody's your mama down here today! That's how the village does it! Yeah!"

There are plenty of serious issues that the Black community in Oakland must face every day but, on this day in The Town, it was all about joy. In the words of Mistah F.A.B.:  "no greater feeling."

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