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The importance of a young man experiencing black excellence

For Black History Month, we're exploring history and identity through the lens of joy. Black joy is the ability to love and celebrate black people and culture, despite the world dictating otherwise. Black joy is liberation.

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I had the honor of going to Washington last year for the National Summit on Teacher Diversity. I sat on a panel with three or four other students, and I shared my story of being a student in a public school district who had not had an African American male teacher until ninth grade.

For the panel, I wore a bright red tie and a blue suit. This was the first suit I had ever had. My parents had bought it at Macy's; got it altered for me; made sure I had the right tie, shoes, and socks to match. Right before I took my seat on the panel, a black male educator fixed my tie. He pulled it up a little more and fixed the knot. The guy was like, "Young man, can I fix your tie for you?" He looked out for me, making sure I was ready to go up and represent and show black excellence, not just through my words but through my appearance as well.

When I walked on stage, I looked out at the audience and I thought: "Oh my gosh! There are so many amazing people here." I was very proud to see so many black, highly educated people. That was by far my favorite black joy moment, because it was an opportunity to be in a room filled with black excellence.

As we sat on the panel, the audience just looked at us, smiled at us, and clapped each time we said something that caught their attention.  As I walked off the stage, so many people came up to me to say, "Hey, we want to work with you on this"; "Here's an opportunity to serve"; "Email us so we can stay connected. I would love to be your mentor"; or "Very good job, young man. We should definitely speak."

As I left, I was on cloud nine.

Share your Black Joy story: We want to hear from you. Click here for the details on how to share your story about Black Joy and read more stories from around Philadelphia.