Full Body (Laughter)
By Kaya Fraser
Look me in the eyes when I laugh. Look at our Black bodies that aren’t just bodies and our Black laughter that will never know death, even when we do. Even if we do.
I’ve come to a conclusion. I’ve gotten an answer to a question no one asked me, but… a question that plagues me nonetheless.
I’ve come to a conclusion that calls into question the nature of the Black body.
You know… What it’s meant for. What it means to occupy a Black body. To own a Black body, if that’s something we can even do.
Looking for answers in the mainstream media means finding Black bodies amounting to hashtags. Black life ended by noose, or badge, or gun; in real life and on the silver screen. Black life deduced to Black death. And Blackness, reduced to loss, absence, grief, mourning.
Looking for answers will find you facing a narrative that is not wholly untrue, but one that feels… sorely undone.
In asking and pondering the nature of the Black body I came to a conclusion, like I said in the beginning.
And all I’ve got is empirical evidence, which to me, is just a fancy way of saying experience, and observations, and 21 years worth of living in my own Black body that I feel supports my claim more than statistics or news clippings could.
I have a phone with a camera that’s allowed me to time and time again answer this self-imposed question. And with it I’ve time and time again found that to be Black is to not only mourn. Or despair.
To be Black is to know joy. To know laughter.
Not despite or in protest to the systemic powers that be, but because knowing joy, knowing the effects of full body laughter in real time, is not something I’ve ever had to learn how to do. Does not take a backseat to my loathing the systemic powers that be.
Knowing to love and knowing to laugh and knowing how pleasant the most mundane of little things can be, is what I find to be a recurring experience in my albeit short lifetime. Has been like learning to crawl, then walk, then run. I don’t really recall ever learning how. Don’t recall not knowing how to either…
And I might be biased (I am). I just feel that there’s something special about the way a Black person expresses their laughter, their joy.
How the air in the room shifts, and for a second, everyone in that room is connected by someone telling a perfectly timed joke.
And the air in the room shifts because you can’t hear yourself think as laughter surrounds you, and for a moment the elation seems to pause time.
With full teeth and clutched stomachs, and legs that may or may not launch you across the room. Head thrown back, tears in your eyes, lips wobbling as you loudly or silently express what can’t be described as anything other than “giddy.” Palms and fingers grabbing hold of the nearest object or person. Labored breathing and rapidly beating chest.
Yes, we do know happiness.
In small victories like your 8 AM class being canceled and it being Saturday so your favorite anime has a new episode, and your favorite brand of milk is on sale at the grocery store and your roommate remembers your Starbucks order and your mom always knows just when to call…
The celebration of wins in my Black life does not have to be a feat worth commemoration or national holiday. Does not need to trend to be worth something. Does not need to be “worth” anything. Does not need to prove that it matters…
For several years now, I’ve been looking to mainstream media for Black representation that delves beyond the reenactment of the lives of my enslaved ancestors or Black leads who unfortunately do not make it out of the movie alive. Of course, I tune into verdicts where we hold our breath and hope that justice is served. And I too shiver in anger and resentment as the timeline brings me another Black life amounted to a mere hashtag. But it seems to me that Black life has grown synonymous with Black death and “Full Body (Laughter)” is a love song to my community to remind us of the little joys and fits of laughter we owe to ourselves. With only my phone camera, laptop, and albeit limited editing skills, I hope to present a piece that showcases the Black joy and happiness that we experience in everyday life.
Kaya Fraser is a first generation Guyanese-American born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She’s currently a junior at Howard University pursuing a degree in English. Fraser is actively involved in her school’s National English Honor Society as the chapter’s treasurer. She’s also a contributor to HER Campus and recently interned at the Hurston Wright Foundation. She hopes to explore the field and industry of writing from multiple perspectives.
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