The holidays are a joyous time for celebration and reconnection, yet many of us- myself included- are just counting down the days to some much deserved time off. How are we supposed to lead the energy transition while feeling so depleted? Often this sparks conversations about self-care, the importance of setting boundaries and taking breaks but sometimes that just feels like a loss of momentum. It feels like something is missing.
It’s joy. Joy gives us the energy for change.
But during a season where the term ‘joy’ seems simply overused to further materialistic capitalism, it can be difficult to identify ways to channel joy into the work needed to combat the worst of climate change impacts. Do we need to feel like we’re in a constant state of suffering to feel like we’ve given it our all? And if so, is that really any way to introduce the movement to others? To be honest, I don’t know if I want to hang out with angry people all day.
In reflecting on some of the most notable social movements over the generations, music is always a constant, and notably- one of the first things to be banned in authoritarian regimes. “What dictators know is that joy has a propulsive force, and that anything that gathers and channels that energy threatens to upend the rigid control of a population.” noted Ingrid Fetell Lee in a piece entitled Joy is an Act of Resistance.
Let’s start with re-defining joy. It is often noted that joy is in itself an act of resistance. Singing and dancing in the face of oppressive structures lessens their power and contrasts their control. It demonstrates that we are powerful, unbreakable and will always retain agency over ourselves and our movement. Collective joy is even more powerful as it has the ability to truly unite us, even if just for a moment.
People of color have been doing this for centuries. In New Orleans, it started in Congo Square and has grown to Second Line Sundays. It’s why the first Mardi Gras after Katrina was so important. After the past couple of years, we need to celebrate and practice joy as a form of resistance in the face of oppression as a way to manifest abundance in an environment filled with scarcity and fear.
I read a story recently where Holocost survivor, Elie Wiesel recalled a memory from Auschwitz where a fellow prisoner traded his daily bread rationings for materials to create a makeshift menorah. Mr. Wiesel asked, “Hanukkah in Auschwitz?” And the man replied, “Especially in Auschwitz.”
This holiday season, practice self-care but also prioritize genuine celebrations that create joy for strength, for hope and as an act of protest in times of struggle. While our struggles may not be the same, we have so much to learn from those that came before us. Let joy be our energy for change.
In Defiant Celebration,
About the Author
Jessica Hendricks brings over seven years of policy experience to the Alliance from a community organizing perspective, serving Environmental Justice communities by addressing environmental health concerns, around the country and internationally through citizen science projects.
After developing multiple successful projects with communities in states like Idaho, Wyoming, Arkansas and Pennsylvania, Jessica landed in New Orleans focused on building statewide momentum for more equitable and affordable energy policy in Louisiana. Since joining the Alliance, Jessica has engaged with the Louisiana Public Service Commission on issues including Net Metering, Energy Efficiency and was successful in negotiating the lowest rates in the Country for Entergy Louisiana customers.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Jessica has a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science, a passion for community empowerment and civic engagement, an insatiable love for international travel and spends off time geeking out to New Orleans’ rich and quirky history.