Happy Black History Year, with concentrated Black juice in February! For this month as we celebrate various Black folks, their lives and contributions, I decided to celebrate the movement and concept of the Carefree Black Girl. An idea that to me, symbolizes the journey of finding yourself and being that person wholly and unapologetically. I grew into this and continue to get inspired by various Black women. Thus, for the next weeks I will be sharing stories of a few Black women that have been an embodiment of the CBG. And as an Afrikan woman, I think it is time we begin to demystify the notion that being carefree is foreign.
Meet Joy (who some people including myself know as Kanyana) raised in Rwanda. She is a current graduate student at University of Massachusetts Boston pursuing a degree in international relations. Her interests range from fantasy fiction to international political economic issues and theories to integrated and holistic medicine amongst other things.
This is our conversation with Kanyana.
What does being carefree mean to you? What is its importance to you as a young Afrikan woman?
Personally, I would define being carefree as having untethered, unbridled joy that comes from within oneself. I think being carefree is important because it’s not usually a characteristic that is encouraged where we come from. When I received the invitation to be part of this forum, I started racking my brain for a Kinyarwanda word that is synonymous with carefree. I was kind of saddened by the fact that I could not think of anything beyond “gukubagana” (being stubborn) which obviously has negative connotations. Growing up I was constantly told that as a girl, I could not do ABC because people might think XYZ. Being carefree is important because I think it gives us as a generation the tools to demolish these oppressive notions as it is our duty to do so.
Tell us about your journey that led to being carefree.
I don’t know if I would call it a journey per se because I honestly never thought about it. I never sat down and said to myself “okay, it’s time to pursue being carefree.” I think it was more of a myriad of baby steps that led to me understanding that I just can’t live by other people’s standards. Not only is it impossible in the sense that everyone has different opinions on different topics but also, that is really no way to live. Initially though, I think it started with the realization that the people who truly care about me wish for me to be happy more than anything else, and they recognize that how I achieve that should be completely up to me.
Additionally, I don’t believe carefreeness is something that you achieve at one point and retain forever like some level of candy crush. I think it’s something you have to actively incorporate in your lifestyle. For example, I have moments every now and then when I catch myself comparing some aspect of myself to another girl. In those moments, I check myself the same way I would check someone else if I heard them say something that did not rub me the right way. If you check other people but not yourself, itis hypocritical and we don’t ride that wave.
In what ways do you practice being carefree on a daily?
Anyone who knows me knows that there are a couple of things I don’t do half-heartedly. I laugh really LOUD. My laugh actually borders on a roar sometimes. I got in so much trouble because of this in high school and my grandmother and I constantly argued about it when I was a teenager. The only other person that laughed as loud as I did was my father and she was obviously “ashamed” on my behalf for laughing as loud as the man of the house. Secondly, I have had people tell me that I take my dancing way too seriously. I get in the ZONE when I dance. It just be like that and there’s no explaining it!
What would you tell younger you (13yr old you or 16yr old you)?
This is going to sound corny but I would probably tell her “it gets better.” My teenage years were a mixture of equal parts- wildness, pain, happiness and brokenness. Looking back, I realize that I carried a lot of unprocessed pain and ended up in friendships and “situationships” where I didn’t know how to act. Additionally, in high school I got really sick and as person who had always been athletic, this took a toll on me both physically and mentally. It took a really long time to recover from this because I felt like I lost part of myself when I lost my fitness. It was almost like being stuck in a body that I knew wasn’t my own. So, my advice to 13 or 16-year-old me would be “it gets better.”
Can you share a little with us on your practice for yoga and whether it is connected to your Carefree Blackness?
My yoga practice has definitely contributed to my “carefreeness” while simultaneously humbling me. I always knew that “we’re all different in our own special ways” and all that good stuff but it wasn’t until I started doing yoga that this was truly demonstrated to me. Yoga has shown me the extent to which we really are different as individuals. You and I could practice the exact same pose for 30 days and come progress-check-time we’d most likely have completely different results. I have learned that I can’t compare myself to the next yogi regardless of how long I have been practicing. It’s a personal spiritual experience and the most important thing to me is to have fun with it. I set goals for myself and when I achieve them I’m grateful to my body – this way the only person I’m comparing myself to is me. This is something I embody in my carefree Blackness as well.