AYỌ: EMBODYING JOY
By Ayọ (fka Opal) Tometi
It’d be an understatement to say that this pandemic has been a time of reflection. The majority of the world was forced into a period of transformation. As humans we found ourselves attempting to figure out our way in this new world at times with trepidation and others with genuine curiosity. Discovering and experimenting with new ways of living better together. As someone who’s been knee deep in human rights work and speaking on some of the key issues of our generation, it felt like my work compounded. As painful and pivotal as this time has been it has led to some of my greatest insights.
During the pandemic, in the throes of mobilization and some public celebration of Black liberation movements, I saw up close and from afar the most beautiful, and most horrifying, aspects of humanity. From the 2020 election and January insurrection; to witnessing the miraculous healing of my uncle after he was burned on 80% of his body; from newborn babies to friends’ birthdays, saying goodbye to loved ones after cancer, suicide, or COVID-19—these moments show us who we are, and how we love. Despite it all, I am still living. Ayọ, my joy, is the sustained and grounding presence that has helped me know my worth. It is beyond anything anyone could ever say about me – beyond the color of my skin, class of the people I care about, or my gender. No label can ever capture the innate truth of who I am.