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Cuesta Library Virtual Book Club: Words of Change: Feb 2023: Celebrating Black Joy

Cuesta Library Virtual Book Club: Words of Change


We're excited to host a panel of local leaders to discuss Black Joy: its meaning, expression, and celebration. Everyone is welcome! Join the discussion Wednesday, February 8 at 12:00 noon on Zoom at

The Black Joy Project

9 images of smiling Black people; one labeled Rest in Power 1977-2015; banner @THE BLACK JOY PROJECT

The Black Joy Project was founded by Kleaver Cruz in 2015. He writes: "I decided that my Social media timelines needed some smiles amidst the sharing of important information, thoughts, art, photos and videos that can be upsetting and at its worst depressing and traumatizing. I posted a picture of my mom smiling and asked for others to post their #BlackJoy moments. I then decided to take on a 30-day personal challenge (that I kept to myself) to share photos of Black joy. After a few weeks and a couple of moving responses, it seemed right to make this a regular installation and share it more openly. It was then that The Black Joy Project was formally born. It has been a little over 5 years now of traveling across the African Diaspora to understand what Black joy means to Black people around the world, how it can be a source of healing, community building and ultimately a contribution to revolutionary practices that will determine global Black liberation" (Image courtesy of Kleaver Cruz at The Black Joy Project)

More about Black Joy

Social media

The Black Joy Project page on Instagram is where the movement began. 

The thread Videos of Black People Laughing, posted by Kaylaa Robinson, went viral with over a million views. 


This video [9:20] from The Root explores the concept of Black Joy and includes a brief conversation with Kleaver Cruz. It's an excellent introduction to the subject. 

Virtual Book Club Spring 2023

Meet the Panelists

Erica A. Stewart, San Luis Obispo Mayor

Photo credit: CalPoly Magazine

Mayor Stewart writes: "I am a longtime resident of San Luis Obispo, beginning with my time studying at Cal Poly in 1990. After earning a master’s degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco, my family returned to San Luis Obispo to put down roots. As my husband, Shay, and I have raised our family here, my connection to the community deepens. My volunteerism, philanthropy, and career choices have been focused on education, diversity, homeless issues, growth for women and girls, small-business success, and economic vitality."

Darius Jones, Cuesta Student Body President/Student Trustee

In addition to serving as the President of the Associated Students at Cuesta College, Darius is active in local and state leadership. His roles include Director of Legislative Affairs for the Student Senate of California Community Colleges and Social Media Marketing Intern for the San Luis Obispo mayor.

Christina Sholars, Black Academic Excellence Center Coordinator, Cal Poly SLO

Christina has served in multiple roles at Cuesta College and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She started as a Cuesta Cougar Ambassador in 2018 and was a vital member of the Financial Aid team for several years. Transitioning to Cal Poly in 2021, she initially coordinated the Cal Poly Scholars program before advancing to her current position, where she "is charged with creating a community for Black, African American, and African diaspora students where they are connected and empowered to succeed."  

Ken Parish, Chaplain, New Light Missionary Baptist Church

Photo credit: SLO Tribune, 2021

Carrying on the legacy of his parents, Ken Parish has served for the last 14 years as Chaplain of the New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Paso Robles. Previously, he was a chaplain at several California correctional facilities where he "served the emotional and spiritual needs of incarcerated adults and youth." He is a founder of the non-profit organization Faith, Hope and Love (FHL) that "focuses on preventing incarceration by supporting veterans, homeless people, and other vulnerable populations in the North County." (Kassabian). 

And with pre-recorded responses from Lury Norris Cooper, teacher and artist

Photo credit: Studios on the Park

Biographical note from "Lury grew up in Los Angeles, CA and has been a practicing artist for 10 years. Pastels, paint, charcoal and pencil are her chosen mediums. People and pets have consistently been her subject of choice. She studied and worked from 2014 to 2017 at the Bay Area Classical Artist's Atelier in the San Francisco area and now resides in San Luis Obispo county in California."

Lury is teaching at the time of the panel discussion, so she pre-recorded her responses to the questions. Here's the recording