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Editor's Letter: When Black People Express Their Happiness, Others Should Mind Their Business

TRIGGER WARNING: This Editor's Letter covers the sensitive subject of suicide. If you know that reading this could have a negative impact on you, please go back to the homepage

A few months ago, I had one of the most significant life experiences. I got on the train and I noticed a young man - he was wearing a green jacket and had blondish, brownish hair- the hair colour most people call mousy. I got off the train to change at Mile End and so did he and then I heard screams. 

A train had come but it wasn’t my train. As the train left, I realised that people were still screaming. And London Underground staff came rushing down and dragged out the body of that boy I had seen and sat near on the train. Even as I’m writing it - it feels like I’m writing a script for an episode of This Is Us (the best show on TV) and the main characters are about to learn a profound life lesson from a stranger. Yet, what I’m writing is real life. 

I saw someone that felt so worthless, so sad, that they didn’t think life was worth living. I left the station confused and I called my mum - she “I'm sorry you had to go through that.” My husband said the same thing and my two best friends said words to that effect when I told them in our WhatsApp group the following day. I didn’t understand why people were saying sorry to me. I was fine. I was still walking, living, breathing. 

Yet, in my mind, I wondered how could someone be so desperately unhappy that they didn’t think that their life was no longer worth living? Since early March, when the incident took place, I often thought how does one get to a place of being so unhappy, that you no longer believe that not one person would miss your presence? 

I have used this newsletter previously to say that blackness is about more than pain and perfection. I have used this newsletter to tell black women specifically that you don’t always have to be polite. But, this week, I want to use this newsletter to tell whoever is reading it, to do whatever you need to do to be happy. And, I am telling the black women who are reading this newsletter that being happy is revolutionary.