Peter Harris is interested in knowing how Black men define happiness. Says Harris, “Black men were brought to America to make others happy and then die! Thomas Jefferson didn’t have Black men in mind when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. A happy Black man, given our American journey, is the ultimate avant garde. . .”
So Harris, a self described African American cultural worker, has assembled a group of Black men to be interviewed on video at a shoot at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 19th. This is the first in a series of sessions. He chose June 19 because it’s the day before Father’s Day and it’s Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth honors June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free – two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863.
Harris, whose cultural work has explored the lives of African American men since the 1970s, encourages his participants to speak candidly, creatively and spontaneously about their ‘pursuit of happiness’ and the importance of joy in their lives. Given that it’s Father’s Day weekend, father-son duos will also be featured. “I’m interested in hearing how Black men, in their own words, define happiness, discuss happiness, and experience happiness for the sheer joy of it, and because I believe their testimony will unleash a wave of spiritual satisfaction that could be a healing ingredient for all our lives”, says Harris.
The Black Man of Happiness is both a theme and a calling for Harris. Since the 1970s, he has published poetry, essays, and fiction in a wide range of national publications; worked as a publisher, journalist, editor and broadcaster; and been an educator, and workshop leader for adults and adolescents addressing this theme. The video shoot is designed to create what Harris calls, an “Oral History of Happiness through personal testimony, memories, dreams, visions, and a kaleidoscopic vocabulary about the ‘pursuit of happiness.’”
I want to find out what makes Black men happy, pure and simple,” Harris says. “I want to explore the transformational potential of Black men ferociously and publicly living their joy, to contribute to an era of (self) love, peace, harmony, and imagination, to foster individuality over conformity, to compose Black make VoiceMusic out of virtuoso solos, and to identify the difference between being happy and happy-go-lucky.”
To learn more or to participate in future sessions contact Peter Harris at [email protected]