Celebrating Juneteenth: Sarai Payne

In celebration of Juneteenth, We Are Memphis is focusing on sharing stories from our Black community. While the holiday commemorates freedom, for so many Black Memphians (and Black communities across the country), it’s about so much more! With the many stories and perspectives to share, we’ve sat down with the city’s favorite creatives, influencers, civic leaders, and more to highlight their stories of freedom of expression, joy, and living unapologetically.

Want to get in on the conversation? Share your story with us! Use #bringyoursoul and #wearememphis. We’ll be reposting stories throughout the month!

You may remember the interview we did with Sarai on the Keep Blooming GARMENTS collection! Click here to check it out!

Sarai Payne

When you think of the phrase “Black joy,” what does that mean to you? How do you look for moments of joy in your daily life?

“Black Joy” to me means being happy unapologetically as a black person without worrying what someone else may think or perceive how I choose to be happy and express myself. Black joy can be me being happy in any form, such as me wearing a bonnet :), feeling like I’m the shit without worrying how someone may interpret it.

Thinking about the community around you, how do they give you joy or help you pursue your own?

They motivate me, seeing people make a way out of no way and being happy with what they have always put things into perspective for me and motivates me to find ways of happiness. Seeing others happy always makes me happy.

Think about the thing, people, or Memphis-related place that brings you the most joy or allows you to be who you are.

My family Unapologetic. brings me joy, I love them folks mane lol like forreals. My blood family also brings me joy as well. Being able to be myself around them does that for me, I don’t have to apologize for being who I am, or shrink myself to be a certain way and I love it.

How does Memphis (think the city, the community, the places here that you find the most peace) allow you to express yourself?

The places I frequent actually value that you come as you are. I truly find peace in communities where they are accepting of every type of black person, and not the ones who fit a certain “mold”.

For the younger Black generations, what is your greatest piece of advice for living unapologetically or pursuing passions or joy?

I know it’s wayy easier said than done, but I will say stay away from people, or places who may make you feel like you being who you are is a problem. As long as it’s not harming anyone, be you. Also, this may sound morbid so I apologize, but do keep in mind that you’re going to die one day so you really shouldn’t care what someone thinks too much honestly.

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