Inside VSCO’s celebration of Black joy

“Black joy matters, thinking about wellness for Black people in general matters,” said VSCO’s Shavone Charles.

Image via VSCO's blog.
Image via VSCO's blog.

Campaign: Black Joy Matters
Company: VSCO
Duration: Summer 2020

In July, photo-editing app VSCO released a photo and video series celebrating Black joy. A combination of commissioned posts and submissions from users, the collection’s goal was to create, share, capture and archive Black joy through video and photo self-portraits.  

This year has seen an abundance of Black pain and grief in the news, with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, among far too many others. 

“It’s been so toxic, as a Black woman in tech, as a Black woman in America,” said Shavone Charles, VSCO’s director of communications and creative partnerships. “You feel overwhelmed and drowned in trauma and sadness.” 

But while significant and important, these emotions don’t comprise her whole experience. 

“Black joy matters, thinking about wellness for Black people in general matters,” Charles said.

The idea for the campaign took hold in late spring, as protests for racial justice took place across the country. Even before that, however, Charles had been thinking of a way to celebrate the Black joy and the summer experience. 

After Floyd’s death, the mission felt even more urgent. 

“Yes, our lives matter, but we need to be allowed to just be human beings and be happy,” Charles said.

From the beginning, the aim of the campaign was to spotlight a variety of Black voices from across the diaspora as well as create a sense of community. Prior to the campaign’s launch on July 16, VSCO partnered with a number of media outlets, including The New York Times and Refinery29’s Unbothered, to bring attention to the initiative.

For the app itself, VSCO’s curation team built a custom carousel to feature videos and images published as part of the series. In addition to partnering with a number of Black professionals and creatives, the company sent out a call-to-action, urging users from around the world to submit their own videos and photographs. 

#BlackJoyMatters generated 19 earned media placements, including coverage in  Refinery29 Unbothered, Teen Vogue, Essence, Forbes and Fortune.

VSCO received thousands of photos and videos from its community, including submissions from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Jamaica, among other countries. The responses on social media were overwhelmingly positive.

Internally, support was strong, too. Unlike many brand initiatives in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Black Joy Matters felt like a continuation of VSCO’s mission to spotlight Black voices, Charles said. 

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