All around the country, the coronavirus pandemic has forced communities, educators, and families to come up with socially-distanced alternatives to the pomp and circumstance of traditional high-school graduation ceremonies. Last Saturday in Los Angeles, community members in the state’s 54th Assembly district organized a graduation parade — complete with gift bags and a fire truck — to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of high-school seniors from schools across the district.
Photographer Alexis Hunley was there:
Over the last two and a half months, I have been documenting the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on my neighborhood here in Los Angeles. Too often, published images of Black people focus solely on our pain, so I was particularly excited about this event because it was one of the moments in this project where I’ve been able to highlight Black joy.
Riding along the parade route was some of the most fun I’ve had in quite a while. Not because I was out of the house, but simply because I was surrounded by so much love and joy. Neighbors took time out of their day to decorate cars, which snaked through the streets of the 54th district. They honked horns and waved signs with giant grins and loud cheers. Students met us in their yards wearing their cap and gowns, beaming with pride as their families looked on lovingly. More than I realized, I needed those moments. I needed to be surrounded by Black people laughing and smiling and loving each other. I needed a reminder that we are more than our collective pain and suffering, and that we are fighting not only for justice, but for the freedom to live peacefully and joyously.