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Celebrating The Joy of the Disinherited

Posted on
February 15, 2023

When I wrote the first pages of my book, The Joy of the Disinherited, a window had just opened in the American psyche, and possibly the world writ large. It was October 2020, four months after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Protests had escalated to a fever pitch with public outcries over racism in the United States erupting from Addis Ababa to Vancouver.

Seven months earlier, the World Health Organization had officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The future suddenly felt like a mirage, something we all wanted to believe we could see, but weren’t sure was really there. The only thing that felt certain in that state of dysphoria was the need for change.

That fall, journalist Jennifer A. Richeson wrote in The Atlantic that “acting fast is essential” because “the window for change will close quickly—it always has in the past.” And so, from October 2022 to October 2021 I acted fast – or as fast as I possibly could – to contribute something concrete and material while the window for change was propped open.

My contribution was my story. It was my attempt to tether the spiraling global call for progress and racial justice to a human story, my story. It was also a means to reconnect and go deeper into the mission of Hurdle Health–– advance mental health equity across racial lines. That year felt like all the time we had, a last chance to get it right. In that urgent window of change, I hoped to humanize the systems-level dialogue through anecdotes that showed how oppression skewed my family’s identity development and my own. I wrote it with the hope that I could offer a story that hadn’t been told—yet was worthy of being heard.

"I wrote it with the hope that I could offer a story that hadn’t been told—yet was worthy of being heard."

-Kevin Dedner

This month, I celebrated the one year anniversary of The Joy of the Disinherited’s publishing. Part of my celebration was a quiet, personal one. I celebrated the evolution of my own psyche in the writing of the book. It required nothing short of an honest exploration into my own toxic misbeliefs to grow into the person I am today.

But I’ve also celebrated in community with others, leaning into collaborations that will give new life to The Joy of the Disinherited. I am humbled by how the book landed. While sharing my story required a measure of vulnerability, I was heartened to see it resonate with people from all walks of life. With the hopes of continuing the dialogue of racial justice that began in 2020, I teamed up with award-winning journalist Stefanie Bryant to release a special podcast episode about the book featuring my longtime friend, Dr. Jeff Flanigan. In the episode, Jeff and I visit with Stefanie to discuss the release of a song that Jeff wrote and performed to honor the book. His song – The Story of the Disinherited – is sung in first person, and captures the book's essence.

I do believe that there has been a shift in our collective, human psyche since that window of change was propped open by the tragedies of 2020. The trauma of the pandemic and the vicarious racism experienced through the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans has left a lasting imprint on all of us. But through the continued sharing of the forgotten or suppressed stories of the oppressed, we are humanizing the change we fight for. In this way, we have the power to hold open this window for as long as it will take to restore the joy of the disinherited.

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