I first reached out to Joy Kay (the daughter of Melvin Charles) in the beginning of 2020 when I was searching for more information about the Black American Heritage flag and how I could contribute to making it more recognized and accessible to the Black American community, with this short interview I am hoping to come closer to that goal. These questions were answered in April of 2021
Firstly introduce yourself and talk about what you feel people should know about you before we start with the questions
“My name is Joy Charles-Kay, and I am the only child of the late Melvin Charles who was the co-creator of the Black American Heritage Flag. I am a wife (33 years), a mom of 2 adult children, and the Executive Director of a non-profit in New Jersey.”
What are some things you feel are important for people to know about your father that contributes to his legacy?
“In terms of my father’s legacy, it is important to know that he spent most of his adult life working to create and share this flag with Black Americans. He loved our Black history. He was excited about the changes that he saw for Blacks during his lifetime. He wanted us to be proud of who we are and how much we continue to overcome despite the setbacks caused by slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, etc. He simply wanted us to be proud of being Black American.”
What memories do you have about the flag and its usage from your childhood?
“As a five-year-old child, I remember my father working with Gleason Jackson on the flag in the basement of our house, and all the time and energy that he poured into this project. I remember how much he talked about the significance of every aspect of the flag. He wanted to make this flag his contribution to the civil rights movement.”
The most popular flag that people attribute to Black Americans besides the American flag is the Pan African Flag and the US flag with rbg colors, with that being said do you feel like there is a need for an official and recognized flag for Black Americans and if so why do you feel the Black American Heritage flag should be that?
“With all due respect to the other flags, the Black American Heritage Flag represents not only the struggles of Black Americans, but our successes. So often we focus on our difficulties, but this flag is a reminder that despite our problems, we have overcome so much. I was raised to be proud of our history collectively and my family history as well. With that said, this flag represents the pride that we have as strong, resilient people.”
How can people bring awareness to the flag and support any efforts
you are making towards having it be more recognized?
“My father would be overjoyed by the resurgence of interest in the flag! I am grateful to the cities of Springfield and Salem Massachusetts that have included the flag in their events for Black History Month and other cultural events. The book ‘The Rallying Point’ will be republished in early 2022. This is my father’s detailed account of his journey with the flag from the early years into the 1970s. We are on Facebook and Instagram @blackamericanheritageflag so please follow!” https://www.instagram.com/blackamericanheritageflag/ https://www.facebook.com/blackamericanheritageflag/
Is there anything you feel you haven’t discussed that you would like to speak on to close the interview?
I am grateful to everyone for their support and interest I the flag. My dad passed away in 2017, but he was able to do a PBS special about the flag which I believe was his gift to us. He would be thrilled with this support and I am honored to carry this forward in 2021.
https://www.pbs.org/video/803-black-american-heritage-flag-1datig/ click this link to see the PBS special about the Black American Heritage flag