Valentine’s Day is here – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here
What is Black love and what does it mean to you?
I know that for me, it has been a journey for me to fully understand. Growing up, I did not have the American dream of a nuclear family. I grew up with a single mom and with one of my grandmother’s sisters for a while. I did not have a stable male figure in my home and when there was one, he secluded himself to his online video games and focused more on his children from his first marriage than me.
Was it because I was the unwanted Black stepchild of this white man? Was this supposed to be what Black Love was? Is this what I truly deserved? From my hours of being alone and television being my only company at times, I knew there was something to strive for. Seeing a family with two parents and multiple children in a loving home where everyone is loved and respected. Yeah, 90s family sitcoms really help envision dreams. I thought Black Love was like Family Matters or Fresh Prince. Then I grew up a bit and thought deeper.
I realized more that there isn’t just one type of love, but many. In fact, there are seven types of love everyone should be acquainted with. I see Black love with my boyfriend. I see Black Love from my Black friends. I see Black Love from my culture that’s risen from all the trauma and struggle. I see Black love in people I have never met but see the power and influence it spreads to others. And most importantly, I see Black love in myself. Arguably, the hardest one for me to figure out.
For years, I saw myself as an outsider within my own community because I didn’t like the stereotypical “Black things” or like things that are commonly deemed as “white”. If I tried to follow along with trends, I felt inauthentic. I never felt validated as a Black person. At one point, I even thought because of my lighter complexion, I felt wrong to speak out on racial issues because of the privilege it gave me. Ultimately, I grew into myself and accepted feeling bad for what I wasn’t is not the best outlook. I began to embrace my differences and opened myself up to those who appreciated what I put out into the world.
In essence, Black Love to me is the most powerful force a Black person can have for themselves. It encourages you to be your best self and shows the strength you have for yourself. There’s no wrong method, but it does take some searching to find what truly matters to you.
To get another perspective of what Black Love is, I also asked my boyfriend about his thoughts. In his words:
“Black love is the only love that I know. I’ve seen so many toxic Black relationships within my community that it was hard not to believe that I wouldn’t end up in that position myself. I think Black culture throws around the term ‘baby mama/ baby daddy drama’ so often that it creates the stereotype that Black couples only know how to procreate and be irresponsible before they understand one another. Black women are the highest single parents by a landslide whether due to incarceration, a Black man not able to love a Black woman enough to stay, or by being an unofficial widow. With the amount of adversity the Black community faces, Black love proves to be more important for the couples who are able to overcome the challenges. To me, Black love means solidarity and showing it is possible for black people to love themselves and one another. I hope to have a love like my parents. The kind of love where they stand together through thick and thin.”
Both of us see Black Love through a different lens and were able to come together in our thinking. We both know media representation has made a huge impression on us, thinking we have to act a certain way because that’s what society deemed as okay. However, society is created through a white perspective so any commentary that could be made from that is based on gross stereotypes. That’s where the exaggerated tropes where everything bad that happens to Black people is because of them and not how poorly society treats them.
I know without him, I would not be the person I am today. He’s also helped me talk through my insecurities while also supporting my ambitions. While I’ve helped him come out of his shell by showing him there’s more than one way to portray yourself as a Black man without ridicule. Through our relationship, we are able to achieve the dreams that we have for ourselves in maintaining our vision of Black Love.
Illustrated through the recent portrayal in Malcolm & Marie, a simple love story can be hard to come by. Black couples don’t have to be put in constant torture porn situations in order for their love to be shown to a mass audience. We are capable of having a love that white people are easily granted in the film without all the pain and drama. Even though I mentioned earlier that Black culture is based on struggle, it doesn’t have to be the only defining feature of it. Black Love can easily be carefree for the hell of it. Having a simple media story of Black people being Black is one of the many things we are asking for. I hope I achieved this goal with my own personal story of growth and happiness. We all are entitled to a Black Love. I want that for all of us.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!