Throughout February, I’m highlighting resources around Black Joy, Black Love, and Black Resistance. We have already made it 10 days into our challenge, and I hope you have had a chance to check out and enjoy the first set of resources from last week. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to join me in this challenge to thoughtfully reflect and engage for the next 20 days. It’s not too late!
Choose from the resources I’ve gathered and please feel free to email me other resource suggestions. Share your participation on social with the hashtag #BlackLoveBlackJoy.
This week, our focus is on Black Love.
Black Love is particularly important to me, because I’m a love child—I was born on Valentine’s Day and I was so blessed to see my parents’ love as I grew up. When I show romantic love to my husband (this year we celebrate our 20th anniversary) I’m living the kind of love that was modeled for me.
Black Love is the love that I saw, the love that I have, and it’s also my love for my children. It’s the love I have for my daughter, who’s going to college this fall, having been accepted to all six of her early action schools. It seems like just yesterday when we walked the stage at my law school graduation together. Black Love is the love I have for my son, who was diagnosed with cancer nearly 10 years ago and is now an inquisitive, thoughtful, and emotionally intelligent almost 11-year-old.
Black Love is not limited to just romantic love, and that’s what I want to talk about today. It encompasses everything from the love we have for our families, our pets, and our friends, to (in my opinion) the most important type, self-love.
Barack and Michelle Obama
I love Black lawyers. They play a crucial role in changing the world. Being a Black lawyer is an important part of who I am and is an integral part of the spectrum of how I feel about Black Love.
This is why we’re starting with Michelle and Barack Obama as examples of Black Love in action. It made such an impact having the Obamas in the White House and seeing them raise their family together. There have been far too few Black families in the national spotlight that we could look to and emulate. The love between them is palpable and truly inspiring. Every single time I saw a video of President Obama flirting with his First Lady, I was reminded that despite his position as the leader of the free world, his love for her remained constant.
There’s so little media, messaging, and history about loving yourself… which is exactly why it should be a priority and a practice. This internal reflection of Black Love is key. Here are some quotes from Black women about self-love to reflect on. We also found a guide to daily self-care practices for Black men. In addition to resources for Black adults, here is a list of 15 books for Black children that are all about self-love. These books “promote self-love, confidence, and self-awareness.”
Lizzo- 2 Be Loved and Love, Lizzo (HBO)
Lizzo just won a Grammy for her album About Damn Time. In her speech, Lizzo dedicated her award to Prince and thanked Beyonce for how she inspired her when she first saw her in concert, as a 5th grader.
Lizzo opens her album with “a very special message from Lizzo,” and this excerpt encapsulates part of what I believe matters most about Black Love.
“These are songs about love
Whether it’s sеlf-love, love for your family, love for your friеnds
Or love for a significant other
I really believe that love for one’s self and for others is what this world needs to be a better place
If you can take just the time to give a little love to yourself every single day
Treat yourself with respect
Treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated
And then treat somebody else with that same love and respect?
That expands, that grows.”
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes were Watching God
This book holds a special place in my heart and is one of my all-time favorites. When I read about Janie Crawford and her relationships, it changed me. The story is about exploring the many facets of love—both the good and the complicated. It offered me a way to think about the different societal influences and challenges and how they impact the ways Black people can experience love.
The Embrace is a bronze sculpture commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. It was recently unveiled in Boston, MA.
The sculpture references the embrace that the couple shared after Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In fact, many of the details from the original image from 1964 are mirrored in the sculpture.
There has been some controversy around the sculpture, but for me, I think it’s more important to remember that it is all about the Kings, how much they loved each other, and how that connection and commitment was critical to their impact. Regardless of your opinions about it, what you see represented in the sculpture is what led to them changing the world… Their Black Love changed the world.
- “To love well is the task in all meaningful relationships, not just romantic bonds.”
- “To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients – care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.”
- “One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others.”
Finally, listen to this conversation on Belonging Through Connection, Connecting Through Love: Oneself, the Other, and the Earth between bell hooks and john a. powell.
Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis
Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were trailblazing African American actors, directors, writers, and activists. Despite having a volatile relationship at times, they professed their love in what to me, was a multi-faceted, and sometimes non-traditional way.
The New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts has a seven series collection of nearly 180 boxes with material dating from 1932-2015. This article chronicles some of the highlights of their shared history. One of my favorite portrayals of them together as a couple is in Spike Lee’s movie, Jungle Fever because of the nuances of their relationship and their love for their child.
I love this celebration of Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher, who hold the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest marriage (86 years). They left behind 5 children, 10 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild, as of January 2022.
In 2010, the Fishers did a Q&A on Twitter where they answered relationship questions such as: “You got married very young – how did u both manage to grow as individuals yet not grow apart as a couple?”
Their reply? “Everyone who plants a seed & harvests the crop celebrates together” We are individuals, but accomplish more together.”
This article from Essence asked 10 everyday couples from around the country about what Black Love meant to them. Read this!!!
Reflecting on the expression and experience of love among Black people during slavery, it is evident that love was weaponized as a tool of oppression. Enslaved Black people were denied the ability to fully express their love and affection towards one another, as it was seen as a threat to the power dynamic imposed by their captors.
When my daughter was 4 or 5, she and I visited North Carolina. While there, we went to visit a plantation—and we’d just missed the group tour. One of the men who worked there offered to take us on a private tour. As we were walking along, the man pointed out some bricks in a wall that had small markings on them. As we looked closer he explained that the small marks in the bricks were the fingerprints of little children who had been enslaved and were tasked with forming bricks. As my daughter put her hands up to those fingerprints, I felt this overwhelming love for her. I could feel the spirits of my people, our ancestors, and thought about the love they must have had for one another, even under those cruel circumstances. They loved one another as much as they could, when they could.
I remember reading Beloved by Toni Morrison and thinking, damn, this is a depth of love I’ve never known. The love of a parent choosing to take their child’s life rather than have them face the horrors of slavery, is a testament to the immense depth and complexity of what Black Love was, is, and can be. Beloved is an expression of both Black Love and Black Resistance, which brings us to next week’s topic.
In the meantime, here are some extra resources about Black Love:
- This article on the resilience of Black Love in Black history
- I’m not a pet owner, but I understand that people love the hell out of their pets. I love seeing this IG account in my feed. It features Black people and their pets—it makes me feel so happy.
- Here is a list of romantic movies about Black Love (my favorites from the list are Just Wright and Boomerang)
- Black Men Smile is a clothing line that reminds me of Black Love + Black Joy
PS: Speaking of Black Love, did you know that Idris Elba told me he loves me?