It’s the first day of Black History Month and while of course being black is something I am all year, there is something about this month and the increased focus that makes me reflect on my blackness and what it means. Growing up black in a predominantly white society there’s no escaping being conscious of your race and what it means. One of the aspects of life that the colour of your skin can play a part in the experiences you have, is romance. I’ve always embraced all cultures and ethnicities (especially when it comes to dating) but thoughts do cross my mind about meeting and being with a partner who is from the same background as myself.
The concept of black love is something that I’ve been exposed to from a very young age, from seeing my mother and father (when they were together) to watching black TV shows and films. But it’s not until recently I actually began to question what exactly Black Love means?
I don’t know about you but in this day and age whenever I want to get a deeper understanding of something my first step is to whip out my phone (I’m lying it was already in my hand) and google it. According to Urban Dictionary‘s top definition Black Love is…
- A spiritual journey that only people who are rich in melanin can experience.
- A love that is unconditional.
- A love that can build an empire.
- Monogamous and genuine in intent, this love can not be stopped.
- They have a big family that stay together because of black love.
- I want black love.
I always find Urban Dictionary definitions amusing but I still wanted to explore the concept more so I asked around. And do you know what I found out? Black Love means many things to many people.
Black Love is… Romance
For many, hearing the term Black Love evokes an image of the black power couple, Jada and Will (pre-entanglement), Bey & Jay (in Bonnie & Clyde) Michelle and Barack (there’s still at least one couple we can pin all our Black Love hopes on). As we all know relationships aren’t without their flaws but knowing each partner has the others back and who seem to be ride or die, is the ultimate symbol of Black Love. (While I’m writing this paragraph I have Erykah Badu’s Brown Skin playing in my head). Romantic Black Love (like all love) is complex and takes a huge amount of patience, understanding and communication but done right; Black Love truly is something special.
But Black Love is also so much more than just being in a black relationship.
Black Love is… Friendship
I grew up in a predominantly white area and so my formative years (during school hours anyway) were spent in the company of white people. I’ll be honest I don’t remember feeling completely out of place at the time but once I left school and started meeting a wider variety of people of colour, the realisation of what I’d been missing hit me! My black friendships offered me that feeling of being understood without having to say a word, of being accepted without having to explain myself, of being included and no longer feeling as though “other” was my middle name. I have amazing friendships with people from a variety of backgrounds but there is something so freeing about that sense of kinship I feel with my sistah’s and brotha’s.
Black Love is… Family
One of my favourite films growing up was Soul Food, a very entertaining depiction of the big black family brought to life on screen. Although there is a lot of family drama and I mean a helluva lot what I love most is that through it all they still come back together (that and the soundtrack). I don’t think I can adequately describe how it feels when I’m in the presence of the people who’ve known and loved me the longest. Who’ve celebrated me at my best but also loved me through my absolute worst. What an awesome feeling to know, these people will always be there no matter what, that there’s nothing you could ever do to make them stop loving you (even when you drive them to the edge of madness and they do the same to you). Personally I don’t know that there can be a deeper connection than that.
Black Love is… Community
It’s that feeling of excitement and joy when someone you don’t even know has done well. It’s that deep sense of hurt you feel when you see yet another black body being brutalised. It’s that overwhelming wish that one day we shall truly overcome, so that future generations of black children don’t have to feel how we’ve felt. It’s sensing the spirits of our ancestors and feeling at peace when we go “home”. It’s our shared history, our sense of pride, our need to seek each other out. Our instinct to acknowledge each other whether it be through a smile, a polite greeting or ‘the nod’. It’s our culture, our traditions, our soul, our rhythm and our blues!
Black Love is… Self Love
The most vital Black Love starts with loving yourself. For many of us especially those of us who grew up in predominantly white countries, we’ve most likely internalised the message that our skin, our hair, our features and even our names don’t belong. I was fortunate to constantly have the message that “black is beautiful” reinforced to me everyday of my life. Even so it took until the latter part of my teen years until I truly believed it. And unfortunately for some it takes even longer. We can never stop teaching ourselves to love the things we’ve been taught to hate, to embrace the things they made us believe were unattractive and to accept the things we’ve been told are wrong, as loving ourselves unconditionally is what makes us truly powerful!
However you view Black Love one thing we are as a people is deserving of receiving Black Love in each of it’s wonderful forms.