One of the most memorable sociology papers I wrote while studying at the University of San Francisco was on the Disappearance of Black Love. The paper was largely influenced by the percentage of Black men who chose to date and marry outside our Black race and the data related to the dismantling of Black families and communities due to mass incarceration, drugs, violence, poverty and other societal woes impacting African American people more than other groups in the U.S.
The weeks spent on researching the subject of Black love were joyful and informative, yet heartbreaking. Certain topics remained heavy on my mind long after the paper was due. The disappearance piece was showing up in the magazines I read, on every TV show I watched and featured in every Black movie on my top ten list during the early 2000s. Many of my favorite celebrities and professional male athletes were proving this “disappearance” of Black love to be true every time I looked around. The results of the project made me super sad, bitter and more hopeless about what this information meant for my happily ever after. Will I have to settle for a guy that doesn’t measure up? Should I start searching for a mate outside of my race too? Will I be alone for the rest of my life because there just aren’t enough good Black men to go around?
Thank goodness my faith was restored by the positive and loving culture I cultivated around me in everyday life. Through my host of male cousins that intimately refer to me as “Queen Leen,” to the friends, roommates and college classmates that discussed this topic with me at length over soul food Sunday dinners and NBA All-Star weekends. Black love became believable again for me through the first albums released by Jill Scott, India Arie, Lauren Hill, Carl Thomas, Lyfe Jennings and Erykah Badu. These artists were creating conscious, soulful and lyrically vulnerable songs that echoed the reality of the struggles surrounding Black love, but reassured us that all would ultimately be alright. Books like Sista Souljah’s Coldest Winter Ever, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and anything written by the beloved Dr. Maya Angelou also provided inspiration. There are also couples like Ozzie and Rudy Davis, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, Magic and Cookie Johnson that show examples of lasting love and families prevailing gracefully.
Silena's cousins (at their Wakanda Forever themed 20th wedding anniversary) and the Obamas as shining examples of Black family love
Through time, failed and loving relationships and just plain living, I discovered that Black love is more than just finding my Black King and going from me to we. I’ve learned that being compassionate to others and spreading joy in community are my version of Black Love. Though I long for a life partner that will some day celebrate all of me (especially the me that shows up when the Niners or Warriors lose a game), I know that real Black love is everywhere I am.
Through my faith, my devotion to community, to the work with youth, to our stories of triumph and our rich, dark history, I embody Black Love. I realize that when I celebrate culture out loud: the intelligent, beautiful, loyal, generous, legends, the pride, resilience and joyfulness that Black love represents, Black love becomes a part of my mind, body, soul and spirit… and it will never disappear.