Black Love: A Conscious Collective
You’ve heard about it. You’ve seen it in movies. There’s even a television show that is literally called “Black Love.” But what is it? What does it mean? Why is it political? And why does the American Black community celebrate it So. Damn. Much?
Well, to understand it, I first have to break down exactly what I’m talking about when I say, Black Love. I’m not just talking about romantic love. I’m talking about ALL love in the Black community - parent to child love, partner to partner love, brotha to brotha love, and love amongst the sistas. Then I need you to understand the WHY of Black love, And WHY in the world I'm here talking about it when my husband and many of my friends are definitely NOT BLACK? I’ll answer the easy question first - I’m the one talking about it because for those of you tuning in for the first time - I’M BLACK! Been Black my whole life - roughly 15,000 days - so it’s safe to say that I know a little something about this topic.
In short, Black love is deeply rooted in history and survival. When African people were brought to this country, they were torn away from their communities, their families, their friends. Sometimes whole families were brought over together, but not always. They were brought over in the most deplorable means of transportation, and if they survived the middle passage, were split up again when they were auctioned into slavery. Through that trauma, love grew. Love was (and still is) a means of survival. And I don’t mean sexual love. I mean that “I got your back, you got mine,” kind of love. That kindred, knowing, hopeful kind of love. And that love fed, clothed and housed whole families, from infants to elders.
African women (whom we now refer to as Black Americans, or African Americans) formed bonds with other women on their plantation and nursed each other's babies when one of them had to nurse the master’s baby. They braided each other's hair. They taught each other's children. They hid each other's husbands and sons. In the name of survival. In the name of love. When Black people were not allowed to marry in this country legally, they invoked the African ritual of jumping the broom. In Africa, this act was considered legally binding, and so it was that despite the conditions of their daily lives, the love was going to persevere.
Parents disciplined their children and each other's children out of love. Historically speaking, and yes, still today, you can find parents being extra strict with their children - laying down the law on everything from attire to vernacular because once upon a time, if you didn’t “dress right” or “speak white” in public, it could literally be a matter of life and death. Today, in the 21st century, we have somewhat moved out of that mindset, but there are still a number of things, rules and regulations, expectations, and standards that must be upheld by many Black children because as Black parents we know that STILL, societally speaking, the same rules don’t apply to our children. The old adage “don’t embarrass me in public” rings extra loud for our community because we understood then, as we do now, that by the actions of one, the whole lot is judged. And back then, the whole lot being judged could result in a loss of wages, or worse, a loss of life.
As women, we commiserate over our shared experiences in existing to this point, in this country. We sistas go to the beauty salon and get our hair laid, weaved, braided, loc’d, twisted, and cut all the way off. And this time in the chair is our time - to talk about the news, our children, our relationships, our health. We share our heartbreaks and our celebrations and ask for prayer here. We welcome new babies here, celebrate our daughter’s first press and curl here, and ask for consultations at the funeral home when layin’ our mamas to rest. We do this all in our own way - using our own vernacular. Sometimes we spend more time there in a single day than we do in our own homes. We meet in churches and kneel in prayer together. We go to each other's homes and cook together. We look for each other. We protect each other. We love each other. We are each other's safe space.
Some of the most lively conversations for men can be had in the barbershop. And many of the same discussions had by women, are had by men in that same shop - with the addition of the never-ending debate - who’s the best shooting guard - Jordan, Kobe, or LeBron? But in the barbershop, men hold each other accountable for their words. The debates get loud. There’s laughter and hand-slapping. There’s the side-splitting roast of the barber in the first chair, and the occasional booster that comes through selling cd’s, DVD's, and hotplates. To the outside world, it is chaotic and angry and loud. But to the men inside, it’s love. It is the place they can wear their hoodies without fear of being killed. The place where they can talk openly about their fears for their sons without being judged. The place where they can celebrate that 4.0 GPA, college acceptance letter, or winning field goal, and the entire shop celebrates with them because a win for one is a win for all.
The nod we give each other on the street... the simple act of speaking to another Black person we pass, even though we don’t know them, that is the non-verbal affirmation of the Black love collective. It is an acknowledgment of who we’ve been, who we are, and all that we will be.
Or more simply put, it is just Black love.