Black Love
The Deeply Divine and Enduring Wonder of Black Love

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Until recently, history has not been kind to Black love. Enslavement, Jim Crow and racism have promoted unattractive depictions of Black love and those who choose it. There has always been significant speculation and opinions offered about Black love, especially by the media, who have been complicit in promoting a less-than-positive and often destructive image of Black love. These portrayals have caused many to view Black love through a lens framed by both suspicion and awe. 

But today, perceptions of Black love are rapidly changing. There is recognition of deep-seated affection and positive and enduring outcomes resulting from Black love. Through interviews with Blacks in love, each individual defines the optimistic and unapologetic nature of Black love. The sustaining and unique power of Black love is uncovered in their words.

Black love is necessary, limitless and uniquely good. As the younger generation would say, “don’t get it twisted,” for love–no matter the color–is defined by the beholder. 

Jen and Shandra Ingram

Newlyweds

What does Black love mean to each of you?

Jen: Agape love. I think of Black love as a place I can be more vulnerable and safe and think of how that allows me to show up and operate in the world most authentically. Black love is the care, the compassion. For me, coming out as a lesbian at a very young age was a journey of self-discovery, self-compassion and self-love. 

Shandra: For me, Black love is peace. We aren’t just a Black married couple, we are a queer female Black married couple, and I know that when we leave our house, the world is not always accepting. Black love is a place to find peace, joy and comfort. Black love means I love you because of who you are, because of everything that you are. Jen loves me wholeheartedly because of everything that I am, and I strive to love her the way God loves her and see her the way God sees her. 

How do you define Black love?

Jen: My earliest memories of love stem from family, my great-grandparents and my grandparents—not love as a word but love as an action. Black love is being intentional in displaying love to one another and for yourself. It is being intentional in the face of challenge and choosing love. Our Black love is also resistant. The fact that we have the privilege of living our love out loud unapologetically is resistance within itself. 

Shandra: I think that Black love is so amazing. Being from Alabama, one of the largest stopping points for the transatlantic slave trade, I learned a lot about my ancestors and the history of folks who were enslaved. When I think about Black love, I think of the oppressors, who stripped everything away from my ancestors. The few things my ancestors were able to hold onto were their faith and their love. Black love was probably what got them through each day. 

What makes your love work?

Jen: We have five tenets of love (in our marriage): love as an overall theme, intimacy, respect, communication and trust. We bring love to life through practicing intentionally.

Shanda: For me, Black love is also centering God in everything that we do, in our tenets, and assuming best intentions. more than anyone, (Jen) always has my back. Every time I go to sleep and every time I wake up, I choose my wife and my marriage. 

Warda Mohamed

Single and full of love

What does Black love mean to you?

Black love to me means a warm shelter—not particularly a house but a home that could very well be a singular person, raucous laughter, a strong hand on the crown of your head with the sound of loud and whispered supplications to God, sacrifices, scars and eyes that try to peer into the windows of your mind and soul. I think of the image of Hooyo’s hand—“my mother’s” in Somali—on my head praying for my mind to be expansive and sharp before heading to an exam.

As a first-generation Somali woman adult, Black love is helping my community, current family, future family and bloodline seven generations down. Black love means the world to me because it is my world.

 How do you define Black love?

I define Black love similarly to how I define all love: the deep belief that a person is greater than the sum of all their greatest parts. In addition, I would say Black love is defiance in a world where we are deemed unlovable for one thing or another. It is a form of protest, and it is a source of safety from racism, bigotry, etc. Black love is eating communally on the floor from a shared plate and kindly terrorizing your guests into eating more even when they say they’re full. Black love is angrily defending the person you love even against themselves. 

Black love is pain because there is deep empathy for others embedded into its fabric and the absence of that person or their happiness leaves gaping holes. Losing Ayeeyo—“my grandmother” in Somali—over the pandemic left a hole in the fabric of my family and myself for years. She was the matriarch, and the gap caused by her absence let in the cold wind of a harsh reality: that Black love is often short-lived—not for lack of trying from the people but from realities of the systemic health and economic inequities.  

What makes your love work?

A way to make love work with women—especially older Black women—is to take responsibility for tasks or commitments without asking her. If not, she will 100% say “No, I’ll do it.” Black women are hyper-independent for reasons that would take several pages to even begin to explain, and this makes them vulnerable to chronic health conditions and losing touch with themselves. No one wants to feel they have to prompt you to show your love for them.  

How do you express Black love in Southeastern Minnesota?

Expressing Black love means spending time together by watching Islamic sermons, eating ethnic food together and going to Islamic and Somali community events. 

In my family, being ambitious and sharing your goals and successes is a way of showing love because it means you’re respecting yourself and your family. Honor is huge in Somali culture, so when you have a win, your entire community wins, and when you suffer a loss or make a mistake, that weight falls on your entire family and community. 

Expressing love is done through the pursuit of knowledge and experiences, so I try to bring my family to events, and when we learn something new, we try to teach it to each other. In low-income immigrant households, expressing love often means taking care of technological tasks or translating jargon for the elders in the home or community. A new way of expressing Black love I have seen is by creating organizations to better the well-being of others. 

Virge and Jackie Trotter

Married 58 years 

What does Black love mean to each of you?

Virge: As an African American husband and father, I think about the separation of families during slavery and the limiting of job opportunities from Jim Crow to now as a legacy of assault on my roles as protector and provider. Black love strengthens me to meet these challenges.

Jackie: As an African American woman, I treasure the Black love our ancestors had as pledged couples and then as married couples–even as they faced the challenges of barriers to jobs, education, housing, voting rights and even basic respect. They are the foundation and road map for valuing our present-day marital relationships. Our ancestors left us an invaluable legacy of love and strength.

How do you define Black love?

We define love as a strong, spiritual, physical and emotional attraction. It is joined by a mutual desire and willingness to sacrifice for what is best for each other and the marriage. And for us, our marriage has always been a union with God.

Black married love for us means that our African American ancestry, history, culture, customs and group membership are an integral part of our marriage and our mutual love. Our strong African American identity and legacy equip us to maneuver the challenges of living in America.

Black love is an inclusive love. It extends to everyone of different races–married or in relationships with Black people–who wishes to be included and who respects, values and invests in Black people.

What makes your love work?

Lots of humor and listening. Lots of smiles. Lots of mutual forgiveness. Each of us takes some responsibility for fulfilling our own needs. Remembering our beautiful ancestral legacy. Daily prayers. Gratefulness for each other and every good thing we are blessed with.

How do you express Black love in Southeastern Minnesota?

Out of the bounty of Black family love, we try to share our Black love with whomever we come in contact with—be they of a different or the same race, religion, gender orientation, physical or mental ability. We have coached youth teams, been schoolroom parents, taught religion classes, volunteered for community projects, boards and organizations, given talks on racial issues and canvassed for political candidates. 

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About Author

Kabuika develops multicultural communication strategies and tactics to strengthen workplace inclusivity with compelling multimedia storytelling and engaging events. She is currently working in Rochester as a Program Manager.

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