[blak lev] noun
an intense feeling of deep affection or spiritual journey experienced by two people of African descent
This month (October) is Black History Month and I felt compelled to mark the occasion with an exploration of what black love means to me. Black love, in every form (heterosexual, homosexual, monogamy and polygamy) is beautiful and constructive. As a person currently in a committed relationship with a black man and only having dated inside my race, my devotion to black love is out of a conviction to satisfy each of my need and not a ludicrous desire to proliferate the “pure black population”. My devotion to the concept of black love is not to throw light or criticise interracial love – I’m very much a believer that love is long as long as it’s consensual and it’s not embedded in a compulsion to fetishize or degrade a specific race. Speaking as someone who is perceived as palatable to white people, deemed a bounty and a non-traditional African, my family were always convinced that I was going to marry an “oyinbo” (white person). My saturation of Disney, TV soaps and Western media meant when I was younger, I was open to the idea of dating out of my race. However, as I matured and began to examine certain fallacies, I came to a realisation that as a child I was indoctrinated to believe in a sensationalised and romanticised notion of love. I grew up expecting a blonde hair blue eyed Price Charming to rescue me or an Action Man Ken to my Barbie. – countless hours were spent fantasizing about a relationship not designed for people who look like me.
“Black love is beautiful”
My first experience of black love was self-love and the love I had to find for myself. Looking in the mirror I was no Barbie or Disney Princess, just an awkward black girl who body developed prematurely. As a chubby black child in a predominantly Portuguese and English primary school, I was the proverbial ugly duckling; the object on one’s affections. All the boys including the black boys preferred petit, fair-skinned girls who conformed to the Western beauty ideals. As regret penetrated my pre-teen psyche, I believed that an affinity to whiteness was safety and acceptance and that I believed that I could attain a level of privilege through a proximity to whiteness. The thought of marrying a white boy meant a surname a teacher or future employer could pronounce, a child whose hair would be perceived as easier to manage and a barrier between the harsh realities of being a black woman in a white patriarchal society. In order to dispel this damaging and destructive rhetoric, I had to form a romantic relationship with myself and with my blackness. This took years of exploration regarding my sexuality and femininity and countless hours of therapy and counselling. I had to accept my physical flaws and scars, process my trauma and get acquainted with erogenous zone. Before my features became a commodity that Western culture would co-opt after years of derision, I learned to fall in love with my smile, my curves, my lips and my nose. I fell in love with my blackness when I fell in love with myself.
“Black love is self-love, without self-love there would be no black love”
The first example of black love I ever witnessed was my parent’s relationship. Traditional western concepts of romanticised were not present in my childhood – my parent’s relationship failed to convey the same level of affection I saw present in mainstream media. Occasionally my parents would hold hands and at certain festivities my dad would dash my mother dollars on the dancefloor, but that was extent to which I observed romantic gestures between my parents. As a child my parent’s failure to portray love in a language depicted on TV (i.e. physical displays of affection) translated as my parents did not love each other. It wasn’t until my teenage years when I fell I to activism that I realised I failed to account for them being black in a European country and that black love was a language itself. As first-generation migrants I cannot fault my parents when in addition to the tribulation of working multiple jobs and subjected to microaggressions and overt racism, their ability to be affectionate and overtly loving had dissipated. Within the vows of a black marriage is an unspoken pledge: “through sickness, through health, through racism”. Black love encompasses more than just a feeling between 2 individuals, it’s a language that when translated means support through an alien land.
“Black love is language in itself”
Black love is surviving a system designed to undermine and deride. In the past, black love and our ancestors had to survive colonisation, slavery and lynching. It had to survive the humiliation of being bred like cattle and the brutality of buck breaking and rape. Contemporary manifestations of black love must survive being born into a system intent on fostering internalised self-hate and insecurities significant enough to dismantle a relationship. Although generational trauma has impeded our ability to love ourselves and thus love someone else, we’ve seen black love thrive. Couples such as Angel Basset and Courtney B Vance and Barack and Michelle Obama, have shown us how powerful black love can be. Black love has survived the ridicule of black stereotypes regarding broken families, unjust prison sentences and inadequate healthcare that sections that blacks fathers and kills black mothers. Black love will continue to survive. Black love will survive the pain of the first time your child experiences racism and the first time you explain the tragedies of Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence and Breonna Taylor.
“Black love is enrooted in survival”
All black love is beautiful, all black love maters. Black homosexual love is equally as important black heterosexual love. Every individual is entitled to a partner in this dystopia and someone to ride the waves of adulting and monotony with. If we are going to appreciate black love, we need to appreciate all black love.