We Need More Black Love


Says the black girl with the white boyfriend.
But, I am serious and I believe it even more now than I ever have: We need more black love.

The primary images under #blacklove are flamboyantly attractive men and women oftentimes intertwined in some erotic embrace. Sometimes they are wearing crowns. Sometimes the man is holding up the earth or a house as his woman and offspring look upwards in stupendous wonder. Sometimes there are two black bodies intertwined so closely that I recall the song Brown Skin by India Arie.

I believe the popularity of these images speaks volumes (On another post I may go into the crazy intense heteronormativity and their traditional gender role affirming nature of these images, but not today…)

Black people are generally subjected to images where they are hurting each other, hurting themselves, or away from each other, all pointing to the real instances of hurtful separation folded overtly and covertly within colonialism and white supremacy.

These days, we may see black people loving on screen but oftentimes these images are interracial in nature. And yes, even I am a little questioning of this.

Why is it so difficult to imagine black people loving each other?

When I saw the graffiti’d mattress leaning forlornly against a house in Pittsburgh, it both made me laugh and broke my heart cleanly down the middle. The way the mattress had been gutted to show its Styrofoam flesh. The word “bitch” lazily scrawled adjacent to it. Was this some sort of cleverly placed art installation? A call to do differently?

What I know is: black people do love each other. Even amidst the craziness of racism and homophobia and sexism and family dysfunction, black people have always been winning in the show some love department. But, sometimes I think we all need reminders.

I think the time has come for white people to take up the majority of the work of in eradicating white supremacy. It’s been that time for quite awhile honestly, but I think the call is even more salient today.

But what about us?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine made a really vulnerable Facebook post where they talked about the nature of their mental health and the ways in which the anti-blackness of the world had factored into it. It intensified my thinking about the nature of self-help and emotional wellness today. How so much of it erases the real lived realties of different marginalized groups to settle on some vague promulgation of resilience.

It’s not just a personal “defect” to be unwell in this society. Many times our individual experience of stress, of anxiety and depression can be obviously tied to systems that tell us we do not matter.

Anti-blackness is not just a faraway political thought that we can sequester to history books and graduate studies discussions. It affects the real lives of black people in deep and pressing ways each day: the bombardment of black death, the anxieties inherent within a workplace that was never built to consider you, the constant barrage of images that suggest you are not enough at the deepest level of your body. Over and over and over and over and over again.

We need more black love.

I say this in a way that does not mean we add yet another checklist to Shit I Need To Do Today. I say this as a thought that hopefully can buoy us. And I do I see black love being practiced every day. I see it in with people checking in with their people. I see it in the loud ways black people claim admiration for body features often seen as less than. I see it in events like Black Girls Rock and social media campaigns like Very Black.

I hope that the next time I search for #blacklove I see these images too. Images of queer black people, fat black people, quirky black people, conservative black people, hood black people loving the fuck out of one another.

I endeavor to look for more black love, to showcase love in a myriad of ways towards blackness besides the romantic. And if I can’t find another real black person to love on in reality, I will look in the mirror at my own black face and love it fiercely for what it is.

I refuse to be sucked into the madness of these times and to start doubting the power of true, revolutionary love. I refuse to constrain my activism to what I see on my social media feeds.

Black love, real black love, in a way that speaks to my own soul, is part of my revolution.

I wish you the same in a way that works for you.

Onward,

Hannah

Real Love – Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

two women in santa clause hats stand in front of union square subway wall with all of post-its on it
Union Square, NYC

When I lived in Portland, Oregon every Martin Luther King Day I and my sister would participate in the “Day of Service” in honor of the late, great civil rights hero. I am aware that the man is not perfect, I loathe the over-worship of Great (Male) Charismatic Leaders, and the forms of misogyny he espoused are not instances I can write off or ignore.

But, I would be remiss to say I did not look up to the man, that I do not still consider him and example of dignity and truth. Sometimes when I was having a difficult time in military school, dealing with the twin evils of sexism and racism, I would remember his words, listen to his famous speech on repeat. I’ll never forget getting my copy of April 4th, 1968 signed by Michael Eric Dyson in Harlem. And in Portland, whether we were planting trees or picking up trash, I was happy to be taking part in acts of service in his name, however small.

Today we are just a couple of news cycles away from President Elect Trump becoming President Trump. A couple of days ago, he referred to civil rights pioneer John Lewis as “all talk”. Today, he supposedly met up with Martin Luther King  Jr.’s eldest son.

(I have no words for these facts. Just my tangle of emotions.)

Many people who are posting Facebook dedications to Martin Luther King Jr. this January 16, 2017 would have been the same people opposing his message fifty years ago, and are actively inhabiting oppressive stances rooted in white supremacy today.  I am old enough to know that trying to engage with such cognitive dissonance is a fool’s errand.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What I love about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is that it reminds me that life is bigger than acquiring shit. Yes, we see these types of messages ad nauseum on Instagram these days, but on a day like today, I remember. I also remember that my quest for deep self-love and self-actualization is for a larger purpose than giving myself a pat on the back at the end of the day.

It is about living in true love and spreading this to others. We all have our parts, the organizers, the teachers, the lawyers, fast food workers, the tassel twirlers. And in this period of uncertainty, we must all endeavor to find our center and our entry point to espousing love and really, really live it.

Power + Love = Unstoppable
Power + Love = Unstoppable

The King quote above is one of my favorites. Power and love are not mutually exclusive. They need to be paired and enacted. “Let’s just be Love” is not an appropriate response to this new Trump-ian era and neither is a dismissal of love as a unifying force. We need both.

I guess the question is how do we practice both in our day to day lives? How do we balance these energies and serve from a place of truth, not just some tired-ass obligation or fake sincerity?

The answer I have (today) is to look for examples. So, today I look at Mr. King. I remind myself that he did not do what he did alone and that imperfect humans, even the Great Ones, are a fact of life. I remind myself that silence protects no one. I remind myself that love is always the right answer, no matter how jaded or irreverent I feel. I remind myself that fearless self-inquiry does so much when tied to a grander purpose.

I know my journey to serve will not be perfect or neat or even look like King’s, but I feel confident I will find it.

And that you will too.

I wish you all a beautiful Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and that you find love and power today.

Onward,

Hannah