Black Love Is Revolutionary

Black love has become an avalanche: Each time something is thrown at it, it only grows greater.
05/31/2017 11:59 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2017
Photo: Reginald Cunningham

rev·o·lu·tion·ar·y (revəˈlo͞oSHəˌnerē) :

1. involving or causing a complete or dramatic change.

2. radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc.

3. engaged in or promoting political revolution.

Black love literally shouldn’t exist in America, in any form. Familial, heterosexual, trans, queer, community, etc. Everything was done to prevent it. It is the purest form and most glaring example in American History to me, of resistance. The structure of slavery was such that love, as well as many other ideologies, would not develop. Families were separated several times over, mothers and fathers were killed, men, women, and children raped. Marriage was forbidden among blacks unless sponsored by a white person, and even then, that was only in certain states.

White supremacy tried to kill the notion of black love, because it was a threat to oppression. White supremacy did its best to make “black love” an oxymoron. A figment of our imagination. For many, it still is.

The assault on black love, I think, had a two-fold yield though. It made black love stronger than any other form. We love hard, family and other, because our spirit knows what it’s like not to have it. We literally had to create ways to ensure our children knew they were loved during slavery. I’m reminded of a specific story in the National Museum of African American History.

Ashley's Sack survived the slavery era and several moves, and is now on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Afric
Photo: Courtesy Middleton Place
Ashley's Sack survived the slavery era and several moves, and is now on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington.

A slave named Ashley, at the age of 9, was sold to another plantation ― away from her mother Rose. Rose had one minute to spend with her daughter before she would be gone, never to be seen again. In that one minute, Rose gave Ashley the above sack, filled with handfuls of pecans, a tattered dress, and a braid of Rose’s hair. This was all Rose had to give her daughter so have as a reminder of her love. I don’t doubt how deeply Ashley felt her mother’s love when holding these talismans. Black love developed on a spiritual level, because we often didn’t have the chance to love in person.

Photo: Reginald Cunningham

The idea of black love was in direct contrast to how America viewed blacks then, and even now. Black bodies, then and now, were conduits for enhancing white economics, and upholding ideas of white supremacy and oppression. They tried to destroy us through slavery, yet black love persisted. Through Jim Crow, more of our families were decimated. Black mothers and fathers were taken from homes and killed/hanged. And yet, black love persisted. Through the New Jim Crow era, over-policing and targeting of black men for lengthy jail sentences, black love has been tried again. And yet, black love persists.

Through the forced survival of black love, it has become a juggernaut. It can’t be stopped. Black love has become an avalanche: Each time something was thrown at it, it has grown greater. This is why I’m so humbled when people tell me my relationship gives them hope/is inspiring. I know that the way I love my woman, my family, my friends, my people... has come from generations of fine-tuning from my ancestors.

Love is in my spirit.

It’s why I love Deray McKesson’s phrase “I love my blackness and yours” because black love is why any of us are here. It’s why we’ve survived. It’s why there is enough love for all of us to have: spiritual, familial, hetero, queer, trans, etc. There’s room for us all. Our ancestors never let hate defeat our love. Our black love is unapologetic. It doesn’t seek approval because it’s always been under attack.

Photo: Reginald Cunningham

Black love is radical. It is innovative. Because everything in history says it shouldn’t be here, it is political. Black love is revolutionary because black love shouldn’t exist.

And yet, it persists.

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