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What is the Essence of Black Love?

As we all know, love can weave into many shapes and forms. It can be translated throughout all languages, interpreted throughout all races, and is experienced by both genders, no matter the combination. Love can even be disguised, taking shape as a long and drawn-out lecture from your loving yet fearful Grandmother or as the silence from your lover after you’ve just thrown a huge, uncalled for, sleep-deprived induced tantrum. Love forms through the most random encounters, at the most random times, but of course when we need it the most. It lurks in the crevices of our minds which we feel have been destroyed by the disfunction of our life and in the lives told to us. It even survives those numb periods, where we just get up, follow the routine, and do the work.

Yet someway, somehow it touches us all.

But what is the essence of Black Love?

How would we define such as thing?

How can it exist on its own and what does it look like, feel like, smell like, taste like?

The essence of black love is powerful, deep. It is that understanding that you almost can’t explain. The black experience alone, from of course slavery, to racism, poverty, and the fight against it all, encompasses that love. That love for our people gave us the strength to survive the slavery, the racism, the poverty, and gave us the strength to fight. The essence of black love created a space for us to love ourselves when others didn’t love us, when all we had was the choice to love ourselves. With that black self-love came empowerment; we began to think of what we could do, and we did what we thought we could. With that newfound understanding, we began to create things, like peanut butter, traffic lights, mailboxes, all the way down to music.

Because black love can be rough you have to find a way to define it, explain it, and express it. We did and do this with R&B/ Soul, The Blues, Jazz, and Country. Ginuwine, Dru Hill, Mary J. Blige, and even further back to Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Ray Charles help us define, explain and express black love. These artists would weave together the words that represented heartbreak, the tone projecting the element of betrayal, accompanied by the instruments projecting confusion and embodying the spirit of redemption. They spoke of the way a woman used them during her periods of loneliness (Only When ur Lonely by Ginuwine), how their heart was stolen by a beautiful woman (Beauty by Dru Hill), how they searched for real love (Real Love by Mary J. Blige), begged for forgiveness (Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by Nina Simone), wanted to be taken (All of Me by Billie Holiday), and spoke of infidelity (Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles).

The essence of black love cannot be expressed or understood one-dimensionally. It lives in our music, in our loved ones, our culture, our continued perseverance, our great minds, and our great souls. The essence of black love is all around us, in our voices, our eyes, our ears, our bodies. Oh, and most importantly God or the universe, whatever you may call it/them/him/her, is the essence of black love. This can be felt as you close your eyes and remember the low hums rumbling through your Grandmother’s breast as she presses your small cheek near. It is the comfort you feel as you step into her home after a snowy cold winter’s day, as you approach a delicious hot meal. It flows from the memory of you and your mother belting out the lyrics of the latest System of Down song, and even the smell of your father’s freshly lit cigarette. It is even the cheers from your older cousins who gathered round as you successfully tied your shoe for the first time, or their screams as you crossed the graduation stage. There is no limitation to the essence of black love and there is no way I could give a full explanation of the essence of black love, so I encourage you to take this and run with it. Search for it. Feel for it. And listen for it. Because the Essence of Black Love cannot be escaped.

Milaka Saddler

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