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Re-imagining Black Love

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By: Cody Charles

Black love,

a bursting speck of gold dust

sunrise waking us

to us.

~Megan Pendleton (Badass Black Queer Poet)

I’ve been thinking about Black Love for a while now, and how it is both felt and intellectualized. As a Black fat queer cis femme, love has always been complicated.

I have been in community with beautiful Black folk who uplift me, challenge me, hold me accountable, induce hearty laughs, and often finish my sentences and interpret my infamous side-eyes.

I have been in community with resilient Black folk who hold me when I have nothing left, who cook my favorite meals in times of celebration and grief, who massage my shoulders and administer hugs that heal the soul, and who I trust passing the baton onto when I’m in need of rest.

It is worth mentioning that when I feel this radical prioritization– this space created where my full self is welcomed, and can be explored- it is often with my Black queer and trans family.

In addition to the above, I have felt extreme isolation and violence in the name of love, often caping behind the veil of organized religion (informed by Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist CisHeteroPatriarchy).

Re: someone does and says something really awful to me, and using the above framework, I’m supposed to respond with love and forgiveness.

Nope.

The word love is complicated, and often goes untroubled.

I am curious.

I am curious about how we engage love outside of the aforementioned toxicity.

I am curious about what love even means? Isn’t it a made-up word steeped in violence and manipulation- a tactic to keep the powerful in power? Am I off here?

But, I am most curious about the following question…

What is Black Love outside of Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist CisHeteroPatriarchy? (What is Black love minus the standards/expectations of the cisgender white phukshyt?)

Below I have asked a few of my brilliant friends to chime in.

Enjoy, and share.


Bulaong Ramiz-Hall– Educator, writer, community builder, granddaughter of the resilient survivors of enslavement and colonialism

Black love is the magic of our ancestors existing in our bodies, minds, spirits and souls. It is the deep and direct rejection of all things that tell us we are not beautiful, brilliant, worthy, and free. Black love is what makes us human, what allows us to access the deepest parts of ourselves, its that love that separates us from all others and connects us to each other.

I had to learn to love blackness, mine and others. I had to train myself to find the beauty in my people, to feel an affinity with my culture, to let the connection to both intergenerational trauma and intergenerational thriving sustain and guide me.

Black love is the antithesis to white supremacy, it is the cure to imperialism, it is a return to the fluidity of our roles in community, it is a rejection of hierarchy that allows for some to have more than enough and others to have nothing, it is the elevation and celebration of women and femmes, it is what will free us all.


Robert Jones Jr.- Creator of the Son of Baldwin Platform

To me, this kind of black love would, first and foremost, be built on a foundation that neither fetishizes nor recoils at the sight of jet-black skin. It would know that dark-black skin is something to be adored and treasured, like the cosmos itself, rather than covered up or bleached away.

Nor would black love understand or accept violence in the face of black queer desire and black queer bodies. Rather, it would celebrate, given their unpopularity in this current white supremacist cisheteropatriachal moment, any consensual romantic black bonds.

Black love would not be afraid of black children’s joy and would not seek to police it. I use that word “police” intentionally. Black love would seek, instead, to un-train itself from art of corporal punishment because black love would push out the fear and sadism that drive such practices.

Black love, outside the scope of the pathologies mentioned, would make untrue the rap verse (“And when you get on, he’ll leave your ass for a white girl” — Kanye West, “Gold Digger”) describing the phenomenon of black men who select white partners over black ones because black would be seen as more than enough.

Black love would eschew respectability for humanity, choose humility over pride, select gratitude not ego, seek to be spiritual rather than religious, make whole not half, restore as opposed to damage. It would never assume, but would always ask permission, move forward only when permission has been granted, and would not whither from rejection, but would rejoice at the mutual respect left in its wake. Rather than seek to narrow, confine, and exclude, black love would seek to expand, liberate, and include.

In short, black love is potentially the complete opposite of imperialist white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy.


Zerandrian S. Morris– Anti-Academic and Ivy League Professor

Hmm…black love outside of the phukshyt is…Hell, I have no clue, as I’ve never experienced it. But I would imagine it to be exceptionally liberating and a deeply creative space. A place where it’s ok to phuk up and the fear of relationships dissolving at whim, wouldn’t be there. It would be women liking me for me, not because they’re curious about what its like to date a non-binary person and a year later, they’re engaged to a cis-person.

Sorry let me try and stick to what it is, versus what it’s not.

It is freer. More liberatory. It’s both hood AF and elegant like a quarter pounder with cheese with a side of sushi from Masa in NYC.

Damn. That sounds dope AF!


Romeo Jackson– Black Queer Femme Educator, Learner, and Thinker.

This is such a hard question to answer given most images we have of Black love are Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist and deeply invested in CisHeteroPatriarchy. Even the few public images we have of Black love are often coded as white and placed in proximity to gender and sexuality norms (think: Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade or Michelle Obama and Barack Obama). Where are the expressions of poor Black love, of Disable Black love, of trans Black love?

Black love has the potential to be the transformative power to liberate all Black people. This liberatory Black love understands that love is a way of being versus a feeling. Yes, love can be a feeling, but what if we imagined love as a place we can never reach, a way of thinking, as praxis? In thinking about Black love this way, no where can the cis-het-college-educated-upper-middle-class couple with two cis-het children be seen as the model for Black love? It is then, how we start to imagine the Black trans femme couple fighting for survival while mothering an entire community of queer and trans youth as Black love, because at its core Black love is a rejection of Black death, pain, and suffering.

Lastly, we must begin to understand Black friendship as Black Love. Love is more than the people we fuck, go on dates with, and enter into romantic relationships with. My friendships, often with Black queer and trans people, have been my greatest source of Black love. Black love that sees you in your wholeness. A Black love that is there to call you out while honoring your humanity. Black love is seeing another Black person as human, always deserving of love, support, and community. Black friendship is the past, present, and future of Black love.


Black folk, what is Black love to you outside of these toxic systems? #ReimaginingBlackLove #BlackJoyWeDeserveIt Click To Tweet

 

Black love,

a bursting speck of gold dust

sunrise waking us

to us.

~Megan Pendleton (Badass Black Queer Poet)

If any of my writing helps you in any way, please consider tipping here =>cash.me/$CodyCharles (Square Cash), @CodyCharles(Venmo), orpaypal.me/CodyCharles<=

This is the work of Cody Charles; claiming my work does not make me selfish or ego-driven, instead radical and in solidarity with the folk who came before me and have been betrayed by history books and storytellers. Historically, their words have been stolen and reworked without consent. This is the work of Cody Charles. Please discuss, share, and cite properly.

Bio: Cody Charles is the author of Getting To Know Rosa Lee: An Overdue Conversation With My MotherBlack Joy, We Deserve ItThe Night The Moonlight Caught My Eye: Not a Review but a Testimony on the Film Moonlight5 Tips For White Folks, As They Engage Jordan Peele’s Get Out. (No Spoilers)A Letter to Black Greeks Who Happen to be Black and QueerStudent Affairs is a Sham, 19 Types of Higher Education Professionals, and What Growing Up Black And Poor Taught Me About Resiliency. Join him for more conversation on Twitter (@_codykeith_) and Facebook (Follow Cody Charles). Please visit his blog, Reclaiming Anger, to learn more about him.

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Alexandra Shipp Doesn’t Understand Colorism and It Shows

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Alexandra Shipp is suffering from the same light-skin plight that Tinashe claimed stifled her career two years ago. Oh well…

After hearing that KiKi Layne was in talks to step into her queendom as Storm, Alexandra Shipp wasted no time chiming in on Twitter. Her hot garbage take has since sparked yet another conversation about colorism in Hollywood. Alexandra stated, in so many words, that Black people aren’t supporting her because of her skin tone. Proving she, like so many, does not understand colorism as a system of oppression, Alexandra makes it clear there’s still work to be done.

You see, Alexandra, no one is attacking you for having light skin. They’re simply expressing joy over the much-anticipated portrayal of Storm as she was intended — a dark-skin, beautiful Black woman. This was a monumental opportunity for you to offer praise. Instead, you chose self-pity because a skilled actress is taking a role you aren’t entitled to. Let’s look at receipts, shall we?

KiKi Layne has been nominated for:

  • The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award for Best Breakthrough Performance
  • The Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor
  • The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble.

You, Alexandra, have been nominated for a Teen Choice Award and a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award.

Because you, and others who look like you, have not had to search for representation to feel included, you may not know how to respond to this. I get it, You think you worked hard, earned that role, did it justice. Sorry, baby, but you thought wrong. The one-time wife of T’Challa deserves to be a dark-skin queen and there’s nothing you should do about it.

It’s bigger than you.

For two decades, we have waited for the mantle of Storm to be assumed by a woman who truly looks like her. For once, little Black children who share that skin-tone would feel seen as they look upon their favorite superhero. Imagine children looking at Storm the way they knew her and the way they thought they could be; strong, beautiful, dark-skinned, and more talented than you.

Furthermore, your conflict with the change in the cast should not be conflated with other pressing issues. Don’t weaponize Black Lives Matter to represent losing a job because you’re talentless. Where is your grace, queen? You’ve been coasting on mediocrity in an industry that has made you proud of your light-skin privilege. Now that dark-skin is profitable, the industry is accepting of some actresses with melanin more popping than yours, and you want to play the victim? Ms. “90 percent of the racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime has been at the hands of fellow Black people.”

Girl, bye.

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Protests Ensue Over Death of Jameek Lowery

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Jameek Lowery streamed his final moments as he sought assistance from officers in a Paterson, New Jersey station. Having passed in police custody, community members and family want answers.

Scared and Alone

Jameek Lowery was disoriented, foaming at the mouth, and shoeless. Asking for water and visibly unsettled, 27-year-old Jameek admitted he’d taken ecstasy just moments earlier. Hoping officers would help him find proper care, Jameek trusted them with his life.

Police say they called an ambulance and accompanied him to St. Joseph’s Hospital, but what happened during transport is unclear. The Passaic County Prosecutor claims although hospital records do not indicate acute trauma, Jameek suffered physical force and compliance holds during the ride. While transport took between five and twelve minutes, the prosecutor alleges that Jameek was unresponsive upon arrival. Jamir King, Jameek’s brother, says Lowery suffered a fractured eye socket and broken cheekbone after the recording.

We want answers now!

Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale maintains everything that could be done to help Jameek was.

 “They will do the autopsy, everything will come up and then we’ll know where we stand, and the answers will be given to you. I want you to have those answers. Right or wrong, I want you to have those answers.”

Jerry Speziale, Paterson Police Director

Unhappy with what Paterson Police have provided since Jameek’s death Saturday, protests have ensued. Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter attended the Tuesday night protest, providing his support to the family and commenting on what he knew so far.

“He was extremely paranoid, he was terrified, and he had no shoes on. What I did notice was his face looked good and within a few hours he was dead.”

Hank Newsome, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York

City Council members were also present during the protests, providing comfort to the family as they begged for answers. Lowery’s sister Jamilia Laurie said, “My heart hurts, I can’t explain how I feel because I don’t know how I feel. I can’t go to sleep at night. I’ve been up since this happened. I cannot sleep.”

Justice for Jameek

Late into the evening, things came to a head as protestors clashed with police on the street, spilling out of City Hall where the rally took place. Holding cell phones to record the officers, police lined up on the other side, equipped with mace. People began chanting “Justice for Jameek,” “Black Lives Matter”, and “No justice, no peace”. Police fired upon the crowd with mace and a large crowd was seen fleeing the Paterson Public Safety Complex building, shielding their faces and coughing.

Wana Fulcher, a protestor on the scene commented on the frightening state of police relations in Paterson.

“I have four sons myself and this is very scary. Your child can’t even walk down to the store without being harassed by an officer. Who can we run to?”

Wana Fulcher, protestor

Community leaders and Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh are supporting the investigation into what happened to Jameek. Several news outlets have attempted to reach Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale for further comment with no success.

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On the Subject of R. Kelly

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I was 14 years old when R. Kelly was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography. It was 2002. TP-2 had been out for a while and everyone was vibing to “Fiesta” and “Feelin’ On Yo Booty”. He was preparing to perform at the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when the story broke. A videotape had surfaced, allegedly showing R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl. The Black community was silent.

I overheard my adult cousins discuss the tape at family gatherings. Everyone that had seen it seemed to agree. Without a shadow of a doubt, they all knew they were watching Robert Kelly, the pied piper of R&B. Yet there was no outrage, no public outcry or demands for justice. It was sickening. At the time, I lived in Detroit, Michigan, home to DSA. DSA was known as The Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, but it was famous for birthing the princess of R&B, Aaliyah Dana Haughton.

Buried

When Aaliyah married R. Kelly in 1994 in that secret ceremony with forged documents, Detroit knew. When conversation surrounding the nature of their artist-protégé relationship was questioned, Detroit knew. In televised interviews and radio segments when their voices and body language could be dissected, the truth was bare and as a community we denied it. For the second time, I watched a city turn a blind eye to R. Kelly’s predatory behavior for the love of his music. For what? Because it was more difficult to hold one man accountable for his hebephilia than sacrifice music to bump to? We collectively did ourselves a disservice, the same disservice we do to little Black girls and boys who are preyed on by family and religious figures.

Ignoring the presence of sexual deviance in the Black community does not make the trauma survivors battle daily disappear. I couldn’t understand why people made excuses for rapists or held victims accountable for their pain. “Just separate the art from the artist.” How? Why? The artist is using his status and artistry to directly engage, lure, and abuse Black girls. R. Kelly isn’t the only person to do this. Many celebs have used the promise of fame for sexual favors. Hell, employers use this exact same tactic. In the working environment, people in positions of power will dangle promotion and incentive to bargain sexual favors and people excuse it.

Second Chances

As a community, we must demand better. From the moment those 21 counts of child pornography surfaced following the release of the infamous tape, R. Kelly’s career should have been over. But it wasn’t. He went on to release the Chocolate Factory album, selling more than 3 million copies and going platinum. With the help of a delayed trial, he worked diligently, released gospel music to clean his image. By the time he went to trial in 2008, the Black community had two-stepped his depravity out of their memory. He was found not guilty.

People use twisted language like “Those girls were fast. Where were their parents?” Working long hours to clothe and feed that child. No parent is in all places at all times so save that bullsh*t. Such rhetoric does absolutely nothing to absolve sexual predators of the reality that they took advantage of naive adolescents or starry-eyed adults. Just call it what it is. Or are you afraid that acknowledging his deviance means calling out the same evil in those around you?

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