By: Cody Charles
a bursting speck of gold dust
sunrise waking 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.
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.
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
a bursting speck of gold dust
sunrise waking us
~Megan Pendleton (Badass Black Queer Poet)
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 Mother, Black Joy, We Deserve It, The Night The Moonlight Caught My Eye: Not a Review but a Testimony on the Film Moonlight, 5 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 Queer, Student 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.
Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick, and Toxic Black Capitalism
Jay-Z’s recent decision to align himself with the NFL has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. And for good reason. Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league for 897 days. With no sign of him returning, despite maintaining a rigorous fitness regime, many are wondering why Jay-Z did not consult Kaepernick before signing on.
Five am workouts five days a week for three long years. Colin Kaepernick has been waiting in the wings since the NFL colluded to bar him from playing amidst player protests. Eric Reid, who stood beside Kaep in solidarity, has been subjected to excessive random drug tests for just as long. As season after season dredges on, Eric says he has no desire to refrain from protesting and has pledged to kneel during the national anthem this year as well. With NFL viewership in steady decline due to boycotts within the Black community, the league has reached out to an unlikely partner to repair their image and boost their ratings, Jay-Z.
A one-time supporter of the national anthem protests that brought awareness to blatant police brutality, Jay-Z has decided that there’s no time like the present to profit from his brother’s struggle. Billionaire rapper Jay-Z has brokered a deal with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Roc Nation mogul is now positioned to serve as a gatekeeper, deciding who’s worthy to take the stage as a Super Bowl halftime act. As the internet reflects on Jay’s very vocal criticism of the NFL and recent Super Bowl Halftime Show performers, the irony and hypocrisy of this situation is lost on no one.
“Don’t Do This”
When news of Travis Scott’s participation in the 2019 Halftime Show reached Jay-Z’s ears, he was quick to ask the “Sicko Mode” rapper not to perform. Citing the poor treatment of Colin Kaepernick as the league turned a blind eye to police brutality, Jay-Z urged Travis to change his stance. But now, the “4:44” rapper is the one that’s turned the other cheek. Stating, “we’re past the point of kneeling”, Jay has all but embraced the ideals of his peers. Considering this partnership an opportunity to change the beast from the inside, Jay said in a recent interview that “this is the next phase.”
“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase. There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?”
Ever the capitalist, Jay-Z has turned the ostracism of Kaepernick and scrutiny of Reid into a means of personal profit. While preaching Black solidarity, he cradles the all-mighty dollar. To onlookers, this poses a moral dilemma, but we forget billionaires often lack morals and have questionable ethics. While it is unlikely that Kaepernick will respond with his thoughts on the matter, his longtime girlfriend, Nessa, and Eric Reid have made their thoughts known.
You can’t trust a man who cheated on Beyoncé to make good life choices
Eric Reid took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to chastise Jay-Z for his decision. Stating, “Jay-Z knowingly made a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin and is using social justice to smooth it over with the black community,” Reid says the fight is on. He believes that it is “unjust” that the NFL is now “championing” social justice to cover their own systemic oppression in blackballing his former teammate. What Nessa has to say was much more scathing.
Sharing a video on Instagram of her boyfriend, Colin Kaepernick, training with his ally, former 49er Eric Reid, Nessa included a lengthy statement regarding Jay-Z’s decision.
Knowing that Jay-Z is helping the NFL rebrand itself is disheartening but predictable. After all, he is a prominent figure in the Black community. It was inevitable that the league would reach out to a “respected” rapper to leverage his image to increase viewership. In fact, it’s the same strategy they used when they reached out to Travis Scott. The only difference here is that Jay-Z is well within the ranks of the wealthy, privy to those dubious politics, and versed in the manipulation of exploiting his own community for financial gain.
Do you believe that Jay-Z’s efforts will lead to further dissension in the NFL? Or will his position as a gatekeeper lead to a fitting resolution? Do you think his relationship with Robert Kraft influenced his decision?
Merited Whiteness: Why Chris Cuomo Responded Violently to “Fredo”
Instead of talking about the obvious wrong of comparing “Fredo” to the n-word, let’s discuss merited Whiteness and Cuomo’s response.
While out with his family, Chris Cuomo was accosted by a man who compared him to the Judas Iscariot of the Corleone family, Fredo Corleone. It’s easy to see why Chris would have perceived the sudden hurling of “Fredo” as an insult, who wouldn’t. Fredo was a man out of his depth. He was intelligent, sure. But he lacked the cunning necessary to navigate life in the mafia. Fredo was a soft-hearted, loveable idiot who said more than he should have to the wrong people. His unintentional slight got him in trouble with a community that felt entitled to his allegiance. This is the very same entitlement that possessed a stranger to believe he held the authority to pull Chris Cuomo’s merited whiteness card.
Fredo’s offense in many ways is seen as something lateral to Chris Cuomo’s presence as a journalist at CNN. The child of the 52nd Governor of New York and brother of the current Governor, who is a staunch critic of Republican politicians and their constituents, Chris stands on the wrong side, to some, in a fight for “American Values.” He is outspoken and detached from his beginnings as a political analyst on Fox News. Being the descendant of a family that is only two generations removed from their Tramonti, Campania Italian origins, The Cuomo’s represent a side of American history that is not often discussed, the assimilation of European immigrants to American whiteness.
When Italians began immigrating to the US, they were not looked upon favorably. But like the Irish and members of other European communities, they united in their “othered” state to gain acceptance, overcome their backgrounds, and race toward the American Dream. But the American Dream isn’t a big house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog, it’s whiteness. To be White is to be distinctly American, devoid of cultural attachments and devoted to racial supremacy. But like the Borg, whiteness requires assimilation and shared consciousness. Like their hive-minded chant, Magats would also believe “Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
For families like the Cuomo’s, who were privileged enough to own a business and accumulate wealth shortly after their arrival, the trajectory to acceptance was higher than most. As Henry Pratt Fairchild said when discussing the bestowed privileges of whiteness to immigrants, “If he proves himself a man, and rises above his station, and acquires wealth, and cleans himself up — very well, we receive him after a generation or two. But at present, he is far beneath us, and the burden of proof rests with him.” So how, after a single generation, did the Cuomo’s ascend their station? By becoming fast friends with the Trump family.
After Mario Cuomo represented Fred Trump in an undisclosed legal matter, their families maintained contact. Golfing trips in Florida and New York, letters filled with flattery, and partnerships that benefitted the Trumps as developers and the Cuomos political ambitions. Beyond the business relationships of the two families, you have to wonder what values they grew to share. Judging by a 2008 remark regarding Barack Obama where Andrew spouted “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference.” and Chris’ false equivalence of Fredo and the n-word, they share quite a few. Still, you must wonder why “Fredo” would elicit such a response from Chris. Is it because he feels his status demands subordination? Is it because he felt his whiteness was challenged?
Perceiving the use of “Fredo” as an anti-Italian slur, Chris Cuomo found himself feeling as immigrants did upon their arrival to the “land of dreams.” As explored by Maria Elisa Altese, there is a perception that Italian-Americans have forgotten what it is like to be targeted. Chris Cuomo has lived comfortably in the US as a white man, never before having his status challenged. As written by Robert F. Forester, in a country where the distinction between white man and black is intended as a distinction of value… it is no compliment to the Italian to deny him his whiteness, but that actually happens with considerable frequency.” So in his rage, Chris expressed how entitled he felt to the benefits of whiteness, it’s inclusivity, and how no one like him wants to be Black.