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.
Modern Day Christopher Columbus Who Called The Police On Black Woman at Community Pool Loses Job
White Walkers have been working extra hard this summer to colonize pools with the help of their allies, the police. Several videos have shown white pool goers upset at Black people for just existing; so much so that they have felt the need to call their favorite customer service number: 911.
This time a colonizer might want to freshen up his resume as he joins the list of a few others who feel the need to question if a Black person was supposed to be in their space.
Adam Bloom, a reincarnated Christopher Columbus from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, called the cops on Jasmine Edwards, a black mother, & her child because he didn’t think they belonged in the community swimming pool…even though she clearly had her pool pass. Bloom in a video that is being shared on Twitter questioned a Black woman at a community pool on whether or not she had a pool pass even though there is no sign asking for it to be visible. Bloom doesn’t work for the pool and won’t be working at Sonoco Products after resigning from the company. A Twitter user shared the info with a video tagging the company’s official Twitter account.
Adam Bloom from Winston-Salem, North Carolina called the cops on
Jasmine Edwards, a black mother, & her child because he didn’t think they belonged in the community swimming pool, even though she clearly had her pool pass. Bloom works at @Sonoco_Products.pic.twitter.com/ZzW6GRv2Ua
— Simar (@sahluwal) July 6, 2018
Jasmine Edwards, the Black mother, was questioned by police about whether or not she had her pool card. When Edwards asked for an apology, Adam Bloom just walked away.
In a statement released on Friday, Bloom’s attorney, John Vermitsky, said his client was only trying to enforce the rules of using the pool, which is only for the Glenridge neighborhood, and “feels terrible for the pain” he caused the woman, Jasmine Edwards.
Bloom resigned Thursday as the “pool chair” and as a board member from the homeowners association of Glenridge, his community in Winston-Salem. The association apologized in a statement and said that Bloom “escalated a situation in a way that does not reflect the inclusive values Glenridge seeks to uphold as a community.” via NBCNews
We love the smell of white tears.
The Conflict Between Thick and Fat
In the last year or so, there has been a (re)emergence of the term “thicc.” On social media, it has been almost impossible to scroll through your timeline without someone being referred to as “thicc,” “thick,” or some other variation of the word. As celebrities like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and others began to gain weight, headlines began to circulate where writers were celebrating the celebrities’ “thickness” and not their fatness. It is for this reason that I have grown a strong disdain for the term “thicc/k” and am adamant about being clear in the fact that using the term “thicc/k” as a compliment while still actively denying fat people our humanity, our right to love, and proper medical care, housing, and jobs is anti-fat.
Mainstream—whereby I mean hegemonic—powers have created a dichotomy between “thicc/k” and “fat.” Anti-fat domination determines who gets to be the former and who is always understood as the latter. This is how desirability/beauty politics show up in our language. The reality is that these two terms are the same; thicc/k is fat, fat is thicc/k. How one defines and understands beauty is what informs their language around other people’s weight and appearance. Said again, how someone’s fatness sits on their body determines whether they are read as “thicc/k” or “fat,” and I posit that this plays a major role in anti-fat discrimination/oppression.
thicc/k is fat, fat is thicc/k
When discussing anti-fatness, people oftentimes reduce this form of oppression to discriminatory, brutal language—most notably referred to as “fat shaming.” Language does, in fact, play a role in anti-fat oppression. It is why, for the most part, fat people prefer terms like “thicc/k,” “big,” “big-boned” because “fat” has always been weaponized against us. Many fat people have anecdotal tales about the times we’ve experienced anti-fatness in the workplace, in school, in the medical field. However, anti-fatness does not begin and end with anecdote. In fact, anti-fatness’s reach extends far beyond the language that reinforces its existence. It is systemic. According to North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO), in 1999, a 14-year-old girl by the name of Gina Score died due to anti-fat biases and prejudices. It is said that Gina, who had been part of a camp run and operated by military veterans, had been tasked with a 2.7-mile run. She fell on the ground, gasping for air. After four hours of her instructors laughing, drinking soda, and accusing Gina of faking, a doctor came and called for an ambulance immediately. Gina’s organs had failed. She had died. Just a few years prior, Canadian doctor and columnist, Kenneth Walker, wrote in a popular and well-cited newspaper column that “For their own good and for the good of the country, fat people should be locked up in prison camps.”
In a study performed by Steven L. Gortmaker and other scientists, it was proven that fat men were eleven percent (11%) less likely to marry and fat women were twenty percent (20%) less likely to marry. In 49 out of the 50 US states, it is legal to fire someone for no other reason than their fatness. In other words, unless a fat person is fired for being fat in Michigan—the only state with a law which protects people who are overweight—they can be fired and nothing can be done about it. Fat people—women and queer folks, specifically—are so often not given the space to discuss their histories with sexual abuse away from desire. We are met with “why would anyone want to rape you?” People read our bodies, be it consciously or not, as undesirable and, thus, do not understand what would compel someone to violate us sexually—even though rape is generally about engaging sex as an avenue through which one can maintain power over a person/place/thing. Herein is why we do not hear fat people’s #MeToo stories.
When Black Panther was released earlier this year, many people celebrated the casting of a “thicc/k” Winston Duke, who played leader of the Jabari Tribe, M’Baku. Folks wrote on the barriers someone of his stature would break in a film of Black Panther’s magnitude; many lusted after Duke on social media, noting his height and “massive thighs” as something they looked forward to seeing in the film. At one point, Winston Duke even went on record to thank Black women for helping him “heal” from the scars associated with his size. While I recognize that a Black man who towers at 6’4” with 250 pounds resting on his body likely does have a lot to heal from, I am more thoughtful of the many people whose weight does not rest so easily on their bodies. I am forced to think about the darkskin Black man who also towers at over 6’, but weighs 600 pounds, and how that leads to him being antagonized, and not celebrated, on social media. I am forced to think about Black women like Roxane Gay, who stands at 6’3” with over 400 pounds on her body. I am mindful of my own nonbinary body; a body that is 6’ and well over 250 pounds.
With our bodies in mind, I am unable to give as much thought to bodies like Winston Duke’s; the rest of the world will already do that. I am all-too-aware of the fact that this room which Winston Duke is given to discuss his insecurities with his size happens at the expense of fat people without his money, fame, or frame. It is this reality—a reality that dehumanizes and otherizes poor, darkskin, fat people—that would play a role in the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. For darkskin Black people with fat bodies that are undesirable, we live knowing that we are at a higher risk of experiencing violence at the hands of the state.To assign language like “thicc/k” to what can otherwise be understood as fat is to manipulate the pleasure-economy under capitalism—by which I mean the actualizing of new structures in which we find pleasure. Click To Tweet
There is a particular currency in thickness that is not found in fatness. To assign language like “thicc/k” to what can otherwise be understood as fat is to manipulate the pleasure-economy under capitalism—by which I mean the actualizing of new structures in which we find pleasure. This is, as it stands, a way to specifically remove any ability to locate desire in a body that is outright fat and place it solely in bodies with weight that is “proportionate.” For those of us who will never be seen as anything other than fat, we are being told through this use of “thicc/k” that our cages, as Roxane Gay calls the body, are not desirable; that only a particular type of fatness is capable of being beautiful/desired/whole. Not just desirable in the sense of beauty, love, and sex, but desirable as it affects and pertains to our health, our education, our livelihoods.
So, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and others assigned “thicc/k” as a label get to have others celebrate their weight gain—albeit, not void of misogynoir—while women and femmes like Roxane Gay, Jamal Lewis, and Ashleigh Shackelford continue to fight for bodies like theirs to be seen as valid. Winston Duke gets access to money and healing while boys and men like Mike Brown and Eric Garner meet death. This dichotomy is anti-fat. This is anti-fat violence, and it is this that makes the use of “thicc/k” anti-fat.
I am aware that, even after reading this, many people will not stop using the word “thicc/k.” Nevertheless, it is my hope that through this it is made clear that whatever desire someone locates in a body they deem “thicc/k,” what they find attractive really is fatness. We need to be honest about that to destigmatize fatness and fat people’s bodies. This is truly the difference between life and death.
To continue dissecting anti-fatness, both on a personal and structural basis, I suggest following these beautiful fat people with beautiful fat politics on Twitter:
Dear Black People: Don’t Be White People about the Current Immigration Policy
Let me start with a ‘NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE,’ so you ignant n*ggas hear me…
A few days ago, I’m scrolling through Twitter, and I notice that someone has posted a screenshot of a Facebook post from some fool named Ivory Robinson, in which this fool implores black people to stay out of the current shit show that is the Trump administration’s policy to forcibly separate children from their parents who are seeking asylum (which means they are trying to leave some super terrible shit and end up here facing some more terrible shit) by crossing the border “illegally.” So, the parents go jail and then, presumably, back to the terrible shit they were attempting to escape from, and the children go to whatever baby prison is available, which could be as far away as New York or even my hometown, Baltimore.
When I saw this message, I thought, surely this must be one of those Russian bot accounts because I know black people, who were ruthlessly stripped from our African tribes and history and shipped all over these United States (and honestly still to this day, racial disparity exists in child welfare systems which makes black and Native American children more likely to be removed from their home, some of which is explained by high rates of poverty in these communities, you can read more information here); surely, black people are not on Beyoncé’s internet advocating for standing idly by while Trump’s bloodthirsty administration spearheads one of the most heinous and sociopathic endeavors since they killed Jesus. Black people, if no one else, have to feel some level of empathy because we, deep down in our DNA and collective memory, understand this type of pain.
And then, it happened. This young man in my real life, who prior to this conversation I thought was of reasonable intelligence, repeated, damn near verbatim what this other young man (presumably, because I don’t know how Ivory Robinson identifies) said in his Facebook post. I had to take a step back because the sheer stupidity of what he said literally took my breath away.
This young man, father to a 5-year old, said, “Man, Mexicans wasn’t jumping out to help when police were murdering us.”
I said, “Oh, well what did you do? Did you protest? Did you even vote?”
You can imagine what happened next – stumbling over words, something about Latinos appropriating the n-word, voting doesn’t matter anyway. Wooo chile, the stupidity.I need Black people to care, my spirit needs it, and not because we could be next, not because of other black immigrants in the diaspora that you can racially relate to. You need to care because they are got damn people. Click To Tweet
If you are one of these Black people who feel like this isn’t your fight, I don’t know what it will take to change your mind but let me offer this. First, several very smart people have put together quite a few examples of how our Latino brethren throughout history have stood as allies in the struggle. Use the search function on Twitter and educate yourself. Second, I would like to remind you that even though media are hyper-focused on placing brown faces on this tragedy, these policies have the potential to affect our Haitian, Jamaican, Guyanese, Bermudian, Nigerian, etc. brothers and sisters too. Check out Angela Rye’s podcast “On the One with Angela Rye,” episode title – DACA for Dummies released September 6, 2017 and educate yourself. Third, don’t let these mofos manipulate you. On that episode, Angela Rye plays snippets from an advertisement dating back to October 2012 meant to shape how black people view immigration. Ugh, I hate to even mention the Young Turks who are indeed trash dressed up as allies, however, this clip should be watched. I mean, it’s like what they did when they hired Bruce Carter, former Bernie staffer, to persuade black voters to support Trump or not vote at all.
And finally, n*gga, these are kids. On one hand, we, as marginalized people, have been daily traumatized by the Trump administration and their continuous assault on our freedoms. Believe me, I understand how it feels to be so righteously angry that you just want to see everything burned down to the ground. They make it so easy to forget your humanity, son. But we cannot turn into white people about this. We cannot wear our IDGAF jackets every day.
Side note: Black men, y’all, for real are going to get enough of caping for this white woman. Toure’ and Van Jones and all the rest of you looking for an angle to absolve Melania for her complicity in everything happening right now, up to and including, sliding her Slovenian arms into that jacket with that deplorable message spread across the back. Let us not forget Melania who can hardly speak English because she too is an immigrant was riding hard next to Trump when he started his “I need to see Obama’s birth certificate” campaign. She’s a terrible racist too, and she surely does not care anything about your black ass, which means, you have decided to trade in whatever credibility you have left with your core group of supporters for Melania “IDGAF about babies separated from their moms and dads” Trump. The shame.
Anyway, I need Black people to care, my spirit needs it, and not because we could be next, not because of other black immigrants in the diaspora that you can racially relate to, not because they want you to not care. You need to care because they are got damn people.
The day we turn into a white people about this shit, is the day they’ve won.