Black love certainly is…
Almost a year ago I was scrolling through Facebook and heard the sweet voice attached to the even sweeter face of Nikki Giovanni talking to the almost melodic and lyrical voice of James Baldwin. They exchanged quips and banter, then went into a painfully deep conversation on the experience of love, relationships, and humanity for Black people living in a state of constant oppression, poverty, and despair. “Love is a tremendous responsibility,” Giovanni says softly at the end of the dialogue. Those words frame the conversation.
It’s not an afterthought but an affirmation. It’s the kind of thing that floats above whatever that is below which could drown it. It persists and moves about the world spreading its truth. Love is indeed a tremendous responsibility… especially for Black men and women. It’s a dance and a battle. A beauty and a beast.
“If I love you, I can’t lie to you,” Baldwin says.
“Of course, you can lie to me,” Giovanni replies. “Because what the hell do I care about the truth? I care if you’re there.“
I have loved Black Men. It has been difficult. I’m sure I have been no cake walk. They have been inconsistent and inauthentic. I have been difficult and demanding. They have been selfish and soulless at times. I have been over emotional and overly harsh at others. It’s a dance I constantly turned in my dance card for… but rarely made it to the end without a stepped on toe or otherwise forced to take the lead to get us to the end of the song.
I have yet, until now, had someone who is willing to give of himself in such an emotionally free way that is not dictated by what he can give or not give, buy or not buy, but instead by giving me the one thing I cannot purchase with dollars, credit cards, or extra care bucks.
His entire self. His time. His days. His moments. His emotion. His rationalizations. His conversation. His silence. His sleep. His awake. His starving. His full. His all the way up, and his down.
It’s not predicated on what he doesn’t have.
“…especially if I love you… I can’t come with nothing.“-Baldwin
But what he does.
“Sometimes you’re not able to clothe your family. Do you then, also, deprive them of your manhood?” -Giovanni
Whether it’s money or power or strength or … whatever it is that he thinks or knows he’s lacking, he does not deprive me of his presence. He uses me as his inspiration and catalyst to dream bigger and better, while being and living beside me as my support. Rarely do I need money or things, but I always, as long as he is willing to be present, need him and his manhood and his presence. And he’s willing… his actions show me and his future talk and preparation assure me.
Love is a tremendous responsibility.
It means giving. Of yourself and to yourself simultaneously. Being aware that what a woman needs most is you, something you first have to value and see the importance of independent from your resources. Sure, we teach men that their job is to provide… but the idea that provision is only financial is steeped in bullshit.
“You will work it out. Because you are intelligent enough. You are sensitive enough. You are man enough to work out a new system. … As long as the assumptions are the same, nothing will change. So, we must corner ourselves to make a new assumption.” –Giovanni
We understand the pressures Black men face. In many ways we are the recipient of that same vitriol with sexism as the root instead of fear. They are afraid of you and convince you that the closer you come to their patriarchal individualistic and capitalistic ideal the more of a man you will be… while simultaneously blocking you from that ideal. They think we lack the ability because we aren’t men first and then because we aren’t white. But they desire us so we don’t have to fight for our womanhood in quite the same way, at least not anymore.
But we will help you change that narrative… because you are men to us. Any woman that predicates Black manhood on financial ability is ignorant of history and our ancestral model. This model of female fragility that many Black women have attempted to adopt is synonymous with the white female ideal. This timid, soft, breakable, weak woman whose only strength is her beauty is a sexist trope that white women in the past and some in the present modeled. But that is not who we are. We aren’t mules, but we aren’t glass. As Sojourner said… “I could work as much and eat as much as a man… but ain’t I a woman?” We are capable of providing and helping to provide. We are a collective, you and me, not just two individuals trying to get over. That’s their way… not ours.
Love is a tremendous responsibility. It is especially true when you have to prove your worth, are told you have to work harder than everyone else to get scraps, and risk your dreams, health, body, time, patience, and goodness to get to these unreachable and unnecessary ideals. But we have to change the narrative together.
“If a man comes home, and he’s in a situation he cannot control, it’s got to come out somewhere. They got you by the neck and by the balls, and it has to come out. It comes out with the person you are closest to.” -Baldwin
“You grin at him all day long. You come home and I catch hell. Because I love you, I get least of you. I get the very minimum. ” -Giovanni
A man is not void of value because he doesn’t have or because he does have according to the American ideal… he’s valuable because he has and gives of himself. He’s valuable because he gives himself to those that love him, and saves the best parts of himself for them. He can do it, it just takes a change of mindset. That’s the narrative we should push. We have everything we need to excel, and we can do so in this landscape, with these rules, with our own ideals, traditions, and ancestry intact. We first have to love ourselves enough to believe that, then be present and open enough with each other to share ourselves and create a collective partnership. From that, there is nothing we cannot create.
We all we got! Love responsibly!