My very good friend Natasha and I are doing a 4-week blog series on Black Love in honor of Black History Month. Below is the first part of our discussion on black marriage in our final week of our series, written by Natasha Shorts (@NotedByNatasha). To view previous blogs from our series click here.
I grew up in a home of black love. My parents have been married for over 30 years and though they are far from perfect with hurts and pains I will never fully know, their marriage has shown me the power, beauty, and strength of black marriage. My parents have never been in a fistfight, never spoke ill of each other in a disrespectful way in front of us, and still kiss each other like it’s their wedding day. (Which now is not as gross as it was as a kid haha!) Seeing my mother get excited to see my Dad when he comes home, seeing her respect him as a man and still keep her own identity was a beautiful example of how to love a man. Hearing my Dad tell us again and again how intelligent, wise, loving, and underappreciated my mother is, making sure we are all loving her well, respecting her, and spoiling her whenever he could has instilled in me how I should be loved by a man. The way my Dad stepped up when my mom went back to work and continues to encourage her and the way my mother has always had my Dad’s back no matter what hardship he was going through spoke volumes of partnership in the home. All of this has shaped the way myself and all five of my siblings see love.
What does black love actually do?
Black Love raises children uniquely knowing themselves. My parents instilled in us the love of God and the love of who He made us to be at a very young age. To this day there is not a day that goes by when we are all together that we do not discuss what it means to walk with Jesus, what it means to be black, and how they intertwine. Though I struggled with my own blackness for periods of my life at the same time I was overwhelmingly in love with black culture. My father played every single song from Motown and really just the 60s and 70s you can think of growing up. I can picture it now, all the siblings in the car on the way to an AAU track meet listening to Motown’s Greatest Hits on a tape in the minivan. Moms head is bobbing as she is singing along with my Dad. The soul of that music, the depth of love that came from Michael Jackson’s young voice, the racial tensions and pain that we learned about from watching movies like the Temptations, the Five Heartbeats, and more. It all played through the music we heard and played into understanding who I was as a black girl, and who I could become as a woman.
My father has coached most of my life, so many young black boys have called my father their own because of the example that he and my mother set for them. It was uncommon where we grew up to have a black couple in the neighborhood that actually loved each other, were married and stayed together. I even remember my dad give the neighborhood kids money for good grades. I asked him why he did that for them and not for us. He said that we knew we had to bring home good grades but no one was at home for the other kids to care enough whether they did well or not. Their life was a constant testimony to all those around us, though we did not understand as kids.
Young black boys need to hear from their fathers that they are stronger when they show their emotions. They need to see their fathers loving their mom, showering their mom, protecting their mom, empowering and bragging about their mom, and really all the women in their home. They need to hear from their mothers that they are kings and made to lead. Young black girls need to see their mothers trusting their dads, seeing their mothers loving and respecting, they need to see their mothers empowering and bragging about their dad, and really all the men in their home. They need to be hearing from their fathers they are loved and desire to be treated with the utmost respect. We can no longer expect our society aka the system that was built to destroy us to somehow create a good life for us. We have to do it ourselves, through Christ, and that begins with our homes.
Black Love in the home gives black children the chance to be prepared for a world that is not made for them. I was never told that I could not become something. But I was plainly told my obstacles and the importance of being two times better than my white counterparts. I was consistently reminded of what lies white people thought and heard story after story of racism that my parents experienced over the years, especially from their Christian brothers and sisters. Yet my parents never used that as an excuse. Together they would shake their heads in frustration and hurt but continue to encourage us to become anything we wanted to be. This played out in how they raised us. They never overworked us but desired for us to get every opportunity that came our way to show the world and just ourselves that we are equal and deserve greatness.
Black Love has the ability to save our neighborhoods. If we want to change our communities it begins with each and every home. What happens or does not happen in the home shapes our communities. If there is no understanding of our identity, beginning with knowing that God made us on purpose with a purpose, including our skin color, culture, and background, then there is a constant unanswered question of who am I. We find that answer, that belonging, in the wrong places and never seem to get out of this systematic cycle that was made for us to fail in the first place. But if we teach what all this means in the home, the foundation of our learning, we have the chance to change our history one child at a time.
Black Love produces businesses. When my Aunt got married, as a kid I just thought she found her prince and would live happily ever after. But they have done more than that, they have created a business together. Combining their dreams they pushed forward toward opening a daycare…and then another…and another. Over the years they did not just employ family but instilled in us the possibility of owning our own businesses. They are constantly making everything into business ideas and always tellings us that we can own this and do that and even explaining how it all works. Owning a business is now in hands reach instead of a dream that would never happen.
They have purposely employed diverse staff from the communities the daycares are in with the hopes of making better lives for those who they employ. They are constantly giving the children more than what the state requires from special gifts, fun field trips, taking them places they may not have been able to go without them, and of course, sharing Jesus with them. While many may not have had a father or mother at home, they have watched and seen black love play out with Ms. Trina and Mr. Ed’s black love. Their black love shows what generosity in the midst of building wealth looks like.
I could go on and on with example after example of the good black love stories and how it affects all of us. I choose not to share the bad ones because we know that already. The media shows us what a dysfunctional home looks like and I don’t know about you but I refuse to allow that to be the home I raise my children in or choose to believe that statistics are my final destiny.
Instead, I want Black Love. I want to instill in my kids that their hair texture is just as complex as the God who created it. I want Black Love. I want to encourage my husband that though the world is at war with him, at home he can find safety, love, and respect. I want Black Love. I want to show the world that the only reason we should be feared is because of the potential we have to take over wherever God places us. I want Black Love. I want to build a legacy that benefits the generations following me spiritually, physically, financially.
I want Black Love. It is far greater than the cute Instagram pictures, hashtags, t-shirts, even more than just this simple blog post. So what is it? Black Love is a tradition. It was carried on the backs of slaves and the only thing that held them together. Black Love is respect and honor. It is laying aside our past hurts to choose to see black men as worthy of respect and black women worthy of love just because of the breath we breathe. Black Love is a full understanding of self while lovingly sacrificing for others. It is seeing the beauty of your skin, hair, eyes, spirit, in yourself like Lupita Nyong’o, and unselfishly complimenting homegirl on how she is slaying without your own jealousy in mind. Black Love is beautiful. It is the kiss on the cheek, the holding of hands, the commitment to forever that gives hope to all watching. Black Love breaks generational curses. Black Love changes neighborhoods. Black Love is not just a movement, it is a lifestyle.
Read more insightful and authentic blog post by Natasha on her site by clicking here.