So What Exactly Is “Black Love”?

Yesterday I wrote a post about Barack and Michelle and their love shining bright. They let their souls glo…and shine through. It’s a beautiful thing.

Well in the course of writing that post, I mentioned the term “Black love” quite a few times and began to ask myself what that actually meant. Now, for the purposes of most conversations in the community, saying Black love usually doesn’t require a definition. It’s like pr0n, it might be hard to define but folks know it when they see it. There’s never really been a need to place any boundaries or limits on the term. Conversely, I don’t think most of us really think about how deep the idea is in and of itself.

The concept of Black anything has always been an interesting. I’m no expert on any other culture and I’m sure I’ll be corrected on this, but Blackness is one of the few areas of most of us colored lives that gets questioned constantly. Not being Black enough is a real shot at somebody’s character. And it usually means that you’re attempting to be white. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If that’s who you are then that’s who you are. But nobody every says, you’re being too Latino or Chinese to a Black person. Naw, you’re just not Black enough. Does that happen to Latinos, Asians, etc? Are super proper speaking Asian kids sellouts? I doubt it.

Point is, Blackness is complicated and always will be. So the concept of Black love can’t be simple right?

If two Black people are dating or married and in love, does that, by default constitute Black love? Is seeing a woman pick up her son and give him a kiss on the cheek…is that Black love? Or two good friends doing the Black man handshake-hug combo that I’ve seen so many other ethnicities f*ck up with tremendous aplomb.

Seriously, why is that sh*t so difficult. I’m not saying that we, The Blacks, are just more dexterous and athletic than everybody else, but we definitely have coordination on lock. You know what, we’re more athletic too. It takes a real athlete to do some of these handshakes we do. In high school, me and two of my best friends had a 15-step handshake. It was as ridiculous as it sounds. I promise.

Is that Black love? I mean the dedication and loyalty we exacted in order to efficiently bust out that handshake? We were committed to one another because who the hell else would we be able to do that? That’s got to be it right?

In truth, I think the entire concept of Black love is just that…a concept. Its those horrendously cliche ass pictures that you see being sold in mall kiosks with some naked, rippled Black man holding some naked nubian black woman with their bodies intertwined. While I’d never ever put that type of picture up in my house – my tastes are a bit more discerning than that – I get why they exist. Black love is the ideal of unity and togetherness. It’s this ideal of strength shared between two people attempting to reach a common goal…

…which would explain why we care so much about the idea since, community wise, we have some serious issues with each one of those principles. That explains why seeing Barack and Michelle is an example because they look like they represent all of those things as a unit.

Hell, they’re a unit. My guess is that other ethnicities don’t necessarily dwell on the ideal because they don’t have to. Clearly those goals exist in other communities and are the bedrock for a long-lasting relationship, but for some reason, I do think we place more of a premium on those things in the Black community likely because of our shared history. We may not be monolithic but that history of ours can’t stop and won’t stop. Then again they said that about Rocafella Records and you see how that turned out.

There’s something about Mary…but Blackness has certain complex simplicity about it. No Teedra. That’s why we throw Black in front of so many things. Black power, Black love, Black box…was a good group, Black music, Black black. I’m not completely sure what they all mean but they all mean something. And it’s something that nearly all Black folks, even those of us who spurn most things of the diaspora, can acknowledge and accept.

But I ask of you, folks who love to wax poetic and philosophical, what exactly is Black love? Is there a definition or perfect example or do you just know it when you see it? And if you’re white or other…what do you think? Let’s talk shop.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. BLACK aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Barack and Michelle Are Black Love, And I’m Okay With That

I’m not sure why I’m so cynical about everything. I’m sure if I dug far enough into my own background I’d find out it had something to do with losing a teddy bear or my mama not hugging me enough. Either way, I can be extremely cynical. Often times I just claim to be a realist…but maybe I just hate love.

Which is why I was so surprised to find myself cheesing like a rat at Chuck E. Cheese watching Barack and Michelle (since you know we’re on first name status and what not, as if!) do their first dance at the Commander-In-Chief Ball this past evening. Oh, and Michelle was killing them bangs and that dress. I don’t find her to be the hottest woman on the planet. And half the time I wonder if I’ve just got the wrong Michelle Obama with how frequently folks try to say she’s fine. But she’s a beautiful woman who has the adoration and love of her husband. And that’s beautiful.

That brings me to my point. I’ve long argued people when folks fawned all over Barack and Michelle. Because I’m not racist, I’ve also felt that way when folks did the same over Jay-Z and Beyonce. I think its the natural cynic in me who gets irritated by this savior complex we have in the Black community. Anytime somebody does something even a little bit right – and are famous – we make them the patron saints of That Thing They Did. Folks get married, OH MY GOD THEY ARE THE PERFECT COUPLE AND ROLE MODELS. Rarely do I see people writing odes to their parents, but the Famouses, they get the love.

However, I’ve started to soften my tone towards them. I don’t know if it’s because I do tea time at least once a week now and put on a tiara the other day because my daughter wanted me to pretend to be a princess, but I feel like I’ve begun looking at Barack and Michelle with a comforting vibe. Actually, it’s probably because I know that in 4 years, Barack and Michelle will still matter, but won’t be as prevalent or present. And to some degree that saddens me. These last four years, while not perfect politically have represented a significant amount of excitement for Black people. Sure we could always tell a person who claimed folks were holding them down that if Barack could become president then they needed to fall back, however, America felt a little bit different. Not necessarily better, just different. And that had as much to do with Michelle as Barack.

See, she’s a Black woman. And she’s comfortable in her skin. She does everything with a certain grace that’s inspiring. I appreciate her just as much as I appreciate Barack for being so in love with one another. I appreciate Barack for staring at her derriere to remind us all the he’s a real ninja. And I love that when they did their first dance that they hit a few moments of groove and swing and showed that they had that rhythm. I appreciate that. I like seeing them smile at each other and look like they actually like each other. I’m sure they have issues like everybody else and though he’s the leader of the free world I don’t doubt for a second that he knows when to defer to his wife just like she lets him be the man.

He never forgets to give her the props she deserves. I’m sure he’s a man and does man things that are so common place that they don’t need rehashing here. And I’m sure she has her moments. But so do we all.

Earlier today I was thinking about the idea of Black love. It’s just like every other noun with Black in front of it. It symbolizes some strong bond and commonality amongst us that all that even if it can’t be defined with simple words and phrases, you just know it exists when you see it. It’s palpable. But more importantly, it’s necessary. Seeing Black love is not only necessary for us as a community, it’s important for the world to witness even if they don’t fully get it. Don’t have to bump it, but please respect it.

I’ll skip the statistics about love and how dire it is because I’m not sure the stats tell the story of what I see. Sure I’ll always cringe when folks get too hype about anybody’s love that’s famous, but if Barack and Michelle are the symbole of Black love that I have to fall back on, well, I’m good with that. Because it looks real and it looks beautiful.

And it looks like something towards which to aspire in a world where so many images in the world of “reality” skew towards odd visions of love for anybody. Hey Mariah.

Cheers to Barack and Michelle for showing us how to do this son. Or more accurately, just showing us their love and letting us do with it what we might. And cheers to the freakin’ weekend…I’ll drink to that.

Love 40, baby.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST WITH A HEART aka MR. DULY NOTE THAT aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

The Balancing Act: 4 Reasons Why Movies Dealing With Black Love (Seem To) Sh*t On Black Men

Ok. I lied.

Yesterday, I devoted this space to 1000 or so angst-ridden words about why I was tired of having angst-ridden discussions about Tyler Perry, and my fatigue was completely sincere. So sincere, in fact, that I even scheduled a mock funeral for my angst-ridden Tyler Perry baggage, complete with stink bug pallbearers and a tiny coffin I carved out of some spare plywood in the trunk of my truck. (What? Stop acting like I’m the only one who carries a half dozen pieces of spare plywood in his truck. You never know when you’ll need an extra piece of wood)

But, right when I was about to hammer the final nail in the coffin, I watched this from my homegirl Lydia Cotton. Then, I came across this from Demetria Lucas at A Belle In Brooklyn, which led me to this from Natasha at The YBF, and this from Courtland Milloy at The Washington Post—all pieces using For Colored Girls as a means to offer their take on the fact that many black men (and a few black women) strongly feel that the majority of movies recently produced, written, and directed by black people for black people always seem to have the same latent theme: Ya’ll n*ggas aint shit!

From Milloy:

Can anyone name a movie that came out recently starring a black man who wasn’t a sociopath? Someone who had a terrific screen presence, like a young Paul Robeson? And he portrayed a character who was complex and fully drawn? Did he respect black women, too?

Anybody saw that movie? I didn’t. But surely it’s out there somewhere, right? An alternative to those Tyler Perry films portraying black men as Satan’s gift to black women? But where is it?

I love challenges almost as much as I love excuses to eat bacon, so I tried to think of a somewhat recent (recent = made in the last 20 or so years) major motion picture featuring a desirable black male character who fit each of the following characteristics:

was in a healthy, adult, monogamous, long-term (two years or longer) relationship (rules out each of the main characters in Love Jones, The Best Man, Menace To Society, Poetic Justice, Enemy of The State, Drumline, Devil in a Blue Dress, Jungle Fever, She’s Gotta Have It, Mo Better Blues, She Hate Me, I Think I Love My Wife, and Boomerang)

was in a healthy, adult, monogamous, long-term relationship with a black woman (rules out Hitch, Training Day, Out Of Time, American Gangsta, I Robot, Our Family Wedding, and Hancock)

—wasn’t a 5’6” professional basketball player (rules out Just Wright and Love and Basketball)

—wasn’t actually a real person (rules out Malcolm X, Ray, Talk to Me, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and Ali)

didn’t shoot anyone (rules out each of the Bad Boys as well as each of the Lethal Weapons)

didn’t accidentally kill seven people in a car accident (rules out Seven Pounds)

didn’t have a criminal record (rules out every black movie ever set in New York City, Atlanta, or South Central)

—wasn’t a porn star (rules out Boogie Nights)

wasn’t romantically involved with Kimberly Elise (rules out John Q and Diary of a Mad Black Woman)

From my estimation, this leaves us with Cuba Gooding Jr.’s “Rod Tidwell” (Jerry Macquire), Harold Perrineau’s “Link” (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions), Jeffery Sams’ “Kenny” (Soul Food), and the black guy in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (you know, the one who’s responsible for the end of mankind)—not exactly the 1992 Dream Team.

Ok, so maybe this black movies kind of sh*t on black men thing has some legs. Who knew? (Don’t answer that)

Still, I needed possible reasons for this continued underrepresentation, and I managed to come up with four.

1. Movies dealing with black love are generally told from a black female point-of-view

This actually makes perfect (and practical) sense. Women are the target market for romantic comedies and relationship-centric dramas, so it stands to reason that movies focusing on black love are filled with optimistically realistic female characters and cardboard male caricatures. I mean, I don’t exactly see a group of sistas rushing out in groups to see It’s All My Fault, And It’s Probably Not Going To Get Any Better, a screwball romantic dramedy featuring Kerry Washington as “Monica Jenkins”, an Atlanta-area business woman who deals with the realization that, well, it’s all her fault, and it’s probably not going to get any better.

But, as much as I hate to say “white” movies follow the exact same formula, “white” movies follow the exact same formula. In this sense, Quincy McCall is really no different than Mr. Big.

2. There just aren’t that many black movies period

This is also true. There just aren’t going to be that many realistic depictions of black males in healthy black relationships if there aren’t that many black movies to begin with. I mean, if you look hard enough you have your independent fare like Love, Sex, and Eating The Bones and I’m Through with White Girls (The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks), but you’re probably not going to see one of these playing at AMC Loews. Can’t complain about the Cajun wings if all the chickens are dead.

3. Well, you can’t really complain about it because these are realistic depictions. Just take a look around you. For the most part, ya’ll n*ggas aint sh*t. I’ve been trying to tell you! Duh! What the hell did you expect?

Umm, well, moving on…

4. It’s all about the balance

(Generally speaking) We (African-Americans) are relentless masochists, pain-seeking missiles defining ourselves by our struggles, our pain, our collective burdens, and our collective willingness to memorize each unnecessary stanza of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”. This obsession with personal and cultural agony comes out in our art, as we create music and movies designed to share as much as this pathos as possible with as many people as possible.

Considering the well-documented and unabashed misogyny present in hip-hop (and R&B), it makes sense that movies would carry a bit of an anti-male sentiment to even everything out; a delicate harmony of heartbreak creating the perfect balance of “gee, it really does suck to be black” blues.

Anyway, people of VSB.com: Do you think “black” movies—especially ones dealing with black love—have a tendency to paint black men in an unfairly and disproportionately negative light? If so, why do you think this is? Do you agree with any of the reasons I cited? Do you think there’s any truth behind the “balance” argument?

Also, (since I’m sure I forgot about a few movies) can anyone think of any other recent (don’t go citing some Sidney Poiter sh*t on me) movies featuring a black male character in a healthy and monogamous relationships with a black female? If an angst-ridden black blogger saw a Medea in the woods, would a screenplay make a sound?

The carpet is yours.

—The Champ