Published by African World, Summer Edition, 2023
In 1993, Hollywood adapted a movie from Tina Turner’s autobiography. It was entitled “What’s Love Got to Do with It” based on the 1984 hit song by the same title. While it captured St. Louis’ own Annie Mae Bullock’s metamorphosis to Super Star Tina Turner, most viewers locked into the period of her abusive relationship with Ike Sr. We understood—at least from Tina’s viewpoint—that love had nothing to do with that relationship.
People of African descent in this country don’t have the luxury of practicing Hollywood’s version of love and relationships. It is shallow, self-serving and rooted in patriarchy. Based on the latter, it is often rife with levels of violence that we’ve been taught will give us emotional, financial and sexual control in the relationships. We have this misguided belief that such control will fulfill us and make up happy.
In 2023, ours is a journey to seek deep and meaningful love of self, our family, other people and our community. Our understanding of love is so shattered and twisted in anti-Black hate, I believe we have forgotten how to love, to love unconditionally. That goes for self-love, love for our families and love for African people. Racial capitalism has us loving money, cars, clothes and other trappings to the point that we will kill another Black person–including family members and friends– to get or maintain these trinkets germane to a warped identity, an identity shaped by our barbaric enslavement.
The journey to Black love includes a serious decolonization of our minds, bodies and spirit. This will be difficult because the process of getting us to hate ourselves has taken centuries. Malcolm X warned us that we could end of hating the people who are oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. Brother Malcolm in his prophetic brilliance would not be surprised at the sophisticated ways our oppressors have made us willing participants in our own destruction, but he would be profoundly disappointed in us.
As we look around us, examples of our decolonized minds abound: colorism, child abuse and neglect, homicides, support of non-Black businesses over Black ones, mindless movies that promote Black buffoonery, demeaning music, drug and alcohol addiction, ridicule of African culture, disdain for African and African American history, rejection of Black academic excellence, to name a few. These manifestations mean we cannot be capable of real love. Yet.
Racial capitalism and imperialism requires that we internalize our own oppression and safeguard the status quo on behalf of the white oppressor. Our hearts and minds are subjected to toxic anti-Blackness before we are born. We can hardly look to Mother African for racial and cultural affirmation as white supremacy has ensured anti-Blackness has survived on a global level.
But the work of decolonization is absolutely a pathway to Black love, the kind of love that is unapologetic about our original, untainted African-ness. All work starts with the personal work for self-love to become our higher African selves, admitting we are flawed because of our history of traumatic circumstances. Black folk must always be intentional about ridding ourselves of the toxic self-hate while simultaneously working to create environments that nurture and reflect our Black humanity. Only Black folks with liberated minds can be contributors to liberated spaces and defenders of a Black future.
As I grow older and wiser in our freedom movement, I am convinced that love is more important than I once believed. I’m not talking about the love-your-enemy kind of love, I’m talking about a bodacious, take-no-prisoner kind of love. A healthy, healing kind of love. An unflinching love for our Blackness in the face of white contempt. A warm, all over-your-body kind of love. A resilient, everlasting love. A love for the generations. A love for a Black planet.
The work to preserve and protect Blackness is now. It is the key to opening the gates of Black love, unleashing the ancestral power within us that will allow us to soar to our rightful places in the world.