Black Love at the 2018 Black Solidarity Conference at Yale University by Levite Pierre I’ve been working with EYEJ for about two months now and I love what this organization is […]
Black Love at the 2018 Black Solidarity Conference at Yale University by Levite Pierre
I’ve been working with EYEJ for about two months now and I love what this organization is doing for the kids. We go and educate and empower the youth about different topics like Gender Equality, Civil Rights, and plenty more. What we don’t have a topic for is love. Now, just like me when I attended the “Black Love” seminar by Dr. Jafari Allen of Yale University, you may think that by “love”, I mean a healthy heterosexual relationship and how to sustain it. However, Dr. Allen educated me and 699 other underrepresented college students from all around America on what “Black Love” really means.
We live in a misogynistic, homophobic, anti-black society, and unfortunately, all of these things influence black people of all ages. These societal norms and pressures set-up social barriers within our own communities. Creating a type of hierarchy for blackness and it’s many intersections. A quote from a seminar titled “Representation of Black Men” hosted by Saki Benibo (editor and chief of Very Smart Brothas (online black news source)) and Damon Young (author of “The 4:44 Effect” and “Moonlight: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”) is “Straight black men are the white people of black communities”. As a straight black man this sounds absurd, but with some thought I grew to understand the statement regardless if it is a stretch or not. They were trying to say that straight black men are at the top of this social hierarchy in the black community and that we fail to admit our privilege and/or our bigotry. Straight black men globally have been brutalizing and humiliating black gay men or black trans women, like the rest of society doesn’t brutalize them enough. Black woman are held to this beauty standard set by white woman and are belittled in almost every part of black culture, especially in music. There are also divides between ethnicities of blackness. My father was born in Haiti, my friends dad was born in Nigeria, any first generation African American person will tell you that the native African, West Indian, and Caribbean people feel a certain way about African Americans. I won’t generalize these groups of peoples beliefs, but I will say African Americans are definitely othered by non-american black people. This is just a short list of issues that come from these paradigms of thought pushed by our society through media and politics.
So, what is the answer to these issues? The answer is black love, not just between sexual partners, not just within our family, and not just within our communities. Black love for all blackness everywhere. I feel like Ashlee Marie Preston (trans activist and politician) said it best during a discussion she co-hosted with Dr. Riche Barnes (Socio-Cultural Anthropologist at Yale), and Chelsea Miller (CEO & Co-Founder of Woman Everywhere Believe) called “Black Feminism in the New Millennium”. Preston said “We should love our own blackness so much that we can’t help but to love another person’s blackness.” This statement resonated with me and is something I’ll never forget, because if we can’t love our own blackness or another person’s blackness who will?
A lot of times in the black community we go through so much to prove ourselves as better than the rest for jobs, education, or fame. So much so, that we find ourselves in competition with each other for these spaces. Spaces that can only tolerate so many of us. So, instead of trying to build this tolerance, grow these spaces, and help our brothers/sisters find themselves striving in these spaces. We focus on our own success while disregarding or othering the struggles of the rest of our people. At the end of the day, no matter if your rich, poor, gay, straight, young, old, american, foreign, dark-skinned, light-skinned, educated, uneducated, man, or woman, if you are black it’s your responsibility to love and support the rest of our people. Dr. Allen said the easiest thing we, as a community, can do for eachother is to show affirmation to one another in our day to day lives even if it’s through simple things like smiling and nodding at someone you don’t know when walking somewhere.
The idea of affirmation, acceptance, and love for one another is something I feel is extremely important to introduce to our youth. Coming from the same types of schools/environments as the kids we visit and have these discussions with, I know how their everyday dynamic is. There are ingroups and outgroups that can be formed based on almost anything be it femininity, interests, academic success, masculinity, etc. These can entice conflicts, biases, and a lack of unity or support between peers. These types of groupings happening at such a young age will only feed into the behaviours of these kids as young adults who will bring these biases into even larger black communities and drive the wedge deeper in the intersections of black communities.
So, I propose that EYEJ provides a topic that addresses Black Love or Intersectionality in some way. To one; amplify the voices of students experiencing a lack of black love or othering from their peers, two; address the origins of students biases, and three; break down social barriers within the student’s schools to allow for overall acceptance and support of one another. Attending the Black Solidarity Conference gave me a lot to think about on my plane ride back. One of those thoughts was: how can I spread these gems of knowledge I was blessed with in my community at Case Western University and the overall Cleveland community. I believe EYEJ is the avenue in which these messages can be sent to the youth in Cleveland to start a change in the thought process of our community in general.
EYEJ Discussion Series Intern
Case Western Reserve University Student