Black love continues to stand the test of time and adversity
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Anyone would think that the horrors of slavery and colonization would have, over the many generations it spanned, stripped the African man and woman of the ability to love and trust. Despite the atrocities committed against us, and perhaps because of what we were forced to endure, we held on to our ability to find and maintain loving relationships. We fought for the ability to love who we wanted and to be able to show and express that love the same as anyone else. We have infused our lives with love on our own terms.
Those who loved us deeply mourned our disappearance when we were stolen from our homeland and marched to the sea. They were left behind to wonder what had become of us and if we would ever be found again. They must have heard stories and rumors about where we had been taken and by whom. They probably gave up hope of ever seeing us again without losing their love for us.
As we spent those long months in the holds of those ships, we found ways to communicate and grew to care, and yes, love each other. We shared the burden of our misery, sometimes with the very people who kidnapped us and caused us to be in bondage. In the darkness, we held on to whatever we could to survive and loved those we lost and those with whom we found ourselves bounded.
There was love in the fields, even when there was barely the time and freedom to take a deep breath. There was love in the big house, where one was alternately invisible and always on display. Stolen glances. Hidden touches. Entire courtships being conducted during the brief and rare moments of rest.
Weddings were often ceremonies of our own design with some pieces of traditions brought with us from across the miles of land and sea that separated us from our homeland. We created families even though we knew that at any moment, those families could be viciously destroyed on a whim. We loved each other knowing it might very well be a miracle for us to grow old together. We gave birth to children who could be ripped from our arms.
We loved as we toiled under the yolk of sharecropping and factory work. We loved as we endured lives in service as laborers and domestics. We loved when we were humiliated as we just tried to go out for a drive on a summer's night. We loved when we were denied basic human rights to eat, shop and live wherever we wanted. We loved when the hoses were turned on and the dogs were set loose. We loved when crosses were burned and men in white sheets came in the middle of the night. We loved as we watched our way of life, our knowledge, our accomplishments and our peace were ground under the boot of oppressors come to strip our land of its resources.
It was our ability to love throughout all of the trials we have faced that has allowed us to survive. It is popular, and quite frankly easy, to decry the state of black love today. Census data has our marriage percentage rates in the 30s. Most days on our talk shows and websites, there is a running conversation about the state of black love today. People complain that black love is not on display anymore. They say it's not in our music, our art, our language or our literature. We grapple with conflicting opinions on what we think of this love, which has always existed but has also long been considered taboo.
We love each other still and just as deeply. We have been able to add to the love we feel for each other the love we feel being who we are. The ability to express that love of self, love of race and heritage, is what will propel us into our future. Black History Month allows us to tap into that love and pass it on to our children so that they might continue to survive. So that they might always have at least a spark of light to guide them through the darkness.
- Mariel Blake writes a weekly column for The Daily News.