Virginia Tech Black Love Exhibit
In honor of Black History Month
The Perspective Art Gallery, the Black Cultural Center, and the Black Organizations Council presents...
THE BLACK LOVE EXHIBIT
The faculty of Virginia Tech are encouraged to participate in the ‘Black Love’ exhibit by submitting writings expressing their views on what Black Love means to them.
WHAT IS BLACK LOVE?
Black Love Is …
- a celebration of family, community and culture. It represents affection, passion, heartfelt sentiments, and collective empowerment amongst Black people, families, and communities who share the interest of hope and prosperity for the upliftment of one another;
- a time for commemoration and appreciation for our ancestors and our pursuit of human excellence;
- is Unity;
- is Faithful;
- is our collective work and responsibility;
- is purposeful
- is kind, supportive, courageous, resilient, inspiring
To view the ‘Black Love’ submissions from our faculty, please click the links below
by Andrea Baldwin
Black Love is catching myself staring in amazement at the parts of me in you.
Black love is the refreshment I receive from your babbling brook laugh.
Black love is the balance between allowing you to be all of this Black boy joy ….
And wanting to restrain some of it to protect you...
Black love is being your mother...
And Black love is you.
Black love is making impossible future calculations as I wonder what you will become.
And Black love is accepting and pushing you to be all that you already are.
Black love is dinosaurs games, Legos and popcorn.
Black love is not wanting to share my snacks but sharing them anyway.
Black love is being your mother
And Black love is you.
Black love is complicated.
It is the range of emotions you make me feel in just a split second.
The frustrations and the anger, the sadness and the worry, the pride and the joy
Black love is jumping on the beds in the hotel room …
And making up our own traditions as we go along.
Black love is being your mother
And Black love is you.
Black love is watching how those close to us love on you.
Black love is the feeling I get when you tell everyone, “I am Barbadian”.
Black love is teaching you as much as I know…
And wanting you to know more than I would.
Black love is being your mother
And Black love is you.
by Brandy S. Faulkner
“If relatives help each other, what evil can hurt them?” –Baganda Proverb
He Moved In
Mama didn’t know if he’d make it. I was three years old when my brother was born. He had eight surgeries before he was four. My earliest memories of us together are in hospitals and doctors’ offices. Sometimes I’m still triggered by the smell of bleach and Jell-o. He outgrew most of his illnesses as we got older. In just a few years, he was strong enough to go to school with me. We were joined at the hip and ready to take on the world.
We loved being outside. We played kickball almost every day. A rosebush, a patch of dirt and a pine tree were first, second, and third bases. I mastered the figure-four leg lock on an old mattress beside the concrete steps where we practiced wrestling moves with our cousins and made championship belts from cardboard boxes and aluminum foil. We rode our bikes until our calves hurt or the sun went down or grandma woke up the neighborhood yelling for us to come inside—whichever happened first. Baseball was our favorite sport, and we played on the same little league team for six years. It was the only team that had girls. No wonder we always won! Daddy coached us both and still looks proudly at all our trophies and all-star medals. My brother was a natural, hands down the best pitcher in the whole league. Most days I still wonder why he never went pro. I couldn’t run fast.
Baseball kept us focused and disciplined—teammates for life. We were poor and plain, but we were free and happy and loved. Growing up, we did what most brothers and sisters do: played together, fought and made up, broke things and hid them from our parents. We were close, supportive, and very protective of each other. He didn’t have the heart to tell me my cooking was bad. He just smiled and ate everything on the plate until I got the recipes right.
I Moved Out
“Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuthing ta mess wit!” Great. He locked me out of his room again. What’s he doing in there anyway? I don’t care, as long as he blasts RZA going hard on the bass and Method Man taking me to the 7th chamber. Our teenage years were full of block-bopping holla back days. I tried to help him with his math, but he wasn’t interested. He’s smart, talented and does things on his own terms. He’s the best visual artist I know. I’m amazed by his sketches—all pencil. They’re crisp, dark, and raw. Some girl is on the phone. I hate her. All she does is giggle. He probably won’t play Mortal Kombat with me on PlayStation tonight. Whatever. He cheats anyway. Up-Up-Down-Left-Right-Select-Start. Now Scorpion has superpowers.
I couldn’t believe it was time for me to go. College came fast, and I felt the separation anxiety long before I left him. Who’s gonna take care of him? Who’s gonna take care of me? Will he be ok while I’m gone? Maybe I should just stay home; college is overrated. We didn’t have enough time together; I still had a lot of big sistering to do.
And Then We Grew Up
Well sorta. When we’re together there’s gut-buster laughing, heckling, clowning, and general absurdity. I hope that never changes. I still learn so much from him about kindness, selflessness, unconditional love, and humanity. Watching him grow to become an attentive father and gracious husband has been such a joy! My brother’s heart was chiseled from gold. The world doesn’t deserve him.
We don’t talk every day, and I don’t see him enough. He knows, though. He knows there is nothing I wouldn’t do—no line I wouldn’t cross to keep him safe, healthy, and happy. I love you, TJ, and I could not be more proud of you. You will forever be my hero, and no matter where life takes us, I have your back just as you’ve had mine. Anything you need, I got five on it. Family first and always. I can’t believe you ate that soup I made out of green beans and milk.
A Harmonious Split
By Freddy Paige
Til death do us part is the expectation we have. So many sharp external forces and variables in life face our soft bodies. I took a leap of faith off of the fictitious mountain of a man I present myself to be. Being alone is uncomfortable but being responsible for another goes against human nature. When things go well I feel a deep feeling of power within myself. When that feeling fades I find myself fearing for my survival. Oh what a sound my conscious makes in this world.
I do not find my worth in another, but the joy of care taking makes me more of myself. To live I must suffer a beautiful life. There is no forever, spiritual bonds show no sign of decaying. Ironically, I find peace in my physical mortality. For rhythm is made up of only positive stress and emptiness. I learned as a child jumping rope that there is no such thing as a negative cadence. My optimism is not for me, it is for you. I was blessed with openness, and I echo your sound.
For as the tree grows in a circular motion, we grow together strong in a continuous motion. Going every direction results in our elevation, up to a new point-of-view which reveals the hidden treasures of the valley. We support the bird’s nests, and shelter the poor. When the time comes to split, our troubles will be long gone.
by Anthony Kwame Harrison
Black Love is a phone ring. Four times before my voicemail kicks in. Twice every hour. It’s my mother calling to wish me Happy Birthday. It’s been like this since 9:30 this morning I imagine. Twice an hour, four rings before voicemail, on my landline. It’s now 11:49. I’m not home to hear the phone but I know its sound. When I get back—whenever that is—it won’t be long before I pick up and hear her gentle, aging, Asante-accented voice: “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Kwame, Happy Birthday to you.” Mom came to the United States at twenty-six. My father had moved back from Ghana a year earlier. Towards the end of his life, dad recalled how he thought his wife would take one look at his Western Massachusetts, mountain-top home—about as far removed from the bustling streets of Kumasi as one could image—grab her two boys and go straight back to Ghana. But Old Bray Road, as mom explains it, looked like “a good place to raise children.” So she stayed for my brother and me, leaving her first-born daughter back in Ghana. Mom has never been a good driver. During my fourth summer, before she got her license, I remember walking to town one day. Making the two-mile journey down the mountain, past sometimes growling and sometimes serene country-road dogs, with two kids in tow, could not have been easy. To my four year old feet, it felt like it took all day. On this day, mom bought me an orange Fanta in town. For the entire hike back up the mountain, I shook my Fanta, up-and-down in gleeful delight, anticipating the sweet, thirst-quenching, sodapop sensation I’d enjoy at home. When I got to the front steps, I opened the can. Before realizing what had happened, I found myself drenched in orange stickiness, barely a swallow left to drink, crying my eyes out. With hardly a thought, mom walked us back downtown to get me another Fanta. I don’t recall if I drank it then and there or was just more careful walking the two miles back up. But I was satisfied. As a four year old, I recognized that my feelings were respected. Dad passed away in December 2002. The kids have all left home and mom has been by herself on that mountain top for sixteen years now. I cannot claim to know, but can only wonder what it’s like to grow up in a society where elders are revered and surrounded by family, and to be a grandmother living alone on a Massachusetts mountain. To have your son visit once a month, mostly to check his mail and complete a to-do list before returning home to his own young family. To have your daughter visit two or three times a year, never for more than a few hours on consecutive days. There’s always something—like her kids’ sports schedules—pulling her back to New Jersey. But at least she calls every day. And to have your youngest child in Virginia. I cannot claim to know, but can only wonder what it’s like to grow up in a society where elders are revered and surrounded by family, and to be by yourself, calling your baby twice an hour, waiting to sing Happy Birthday.
by Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown
What is love? Love is a complex matter. Love is a combination of feeling and action. Love is an embrace, love is listening, love is necessary. At the same time, blackness is complex. Blackness is multidimensional and multitudinous. Blackness is glorious. What then is black love? I thought about this question seriously for the past several weeks, and what I have come up with is the fact that black love is a multitude, but at its core, black love for me is: radical, beautiful, self-love, necessary, and unapologetic.
Black love is radical. In a society laden with anti-blackness, loving while black and loving black people are radical acts. Pushing against anti-blackness with love is a radical act. Radical in the sense of Ella Baker who stated that radical “…means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change the system.” The system under which we live was not designed for black love, and so we must devise a means by which to change that system by making black love an integral part of the black movement. Thus, black love is a radical endeavor.
Black love is beautiful. Deep brown, red bone, caramel, dark as night, light as day, blackness is many shades of beautiful. Blackness is skin popping in the sunlight and reflecting the light of the moon. Black is beautiful with kinks and coils, braids, or twists, flat ironed, or blown out, weaved or crocheted. Black hair is beautiful, and loving black hair and black skin is black love. And that love is beautiful, powerful.
Black love is self-love. In order for black love to spread we must first embrace and love ourselves, so black love is self-love. It is whispering sweet nothings in our own ears and opening our individual selves up to the possibility of black love within and outside of ourselves. It is loving the features that society tries to teach us to hate. It's about asserting our humanity in a world that constantly denies us. Black love is self-love, and self-love is beautiful, radical, and necessary.
Black love is necessary. In a world so bent on destroying black lives, black love is necessary. Black love is the balm to the constant assaults inflicted upon us as black people. As black men, black women, black children, black queer people, black trans people, black disabled people, black poor people we face assaults on a daily basis—some large and some small, but assaults nonetheless. Black love then is necessary to combat these attacks against our individual selves, our families, our communities.
Black love is unapologetic. Black love needs to be unapologetic. There is no room for regret in black love, there is only possibility. Black loves needs to be laid bare for all to see and revel in, unabashedly, unapologetically. Black love should be shouted from rooftops, mountain tops, doorsteps, anywhere and everywhere. Black love is, everything!
Black Love in Blacksburg
by Lucinda Roy and Larry Jackson
Black absorbs all the light, which, in a strange way, is why you see it—a paradoxical dance between the visible and invisible. There are times when living in Southwest Virginia as a Black couple is harder than it is living in a city teeming with diversity, a city that allows you to be invisible and anonymous when you want to be.
We met over 25 years ago here in Blacksburg—a place not known, in spite of its name, for its numerous single people of color. We began our courtship by riding along backcountry roads on a black motorcycle. We wore black leather; we looked intimidating. People would stare at us back then. We knew there were places to avoid: Big Lots, for example, where the stares were intrusive, occasionally aggressive. We knew there were places where we could relax into who we were: in the homes of friends, for example. We were both surprised to discover how much, and how little, we had in common. One of us a techie engineer; the other a writer and teacher. How wonderful to discover that we both loved the same books and movies, that we were both fans of the same TV shows. We were friends before we became more than that.
Love almost always comes with complications. In our case, one of us had a child. This was her second marriage. The other had been a steadfast bachelor for so long his mother had almost given up on him ever finding the love of his life. We became the Loves of our Lives, in that Catherine-Heathcliff from Wuthering-Heights or Jamie and Claire-from-Outlander kind of way. It was a greedy, needful love. It was a Black-among-White Love, which gave it its own urgency.
This is what our love means to us. It means—
we have pledged to run through hellfire for each other and have absolutely no doubt this is what we will do if called upon
we have each other’s backs more than we have our own
whatever happens we will not betray each other—not to anyone or with anyone—not ever
there are things we understand about being Black-among-White that have shaped us
there are things we never have to explain—things about race that are so intrinsic to who we are that we don’t even need to give voice to them
we know that even after a terrible day there is someone waiting who won’t need to ask if it was terrible because they’ve seen it in your eyes, which is why they move heaven and earth to make you laugh because your sadness is theirs and their sadness is yours
and when things are joyous for one it catalyzes the joy of the other
we carry each other as a tortoise carries its shell, not feeling the weight as weight but instead as a place in which to take refuge
Black Love is who we are, what we know, and why we breathe. We are the Lucky Ones to have found it. When we remember this with gratitude, it makes us better than we would otherwise be.
On Black Love and “I love you.”
by Menah Pratt-Clarke
I have been searching for love, my entire life. Searching for love, and the “I love you” that is supposed to accompany it, but often doesn't. The search started with my parents. My father told me “I love you” was a "nicety." Maybe he didn't know, that for me, it wasn’t a nicety; it was a necessity. He never told me those words. My mother – once she found the space – after I went to college, was able to say them. She even wrote me letters almost weekly in college. She wrote the words; she spoke them. It’s never too late.
But, because I hadn’t heard the “I love you,” before I started college, I started looking for it in college. I was searching for the romantic love from the Hallmark movies or maybe it was the Harlequin novels. I’m not sure I knew what I was looking for, but I was looking, perhaps in all the wrong places.
I was engaged to four different men in four years! They were grown men; men often in their thirties, with me barely in my twenties. They were an odd assortment of men: a chef recently released from prison living at a halfway house that I didn't realize was a half-way house; a medical school man who was barely making it; a military man traumatized by the military; and a man 8 years older than me, who was an Upward Bound tutor, yet still pursuing his undergraduate degree, 12 years after he started. They were all Black men. Although they told me, at different times, “I love you,” I’m not sure they, themselves, knew love, or more importantly, loved themselves, let alone, me.
Eventually, almost incidentally, I married my husband. It's been a tough, but wonderful, journey: a journey of illness, of addiction, of sorrow, of pain, but also of joy, of children, of vacations, of fun. Black Love is not just a love for and in marriage. Black Love includes children and friends, girlfriends, cool dudes, family friends. It includes pride in our culture as Black Americans, as part of the African diaspora, crossing continents and oceans for connections. Ultimately, Black Love encompasses humanity.
Our love, as Black Americans, is different. Racism makes love difficult, so love is complicated in America. Black Love in America is a love that must endure more, for it is unable to be extricated from the culture of oppression, racism, sexism, discrimination, homophobia, classism, elitism, and hate. It must fight for its place and space and right to be honored, extolled, valued, validated, affirmed.
When so much is stripped from us as a culture, as a people, often not much remains. In the emptiness, we have a small sacred space for moments of decision. Black Love is often about a decision and a determination, a commitment to commonality, and an acquiescence to sacrifice.
This year, I celebrated 25 years of the fight for Black Love. We took time to celebrate, an act most of us don’t do enough, for both small and large accomplishments and achievements. If we, ourselves, do not celebrate, then who will? When will we? We are deserving of celebrations for celebrations are ultimately about love -- they have love at their core.
I hope that we all might, as a people, say “I love you” more often, in multiple ways, in different places and spaces, to different people, at different times. I hope that we might make our love known and heard and spoken. It makes a difference. I love you.
Love In All Colors
by Nikki Giovanni
If I could make a love
I’d start with peppermint
then add chocolate
in the stripes
My favorite fruit
but we needa lot of sugar
I guess the quilt
is not edible
but if I could eat
I’d have fried okra
and a couple of Home fried
with whole garlic cloves
and ginger root
This is probably not
what Love they had
but its what I Love
So I can either eat
with the love of
BLACK LOVE AS LOVE OF THE ENEMY
By Biko Agozino
Could you be loved and be loved?
Could you be loved and be loved?
Bob Marley and The Wailers
‘A third reason why we should love our enemies is that love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.’ Martin Luther King Jr.
“The practice of love offers no place of safety. We risk loss, hurt, pain. We risk being acted upon by forces outside our control.”
― bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions
• How do you go about loving your enemies? MLK: ‘… cut off the chain of hate’.
• ‘Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it.’ Toni Morrison
• “Let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” Che
• “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin … to hate the texture of your hair?” X
• “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin” - Mandela
• Nothing is Unforgiveable in the Africana tradition, quite unlike Eurocentrism - Derrida.
• “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you.” Matt. 5: 43-45
• “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it.” Exodus. 23:4-5. Why? Because sometimes you are your own worst enemy.
• ‘One must apologize for daring to offer black love to a white soul’ - Fanon.
• ‘Your worst enemy could be your best friend.’ Marley.
• Love yourself if you want to love others.
That’s How Strong My Love Is - Otis Redding