The State of Black Love: Understanding It, Finding It and Keeping It
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 23:10
Everyone knows how the old adage goes: behind every strong black man stands a black woman. Black love is a concept that many today are products from. Many aspire to experience it. Many actively search for it and even long for it. Black love births long lines of families and strong, solid foundations. And undoubtedly, Black love is – and will – be bred at Howard University. And like the campus itself, the institution of Black love continues to change over time.
It all begins with the initial encounter. Nowadays, there are obstacles that prevent relationships from blooming organically – namely technology. Renee Nash, WHUR Radio personality and cohost of He Said/She Said on Sirius XM, calls it “non-personal” communication.
“It has taken the personality out of dating and courting, especially in the way people meet and the way they ask each other out on date. And even on the date, people are still tweeting and texting. In my generation, that’s unheard of… it’s rude and disrespectful,” she said.
Diamond Gilbert, freshman sociology major, said that males today are too influenced by the images and characters that the media presents.
“It’s the music,” she said. “Young males are getting confused about what they’re really supposed to do because they’re influenced by rappers and they’re trying to do what they see on TV.”
Even after logging off, shutting down and unplugging, true face-to-face interaction is still daunting. It used to begin with a simple and polite “hello.” However, deciphering the difference between true romantic interest and a conquest, especially on the street or in social settings, can be difficult. Nonverbal communication like body language used to play a huge part in meeting potential mates – and they still can if the right attention is paid.
“Guys are always talking to women,” Carl Stevens, a relationship expert, life coach and author said. “[They] pick up on interest from women all of the time. It’s usually written all over their energy and their face.”
Flattering as it may seem, many women are uncomfortable when faced that kind of direct confrontation. “Some women say that they’re hit on too much – that’s one of the biggest complaints I hear,” Carl said.
Carl and his wife Kenya maintain a happy and healthy 16-year open marriage that began on Howard’s campus. They call themselves the “quintessential Howard couple” and used their combined skills to build JujuMama LLC, a “worldwide love coaching conglomerate and online love academy” as described on their website.
Their story started with a blind date at a Union Station movie theater. Despite the pretenses, they both knew what dating was and meant – a persistent debate within this generation. The constant need for a label – “talking” and “dating” and “courting” and “cuffing” and “boyfriends” and “boos” – can sometimes make it difficult for genuine relationships to grow organically.
“Dating is engaging somebody with the purpose and possibilities of how you can get to know each other,” Carl said. “You want to get to know [the person you’re dating] and develop a stronger connection.”
Dating, especially when it’s long-term, always offers the possibility of a future. But rushing to define things can often lead to heartbreak.
“People don’t get a chance to fully know each other,” Nash said. “Everyone wants everything today.”
And then comes sex, “a big part of life, important as meals and water,” said Kenya. Sex and sexuality is arguably both a deal breaker and a must for any stable union. When someone keeps their sexual expectations or needs private, tension arises. Casual sex and emotions – or lack thereof – merge. Then trouble begins.
“Sex is still almost taboo to talk about,” Carl said. “People have been brainwashed… we’re rejecting a natural part of us. Women are hesitant to appear slutty and men don’t want to express what they want.”
That rampant uncertainty factors into the game playing that’s sometimes associated with modern black love. When Carl thinks of black love today, he said that it “seems to be the epitome of gaming.”
“Black love is mastering the game and ballers, playing this role. Women are playing this game as well. And it’s a game that’s going back and forth,” he said.
When wants, needs and goals are vocalized and understood, it avoids problems and gray areas – they just have to be realistic.
“You can’t marry a guy because he’s a great boyfriend. You have to think ‘Will he be a great husband? Father? Provider?’ We’re not looking down the road. We’re not looking towards the future. We only see what’s right in front of us,” Nash said.
Living in the moment is a signature quality of this generation – or anyone in their 20s and early 30s, to be honest. Most students aren’t thinking about marriage or merging assets or mortgages right now, especially with thoughts of graduation and careers and adulthood in the way. Kenya was.
“I was engaged at 21 while I was a junior and married at 22,” she said. “I told Carl on the first or second date…’I want to be married.’ I accepted it and told the truth about it. I visualized it and did the work. Women can do that. We can have that. We just have to use that feminine energy.”
Long lasting marriages were a signature trait of Black love. Today, the stats are admittedly unfavorable: only 51 percent of U.S. adults are married according to the Pew Research Center. The divorce rate is 3.4 for every 1000 marriages. And reports from the U.S. Census Bureau confirm that “Black men and women are currently less likely to be married” and that the median age for Black men and women to get married is 30 compared to Whites – they get married at around 26 and 27.