LIFESTYLE
14/02/2018 07:04 SAST | Updated 14/02/2018 19:52 SAST

6 Queer Couples Share Their Definition of Black Love

“Open your heart and mind to all the ways our love is the same.”

Black love is shared culture. Black love is afros under headscarves. Sometimes it’s tailor made for every couple and infinite in its meanings. And despite popular opinion, sometimes it means black love is queer love. 

Typically, “black love” is a phrase passed down by every certified black auntie and never quite leaves mainstream conversation. On the surface, the term simply means black couples existing comfortably in both their culture and affection in each other. But somehow the “black love” concept often neglects the experiences of black queer couples in favor of a dominantly heteronormative narrative. 

In general, queerness is often left out of most conversations about black love. There is no “L Word” exploring queer black femmes’ lives. And while there are small moments of representation in movies and television, more often than not these stories end in tragedy rather than lasting queer love.

But black queer couples do exist, and their narratives are valid in their normality. Here are just a few couples exploring how, for them, love is both queer and black.

  • 1 Jan-Kristòf Louis and Kellan Mansano
    Story & Gold
    How did you two meet? How long have you been together?

    My high school friends were his college friends. We met on Jan. 20, 2006, at Hunter College. I went to Cooper Union at the time but hung out on the third-floor bridge at Hunter with my former high school friends where I met Kellan. We are going on 12 years together this year. 

    How do you define black love, and how does your relationship exemplify that?

    I wasn’t aware of being black until I moved to this country [from Haiti]. Kellan is a caseworker working on his master’s to become a social worker, and I am a fifth-grade teacher in the East New York neighborhood in Brooklyn. We both work with underprivileged and impoverished communities. However, that never stopped us from seeing the enrichment in the communities that we ourselves are part of. My students don’t see a lot of the traditional relationships that children in wealthier districts are accustomed to. When my students hear about my relationship with Kellan, that we dated, that we are planning to get married and that we want children and build a family, it opens up a door of wealth to them that they never thought possible for them. Black love tends to be either nonexistent or broken around them. I had a student once ask me if I was gay because I was too nice to girls. I wasn’t out to my students at the time. Now they ask frequently about Kellan and have actually written cards for us to wish us the best for the wedding and on. Last year, all my girls wanted to be flower girls and all the boys wanted to be our best men. They didn’t just see it as gay love. They saw two men they could look up to, capable of loving one another fully despite the adversities that they have faced. 

    In which ways do you see your relationship as a queer couple represented in conversations about black love, if any?

    Kellan and I speak about this often when it comes to our parents, our friends and the media. We are the only black gay couple our friends know. They tell us quite often. There are no television shows with a black gay couple in the lead or in any type of supporting role. There are no romantic comedies with black gay couples. When black gay men are represented in the media, they tend to be accessories to the heterosexual woman or going through a tragic stage of their life. There are no quirky posters about gay black couples. Instead, we see warnings to inform your partner of your HIV status but not an advertisement for Match.com. We may ignore it as a society, but it is ingrained in our society to the point that as queer black people, we tend to not see relationships evolving into marriage and family possible for us. I still speak to some of my former students who have divulged to me that when they think of Kellan and I, they know black, queer love is real. If we can move the children, we can surely move the world. 

    How can we ensure queer couples are included in conversations about black love?

    When it comes to involving queer couples in conversations about black love, we need to be inclusive. The LGBT community is a wide spectrum of brilliant types of people, and they simply cannot be being ignored. Let’s talk about the couples that we know. Let’s make that effort to believe that we can change the narrative about love by taking part in it ourselves. Let’s remember why it was so difficult to say “I love you” because they knew how important it was and what it meant for the future. There are plenty of stories out there about black love that are not being represented. We can make the effort to push them in the forefront.
  • 2 Shanice & Angelita Howard
    Jackson Wedding Studio
    How did you two meet? How long have you been together?

    Shanice and I met on my brother’s birthday three years ago. I was living in Houston at the time, and my brother and I tried to spend every birthday together. About six months prior, he told me he met this lesbian that I would probably be great friends with. Never in his wildest dreams did he think we would meet and have an attraction. When we met we didn’t hit it off romantically: I thought she was self-absorbed and she thought I was weird. However, as we spent more time together we discovered we had many things in common, and the differences we had actually complemented one another.

    How do you define black love, and how does your relationship exemplify that?

    In our eyes, black love is an unconditional, patient, supportive, spiritual, unstoppable love that can weather any storm. We are two women that will not accept anything less than excellence from one another. Shanice and I are proud of our love and our love for our community. We have dedicated ourselves to supporting and uplifting black-owned businesses, mentoring the minority youth in our neighborhood and investing financially back into our community.

    In which ways do you see your relationship as a queer couple represented in conversations about black love, if any?

    Unfortunately, black queer love is not represented in conversations about black love. It’s still difficult to get respect from other black couples because of the homophobia and lack of knowledge in the black community. Luckily Shanice and I have had the chance to open the minds of many black heterosexual couples and show them our relationship is no different from theirs. If you look on “black love” social media pages, it is rare you see same-sex couples, and if you do, the comments are heartbreaking.

    How can we ensure queer couples are included in conversations about black love?

    Until more crucial and honest conversations are had about the blatant disregard of black queer love, it will remain the same. However, until then Shanice and I will always live and love unapologetically.
  • 3 LaTriece & Christina Arthur
    Micaela de Freitas
    How did you two meet? How long have you been together?

    We met through a mutual friend. One evening, LaTriece and our good friend Jenn were having dinner with plans to go out for drinks and dancing afterwards. With an invitation to join them from Jenn, Christina met up for the fun. While making a party of a pretty empty bar, Jenn texted both of us, “Hey, she’s single.” We have been together for 4.5 years and married for 2.5 years and counting!   

    How do you define black love and how does your relationship exemplify that?

    Black love is resilience. There are so many negative messages we receive as black people about our worth, beauty and place in this world. To find your person and stand proudly beside them in your truth and your greatness is a testament to the strength and perseverance that is coded in our DNA. Our relationship is one that we are building upon every day to make it stronger. We rely on each for understanding the world around us in good times and in bad times.  

    In which ways do you see your relationship as a queer couple represented in conversations about black love, if any?

    Both in media and in person, sometimes it feels like a relationship like ours is the elephant in the room that no one talks about in topics of black love. 

    How can we ensure queer couples are included in conversations about black love?

    By making an effort to be more inclusive. We exist, other couples like us exist; seek them out. Open your heart and mind to all the ways our love is the same. Include them. Feature them. Normalize love.
  • 4 Shen & Adriana Ifill-Allwood
    Story & Gold
    How did you two meet? How long have you been together?

    We met at a mutual friend's party but really connected through Myspace, and we’ve been together for nine years.  

    How do you define black love, and how does your relationship exemplify that?

    While we thought about this, it was actually a little difficult for us to put into words until we thought about our commonalities from our childhood. Adriana’s parents are Italian and Bajan, and I’m first generation American born to Jamaican parents, so we both feel that black love is kind of like a compliment with a bit of shade, it’s honest and grounding, warms you up but doesn’t make you soft — and then you realize it’s unknowingly exactly what you need. I think our relationship mirrors that the most in the way we encourage each other to grow and evolve as individuals as well as a unit.

    In which ways do you see your relationship as a queer couple represented in conversations about black love, if any?

    If we’re being honest, we don’t see it enough, but we do see some representation in TV and film.  

    How can we ensure queer couples are included in conversations about black love?

    This is a great start, outlets proposing the question in order to promote inclusion. But also by supporting and interacting with our black queer peers in positions of influence who are trying to be a part of the conversation.
  • 5 Ericka Clayton & Kayon Cox
    A. Harris Photography
    How did you two meet? How long have you been together?

    We initially met on an online dating site around the end of September 2016. She was living in Baltimore, Maryland, and I was in Blackwood, New Jersey. Not long after that, she then made the trip to New Jersey. She stayed at my home rather than a hotel.  She came — in a headscarf. I let that slide, though; it was late at night when she finally arrived. The next morning, we were getting ready for brunch. I’m already ready, of course, so I’m just waiting on her. She comes out in these gray skinny jeans, knee-high black boots, an Aztec-printed cardigan-type sweater, and her afro was out! Anytime people ask how did you know Kayon was “the one,” I revert back to this day. I swear to you, when I envisioned my perfect mate, I saw a beautiful woman with skinny jeans, black knee-high boots, an Aztec sweater and a big-ass afro. When I saw this woman walk out as exactly that, I think I had an out-of-body experience. It was surreal. But it was real. She was everything. After that, it was a wrap. After Kayon left, I spoke with my sister, and I told her, “That’s the one I’m going to marry.”

    To answer the question, we’ve been together one year and three months, and married for 10 months.

    How do you define black love, and how does your relationship exemplify that?

    I think black love can mean a lot of things. Some of the core things for us are our strength, our support, having a common goal/journey, and no fear. It’s about family. Acknowledging and healing the inherited family patterns, learning about our ancestry/ancestral journey as well as lighting the torch for the seven generations that precede us. We showcase this by being an example to our daughter, Phoenix. As she observes us, she sees her parents taking care of each other, living with compassion, honesty, integrity and respect. So that, in turn, she will do the same and carry that on in her life.   

    In which ways do you see your relationship as a queer couple represented in conversations about black love, if any?

    Honestly, we feel as though we’re only seen represented within the black queer community. Even within the LGBTQ+ platforms, we aren’t equally prominent. When on social media platforms such as Facebook, we are able to find groups specific for black queer couples or we find and follow  them on IG or YouTube. Beyond small sects found on social media, I don’t think queer couples are being represented.  

    How can we ensure queer couples are included in conversations about black love?

    A conversation where I feel as though that would have been a good inclusive platform was on the "Black Love" docu-series. Not one black queer couple was on there. Black love is diverse, as they acknowledged that by highlighting two interracial couples, but not black queer couples. We aren’t in shortage. I think part of the problem is when you ask many people what black love means, the majority will usually answer, “It’s love between a black man and a black woman.” It’s being dissected into these subgroups, but no. Black love is Black Love. It’s knowing who you are and being proud of who you are, and finding a partner, a friend, a relative, etc., who sees that in you and nurtures that within you, and vice versa. We have to continue to be our own advocates in media, online, and in our communities in order to be seen and heard equally.
  • 6 Frankie and Tiaa Smith
    Frankie and Tiaa
    How did you meet? How long have you been together?  

    We met on Facebook all the way back in 2009! That was way before the expression “slide into her DMs” was coined, but that’s exactly what happened. We had a bunch of friends in common but never met in person until after all the Facebook flirting began. That was about seven and a half years ago, and we’re still going strong today!  

    How do you define black love, and how does your relationship exemplify that? 

    Black love is finding beauty where other people only see imperfections. Black love is loving ourselves so much that we can love each other so much. Black love is resilient and strong. Black love doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Black love is never giving up because we know everything worth having is worth fighting for. Our relationship exemplifies black love because we are all of the things listed above. We have gone through the happiest of times, the saddest of times (and everything in between) together, and it has all made our bond stronger. Even on our worst days, we find it in ourselves to pick each other up and love through the struggle.  

    In which ways do you see your relationship as a queer couple represented in conversations about black love, if any?  

    To be honest, queer couples being included in “black love” conversations is a fairly new concept. Not long ago, the only type of black love we can remember being represented was what was aired on TV. Now, thanks to social media outlets, we are able to get glimpses at real-life black love including queer couples.  

    How can we ensure queer couples are included in conversations about black love? 

    In order to make sure that we, as queer black couples, are represented in black love conversations, we need to share our experiences. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we include ourselves, because no one can’t tell our story except for us!