'Marriage Is Not Checkers, It's Chess': Summit Explores Making Black Love Last

Illustration for article titled 'Marriage Is Not Checkers, It's Chess': Summit Explores Making Black Love Last
Photo: iStock

Barack and Michelle Obama aren’t the only black married couple in this country, and the Black Love Summit, held in Atlanta on Saturday, proved that. A spill-over from the successful docuseries Black Love—which returns to OWN on Aug. 10 and was created by real-life married couple Tommy and Codie Elaine Oliver—the summit attracted a few hundred people, many of them married couples.


No longer invisible, black married couples have come out of the shadows. During this day of encouragement, semi-counseling and upliftment, the audience listened and engaged as celebrities like Dondre Whitfield; Erica and Warryn Campbell; LeToya Luckett Walker and new husband Tommicus “Tommy” Walker; former radio personality-turned-real estate guru Egypt Sherrod and her husband DJ Fadelf; and others led and participated in panels ranging from “Finding Black Love” and “What is Submission” to “The Husbands Panel” and “The Wives Panel.”

“I don’t know that we could have envisioned what it could be,” Oliver said of the Black Love platform during sessions, “but I do know that we felt that we needed examples of happy loving black people in relationships and we needed the advice.”

Some of that advice came from Whitfield, who has been married to Salli Richardson-Whitfield since 2002 and counsels other couples to achieve lasting black love focused on the need to look in the mirror. “If the both of you say everyday ‘I am the problem, but I am also the solution. If I fix me, I now become the solution to our problem. If both people say, ‘I’m the problem, I’m the solution and I do everything to fix me every day,’ you win.”

Participants got transparent. During the keynote luncheon with Erica and Warryn Campbell, Erica spoke of her own transgressions playing a role in her decision to stick with her husband after he revealed his infidelity in the marriage. “If I can be honest, when we were dating, I cheated, and it wasn’t pretty. The way he found out wasn’t pretty.”

Instead of walking away, Warryn kept calling her, showing up at her house and just didn’t let her go. “How dare I be a hypocrite when he forgave me and then I don’t extend the same to him?” she asked.

“Marriage has a way of revealing [stuff] over time,” Warryn shared, noting that everyone comes with baggage. “For the first couple of years, you’re just dealing with a representative of a person. After a while, you gon’ get comfortable and a little piece of that luggage is going to come out. You’re going to get a little more comfortable the next year and a little more is going to come out and, one day, you’re gon’ get real comfortable and the whole bag is just gon’ jump out and y’all gon’ have to get real honest with each other.”


Speaking to the press, Egypt Sherrod and DJ Fadelf addressed their struggles with infertility and how, after they decided to adopt, Fadelf begin shutting down, which frustrated her. “Finally he was honest with me and said ‘I’m afraid I won’t be able to love another child that is not biologically mine the way I love mine. I don’t want to go through the emotion of it.’” Eventually, the couple did have a biological child.

LGBTQ+ married couple Deondray and Quincy Gossfield, one of the gay couples Queen Latifah married during the Grammys broadcast years ago and who appear in the new season of Black Love, spoke with The Root about how marriage changes things. “Everything shifted. It was a whole paradigm shift,” Deondray said. “Now our families held us accountable to each other.”


Ever animated, Whitfield shared during a panel that “We used to shame white folks, ‘look at them reading books; look at them getting therapy.’ We need this,” he said dead seriously. “We have to lean on our folks and say ‘how do you do this?’...Get you some information and do something different.”

DJ Fadelf probably summed it up best: “Marriage is not checkers; it’s chess.”

To keep up with the Black Love movement, visit blacklove.com and watch Black Love season 3 on OWN beginning Aug. 10 at 9 pm ET.

Ronda Racha Penrice is a freelance writer who resides in Atlanta. She is the author of "African American History for Dummies."



As a married person, I have to say: marriage is not checkers nor chess, because you’re not supposed to be competing with your partner.

It’s more like contract bridge: no one knows the rules beforehand, it alienates all your friends, you might win some superpowers in the process, and it takes a full deck of cards to really play it properly.