Valentine’s Day is almost here, which means you are sure to see endless articles, social media posts and greeting cards with trite quotes about love and romance and beautiful pictures of Caucasians. But what about black love?
Why are there no stock photos of a brother lovingly greasing his woman’s scalp? I searched the greeting card section in Target for hours looking for a greeting card that said, “To Bae, From Your Nigga ... ” and couldn’t find anything! The clerk at the local drugstore just stared at me blankly when I asked why everyone was hugging on the covers of the Valentine’s Day cards instead of grabbing handfuls of their significant other’s booty.
Maybe she didn’t understand black love, but we do. Allow us to fill that void by sharing what we have learned from some of the greatest black romances of all time.
I know they’re not together anymore, but that doesn’t negate the fact that Dre and Erykah’s eccentric, wandering, sometimes-verging-on-Hotep vibes were seemingly made for each other. When their romance produced a son named Seven, it even made me want to name my first daughter 3.1415926535897 Yam Harriot, just so I could nickname her—you guessed it—Sweet Potato Pi.
What we can learn from them: Just because a relationship doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. It’s like a party: If you know when to leave, you’ll have great memories. But if you stay too late, there’s gonna be a lot of drunk crying and a big mess to clean up.
If you are black and over 30, Love & Basketball is one of the seminal romances of your life, because we have all dreamed of making a happily-ever-after with our high school romance. After successful sports careers, Monica and Quincy ended right back where they began: in the driveway shooting baskets. Plus, this movie reveals one of the biggest identifiers of black love: If he loves you when you’re sweaty and wearing a ponytail, then he loves you.
What we can learn from them: If you go chase your dreams, the right love will wait for you. Also, if a woman wants to play you in a game of basketball “for your heart,” apparently a 360-degree-spin move and monster dunk on her is not the right thing to do in that situation.
It doesn’t seem like Hov and Bey have been married for almost a decade (since 2008), but they have. Just last year, Jay Z was getting the side eye from every woman in America as an extensive investigation was underway to find out who was “Becky With the Good Hair.”
Oh, what a difference a year makes! Everyone is now giddy after Queen Bey’s Sears Portrait Studio birth announcement (like she’s gonna let y’all babysit), which proves that my theory was correct the entire time. While everyone was trying to decipher whether Jay Z cheated, who it might’ve been with and if they were headed for divorce, I had the most unique hypothesis of them all:
Maybe it was just a song.
What we can learn from them: I don’t really know. I just don’t want the Beyhive coming for me because I left Beyoncé off a list. Any list.
Ossie and Ruby’s romance survived the white-hot spotlight of Hollywood. They were the perennial standard of black love for over five decades and even shared in their mutual biography that they had periods of open marriage during their relationship.
What we can learn from them: “We were living one of the great love stories, I think, of the 20th century and we didn’t know it, nobody told us. ... It occurred to us, from observation and reasoning, that extramarital sex was not what really destroyed marriages, but rather the lies and deception that invariably accompanied it—that was the culprit.”
I know what you’re thinking: What can two past-their-prime rappers on a VH1 reality show teach us about love?
If you subtract Remy’s ratchetness and Papoose’s endless supply of swap meet New York Yankees caps, what you have left between these two is everyone’s dreams of an ideal, unshakable love. He tried to break her out of prison! And when that didn’t work, he waited for her. If that ain’t black love, I don’t know what is.
What we can learn from them: Patience. Unwavering dedication. Uncompromising love. The exact angle to correctly tilt a baseball cap.
Barack often told the story of his courtship with Michelle—how she was dismissive of him when they first met, how he asked her for a date and how their love grew. If you didn’t know any of that, you could still tell by the way they look at each other. They seem to have genuine adoration for each other that almost radiates around them.
During the last few months of his presidency, Barack revealed that Michelle disliked the idea of being first lady, but she did it with style and grace. With the unprecedented animosity and unrelenting antagonism that President Obama faced, perhaps the relationship between him and Michelle was the only respite the world could offer.
What we can learn from them: How resilient and sustaining black love can be—even in the vicious political fishbowl filled with wypipo hate.
The greatest black love story ever told is one you may have never heard before. In 1837 a biracial slave name Ellen was born to a slave woman and her master in Clinton, Ga., and then given away to a plantation in Macon, Ga., as a wedding gift. There she met her eventual husband, William Craft, and decided they wanted to raise a family, but not in slavery—so they escaped.
Ellen disguised herself as a white man, wrapped her face in bandages to disguise her lack of a beard, practiced for months to change the way she walked and talked, and eventually boarded a train with “her slave” as her companion. They were almost captured numerous times, and after a train, a steamer and a ferry, they finally arrived safely in Pennsylvania. After they settled in the Northeast, they began touring the country giving anti-slavery lectures, until the U.S. passed the Fugitive Slave Act. Still in fear of being caught, the couple moved to London until they returned to Georgia as a free couple in 1868 after the Civil War.
What we can learn from them: This is the ultimate lesson of black love. In the face of every danger and the worst evil, love persists.
Honorable mentions: Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert.