What’s BLACK LOVE Got to Do with It?
A commentary by Andrea Little Mason, Ed.D.
This question was at the forefront of my mind when I began my research that was eventually titled Non-conventional gender roles in relationship education curricula for African Americans: A content analysis. It was the end of the first decade of the 21st century and the federal government was pushing forth the Healthy Marriage Initiative. There were millions of dollars set aside to support the development of marriage education programs. The Healthy Marriage Initiative was based on research that suggested that children’s outcomes would improve in various areas if they grew up in stable, two parent households. With about 75% of African American children born to unmarried mothers, the programs were especially geared toward Black couples, as an effort to improve and increase marriage rates among Black families.
I wanted to know specifically what was being taught to Black couples. I sought out the most popular Black marriage curricula and found three that were similar in that each was developed between 2001 and 2010, contained videos and written guides for facilitators and students, was offered in religious institutions, and was created for Black people and presented by Black people.
Over some months, I analyzed each conclusion in detail. (You can see the complete research, with data and results, HERE.) Each of the curricula taught the standard tenets relationship education, such as communication, problem solving and conflict management. However, there was one statement that stood out to me and it was the only statement spoken in each of the three curricula.
The gist of the statement was this: “There was a time in this country when women stayed at home and took care of the family, while the men worked outside the family to support the family.” Each time I heard it spoken, I audibly said: “That’s not true for everyone… Who’s history is that?” When I was growing up, I only knew TWO Black women who did not work outside of the home. Seeing Black women work was the norm whether they were married or not. I could not believe that Black people were expressing a sentiment to other Black people that was not directly related to Black peoples’ history in the U.S. It was as if a Black face had been put over a white message.
I struggled to find a systematic way to show the discrepancies I found in these relationship courses. While at a research conference, I met a professor who had written a book called The S.P.E.L.I.T. Power Matrix. His book offered a simple way to analyze organizational dynamics. I considered how households were related to organizations and realized that they were the same. When the areas that were not related to romantic partnership were removed, the letters S.P.E.I. remained. Rearranged the letters spelled P.I.E.S. I took it as a sign that I was on the right path, since my husband and I had been using the P.I.E.S. acronym in the relationship work we were doing.
This commentary is intended to challenge common assumptions about romantic partnerships and explore the foundations of gender role expectations from both European and African historical contexts.
Historical Context for Marriage in the U.S.
This commentary offers additional context for the research the study titled Non-conventional gender roles in relationship education curricula for African Americans: A content analysis.
We will consider Europe and its contribution as the origin because it is the beginning context that of the history of the United States of America. This is not an exhaustive ____ but is intended to provide some context for your consideration and later research if you desire.
The earliest formal European religions were in based on religious practices of Greeks and later Romans who considered themselves very religious. Religious piety was based more on adherence to prayer and rituals that helped maintain social order than faith and spirituality. The patriarchal expectations for men and women were similar to those that would be considered traditional where the husband is dominant over the wife.
After many years of persecution in Rome, Constantine introduced Romans to Christianity after a vision he had of a cross, by which he was told he would conquer. As the Roman Empire expanded, it absorbed other religions rather than attempt to eradicate them, which was a practice continued later by the Catholic Church as it spread Christianity in the Americas. The expansion of faith helped establish financial stability and military dominance in the “New World”.
The Church of England was established in 1534 by Henry VIII of England. Amazingly, it was related to an issue regarding marriage as a part of Protestantism that had begun almost 20 years earlier after it broke off from the Catholic Church based on what was perceived as errors in Catholic doctrine.
From the inception of the Church of England, the monarchy was considered Head of the Church of England. Monarchs regulated the religious practices of the church.
The traditional marriage vows come from The Book of Common Prayers (first authorized by King Edward IV in 1549), written 60 years before the King James Version of the Bible, which was begun in 1604 and completed in 1611). They became a part of the official marriage ceremony in 1552 in England. Each new edition of The Book of Common Prayers was revised to accommodate the wishes of the monarch that ruled England as the Head of the Church at the time and it is still used by many ministers today in the U.S.
Before 1552 in England, couples only needed to commit themselves to each other and their spoken words would suffice.
Coverture, marriage and property law that stipulated that wives did not have a legal existence apart from their husbands, was brought to the American colonies by English settlers. It was a legal symbolism of a husband and wife’s oneness and the wife’s submission to her husband.
Common law marriage is still recognized in 15 states in the U.S. and District of Colombia with certain stipulations/requirements. Common law marriages still require divorce procedures for the dissolution of the marriage.
No fault divorce became legal in the United States in 1976 allowing women
We will consider how those contexts and expectations have affected people of African descent in this country and the other ways that Black couples can approach romantic partnerships in a manner that is connected with their historical context.
Eurocentric Practices Influence on Black Couples
The origins of the marriage practices in the United States because are important to consider in order to understand the principles that people base their relationships upon come from.
It is also important to acknowledge that for centuries, the marriage unions and partnerships of enslaved Africans and their descendants were not acknowledged. For the hundreds of years, Black romantic partnerships and family structures were disregarded and not legally recognized by the U.S. government as authentic. Oppressed people of African descent understood that their commitment to each other could not be based on the definition being defined, promoted or condoned by their oppressors. They created their own marriage ceremonies based on the practices that were significant to them based on their traditions.
These Africans who had lost autonomy over their own bodies understood fully that they would have to be creative if they were to ensure that children who were left behind would be cared for if parents were sold away. They understood how to create family quickly with those who arrived suddenly in strange, new locations. They understood that whether those that oppressed them acknowledged their romantic partnerships or not, those relationships were legitimate. And they worked together to endure and hold on to their relationships even when their men were used for breeding and their women were raped and forced to bear their oppressors’ children.
Especially since the Civil Rights Movement when African Americans’ citizenship was recognized and laws were changed to support integration, there has been a continued effort toward assimilation in many areas of the lives of African Americans, including their romantic partnerships. Some African Americans who followed religious traditions looked toward the marriage traditions and gender roles practiced in the majority culture as a road map because it was aligned with their spiritual beliefs. To some African Americans, if they were able to function in the same manner as white families were shown to function - in their power dynamics, masculine and feminine expressions, economic/educational/ employment achievements, and domestic roles and responsibilities - then that would be evidence that they had been fully embraced as citizens who could achieve the American dream.
In an interview with Harry Belafonte, Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying: “I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house.” While that statement was to acknowledge deeper needs of the the Civil Rights Movement to address economic freedom, it also aptly described the situation that was occurring in other contexts of American culture.
For example, while many Black people were fighting for civil rights, many women from the majority culture were fighting for women’s rights and freedoms. These women were marching as well and burning their bras to protest the structures that supported women’s subjugation to men - in power, freedom of expression, economic/educational/employment achievements, and domestic roles and responsibilities. They were protesting beliefs that suggested that women needed permission from their husbands for simple tasks like owning a credit card. Moreover, women who wanted to leave marriage situations were required to prove the faults of their husbands to a system that considered disciplining a wife as acceptable as disciplining a child. Stated another way, they were fighting laws that suggested that there was only one way for man and a woman to function alongside one another in society and in a romantic partnership.
Many African Americans who chose to try to assimilate into the majority culture by imitating traditional gender roles of marriage were literally integrating into a burning house. Those oppressive ideals and the structures that upheld them had already begun to burn. They had already been shown to be unsustainable.
Why Considering the Context is Important
As stated earlier, people attempt to hold on to the traditional constructs of marriage gender roles for different reasons. Some non-religious people hold tightly to traditional concepts of manhood and womanhood, even though they are based on those laws and ideals that English settlers brought to this land hundreds of years ago… that were largely based on the religious expressions of the monarchy in England… which was at that time considered the Head of the Church of England.
Why do I mention this connection between marriage and laws and the monarchy in England in an commentary about Black Love? It is to encourage you to allow yourself to rethink or think again about your beliefs about men and women in romantic partnerships. It is also an effort to encourage you to consider whether some of your beliefs about the definitive roles of men and women are universal truths or the personal truths of individuals who were endued with power to spread their beliefs broadly by making laws.
The people trusted the kings and queens of England to be their spokespersons for God, much as the Pope is for the Catholic Church. With each new monarch, there was new doctrine added or subtracted about how their subjects worshipped God and carried on their daily lives. Some might say that is the epitome of making God in one’s own image. Are the convictions about marriage that have been passed down from those monarchs working in your favor? And, finally, if people have been making laws that are not universal truths, then why are some so fearful to reevaluate their personal situations and realign themselves with ideals that work toward their highest good.
There are many reasons why African Americans are cautious about considering less traditional ways of functioning in their relationships. For some there may be about fear operating outside of anything that is not accepted by the broader society. After all, the ability of African Americans to acclimate and assimilate into majority culture expectations has always been vital to survival in this country. One is often rewarded with acceptance when hair, clothing, language, behavior match the expectations of one's environment. Romantic partnerships, however, create a unique opportunity for African Americans to consider how
Reaching Back to Move Forward
“To go back to tradition is the first step forward.” ~African Proverb
This African proverb reminds me of the Adinkra symbol - SANKOFA. Actually, there are two symbols that are used to represent the West African principle of Sankofa that means: “It is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot” or more simply “Go back and get it”. While one symbol resembles a heart, the other is of a bird that is walking forward yet reaches back to grab what is described by some as an egg and others a seed. Both the egg and the seed represent the best of what our past has to offer us. Sankofa is a reminder that in order to have a strong foundation, we must empower ourselves by gathering up the best that those who came before us can teach us. Sankofa reminds us of the importance of moving forward, but not forgetting the past.
People cannot easily control the legal aspects of what marriage looks like. Laws take time to change, but deciding to exercise personal autonomy in one’s personal life does not. For most, the greatest challenge will be exercising the courage required to do what may be expected of you.
Before continuing, it is important that this statement is clearly stated: It is okay for African people (African Americans, Diasporic Africans and any other people of African descent) to have a story that begins with Africans. What other ethnic group does not seek to see themselves in their history? There is sometimes hesitancy for people of African descent to embrace an African story because they have already believed the miseducation that goes forth in much of American society that suggests that there was no African civilization before Europeans arrived in Africa. When one looks beyond our shores, the evidence of contributions of all people groups, and specifically those from the African continent, is plenteous. While much has been destroyed through conquest and colonization, some artifacts and monuments remain that allow contemporary scholars and explorers to weave together a more complete story of our complex histories.
For those who find it challenging to accept the notion of being called “African” consider that other people are often referenced by their ethnicity even as American citizens. Chinese Americans are still referred to as Chinese even though they may have never traveled there. The same can be said about Indian people from India and so on. In every country that I have ever traveled, my ethnicity has been assumed to be African before any specific nationality.
The story of the African in the Americas is so complex and filled with so much negativity that some still prefer to disassociate themselves from any aspect being related to Africa. For some, it is because they may desire to focus more on the diversity of their backgrounds, and not just the African part. I encourage you to embrace your African ancestry as well. Go back and consider the good, bad and the ugly of whatever ethnicities you have. In my research I share from an African context, similar to how western culture refers back to Greek and Roman cultures or even more recent European contexts as its foundation.
If you are in the United States, unless your ancestors are native to this land, you are away from the pre-colonial homes of your ancestors. What makes the experience different for those with African ancestry that came by way of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade is that language, practices, cultures, traditions, and family lineage that would have been passed down generationally was lost, stolen, abandoned and forgotten. As a result, many Black people embrace more of others history than than they do the greatness of their own.
There is a saying: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. There is a caveat for African Americans that seek to do all that they are expected to do to achieve success in this country through assimilation. While some practices may ensure greater safety in sometimes hostile situations, others will mean greater detriment for African Americans. This can be seen clearly when seeking to adopt power structures in various areas of our lives that have proven to be unsustainable and undesirable even to those who originated them. Seeking to practice male dominant gender roles in a society that has put laws in place that disenfranchised African American men and families has been detrimental to Black families and the success of romantic partnerships.
The Africans who were brought here against their wills were not monolithic, they were from various parts of the continent of Africa with different languages and customs. Their descendants are not a homogenous group either. Their are different experiences, exposure, expertise, education, and each comes from different environments. There is an expectation that our romantic partnerships will be unique, fit us and to work for our highest good.
When I was growing up, people talked about the United States being a big melting pot. As I have grown older, I have leaned more towards calling it a chunky stew and at times a tossed salad. The nature of a country that is built around immigration and freedom presupposes a tolerance for differences in beliefs, cultures, and traditions. A melting pot gives the impression that individuality and cultural differences have melted away. Nothing could be further from the truth. For most African Americans there is a context that is even more complex because those descendants of Africans that did not willingly migrate to the Americas have a different context.
Most statistics about African Americans involve some type of pathology, something that suggests that we are sick and there is something innately disfunctional or wrong with them as a group. The evidence always points to something in recent history, within the past few hundred years after European Imperialism had transformed the globe and their Scramble for Africa had attempted to bankrupt Africa through colonization.
There is a quote that says: History is written by the victors. It would be unwise to base people of African Americans beliefs about themselves and their history solely on the reports of those who have been walking in the role of the victor for the past few hundred years. The recorded history of mankind over more than 6,000 years of recorded history is one of cycles, uprisings and defeats, and dominating kingdoms from around the world. Every group of people has influenced the earth over that time. Wisdom would encourage us to celebrate the best of what those histories have to offer about relationships and give credit where credit is due.
In the work that I do with birthing mothers through Sankofa Birth, I encourage women to reach back to embrace the skills and knowledge that the women before us had that allowed them to sustain themselves in a culture that did not allow them to have access to many resources. Likewise, in our work with individuals, couples and families, my husband Eugene and I encourage couples to reach back toward the strength of our ancestors. Black Love existed before we arrived on these shores and it continues to exist, but it will require us to reexamine some of the beliefs and practices that we consider to be truth and consider how what we currently do works toward our highest good.
Addressing Some of the Contradictions
Before we can fully engage BLACK LOVE with others, we need to consider how BLACK LOVE relates to us LOVING OURSELVES FIRST as African people. In order to do that, we need to examine our beliefs about Africa and the systems that have been put in place to nurture separation from the land and its people. When one takes a closer look, the contradictions presented to us about who we are and where we come from become clearer; and we can make our own decisions about how we will allow these contradictions to control our lives.
Allow Your Paradigm to be Shattered
Africa, also referred to as Alkebulan by some, has the most diverse people on the planet. From the Berbers and Arabs of the north to the Khoisan people of the south to the Nubian people of the east to the Bantu people who are spread throughout, Africa’s ethnic groups are the most diverse with different shades, features, hair textures, shapes and sizes. Much like the Africans throughout the diaspora, skin complexions can show up as dark as night, very pale and anywhere in between. While very different in ethnicities, languages, cultures, histories, religions, etc., African peoples share some similarities which link them to the continent and to each other.
From the beginning of recorded history, Africans from northern, southern, eastern and western parts of Africa have established Great civilizations. However, their great accomplishments have often been ignored and, as they are being brought to the forefront, some find it challenging to imagine how the greatness of Africa can co-exist with its current post-colonial state. It is worth noting that some African history is omitted because it would mean that Christians would be promoting the accomplishments of Muslim people. Each individual decides whether their religion requires that they share the same religious beliefs with those that they hold in high esteem or celebrate for their accomplishments.
Have you ever considered this? Europeans hold tightly to the legacies of the Greek and Roman Empires, even though after Rome’s last emperor was defeated Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages which lasted roughly 1,000 years, from 500AD -1500AD. However, while Europeans were enduring the wars and invasions that marked this time, Africa had never ceased to thrive in education, science, mathematics, medicine, architecture, trade, etc. As Europe was exiting the Dark ages, Africa was entering one of its own. For more than 500 years, Africa has endured enslavement by European Christians on the west coast of Africa, with even longer enslavement by Arab Muslims on the east coast of Africa, followed by destruction and looting of African artifacts and ultimately colonization by Western European countries.
Should there not be an expectation that Africa will rise again? Without fail, history shows that civilizations rise and fall and, at some point, the conquerors are conquered and other civilizations rise to take their places. As one examines historical contexts, the importance of unity of disenfranchised peoples of African descent becomes more imperative whether one is the descendant of those who remained to be colonized continent or those who were forcibly kidnapped from its shores and carried to the New World.
I still recall being at a research conference for Black scholars and hearing an continental African woman speak about Africa. She closed he lecture with this this statement: “Africa has been great before and Africa will be great again… Africa is rising!” It was the first time I had heard anyone say anything like that, but after that lecture, I seemed to hear people everywhere saying it: “Africa IS rising… Africa is RISING!” As my family and I have reconnected with the continent and I have expanded my knowledge outside of what has been presented in the United States, I have begun to see the world in a totally new way. And I have joined in the chorus with so many others in proclaiming, “AFRICA, with so many of her children around the world, IS RISING!”
The Legacy of Race in the United States
I was born in the United States of America, a country that from its inception distinguished between who was white and who was other. In this country, the same individuals responsible for the Declaration of Independence were also responsible for determining that every five slaves would be counted as three people for the purpose of voting and increasing the government’s revenue. A century later, the “one drop” rule would ensure that a person with one drop of African blood in their lineage was considered Black. Ironically, the “one drop” rule has not applied to Native Americans, the indigenous people of the Americas.
In 2000, for the first time in United States history, citizens were allowed to identify more than one race on the U.S. Census. This has been useful more and more people who have mixed ethnicities have chosen to identify themselves as bi-racial or mixed raced, and have moved away from Jefferson’s limited context of ethnic identity. That is understandable.
Because of white men’s sexual encounters with enslaved Black women, most often by force, most African Americans have mixed ancestry. A DNA Ancestry report that I did says that I have about 7% Western European ancestry, although one would be hard pressed to see any trace of it in me. People, from other countries especially, look at my husband’s complexion and say he is mixed. His family knows the name of the ancestor on his mother’s side of the family who migrated from Eastern Europe from four generations ago. Still, most of his family members have identified themselves as Colored, Negro, Black or African American, even when visually one could not clearly distinguish any African ancestry in them.
Great People… Great Civilizations
The irony is that while the U.S. and some European countries have spent centuries promoting their superiority over those who have any trace of African blood, they have not applied that rationale to matters that surround ancient African civilizations like Egypt. Of these African empires and kingdoms, they have asserted that the greatness of their civilizations could have only come from outside the continent of Africa. Or more commonly they state that they were not Black Africans or real Africans, but mixed race and that is why they were able to amass such greatness in their societies.
Stating that mixing with other “races” of people improves the Black race to the point that they could establish one of the greatest kingdoms in recorded history, while simultaneously stating that one drop of African blood makes a person inferior and less than human is evidence of cognitive dissonance in those that seek to push these perspectives forward. Critically thinking individuals should question any scholar that has a problem acknowledging the contributions of the people that work to discredit the contributions of Africans based on their race and ethnicity.
These same standards are not upheld in other countries and contexts. For example, Berbers from Africa invaded and conquered the Iberian Peninsula and occupied parts of the area for almost 800 years. That is more than three times the length of time that the United States has been a sovereign nation. Yet, today little credit is given toward the strong Muslim influence on daily life, trade and architecture of Spain that that allowed the area to prosper while the rest of Western Europe was passing through the Dark Ages.
These are the same individuals who still declare the United States of America to be a “white nation” even though that status has only been maintained because the “race” category on the U.S. Census has been continually updated since 1790. As a result, some people groups that would not have been considered “white” in the U.S. less than 100 years ago now are, regardless of their physical appearances. This includes Italians, Greeks, North Africans, Middle Easterners, Jewish people, Latinos. Additionally, up until 1965, great efforts have been made to maintain the Western European majority of racial composition of the country by means such as the 1924 National Origins Act.
Any great civilization involved in trade and commerce will be influenced by those they interact with and as different ethnicities intermarry cultures will begin to blend. As great scientific minds, scholars and artisans exchange ideas, new procedures are developed and practices are intertwined. The same happens today in the U.S. as people migrate to the country and use their skills. Any accomplishments or discoveries are still credited to those sovereign nations, which has been the practice for thousands of years around the world.
None of the presumed influence of other ethnicities and cultures have been used to undermine the accomplishments of contemporary sovereign nations, such as Spain or the United States of America. Likewise, people of African descent should apply resistance toward those who would attempt to minimize the influence of Africans in ancient civilizations, culture, and scientific advancements based on their interactions and affiliations with outside people groups.
Demographics and Culture or Geography
Lastly, there is often a major distinction made between Northern Africa (Berber/Arab Africa above the Sahara desert) and Sub-Saharan Africa (Black Africa below the Sahara Desert). The problem is that there is no consensus about which countries it includes. If one looks at geography, then Sudan is considered to be North African territory, even though some of its people have some of the deepest, darkest skin on the planet. If one considers the ethnic makeup of the people they would be considered Black Africa. But those that divide the continent based on Islam being the dominant religion would place Sudan as a part of North Africa with the other Muslim countries. Which is the correct way to group the people on the African continent?
There is a similar situation with Europe and Asia, or Eurasia as it is also called. If one looks at a geographical map, there is no clear separation between Europe and Asia. Based governmental boundaries of countries, on a political map, Russia is located on the continent of Asia. Yet, the people of Russia are considered to be Eastern European. Ninety-five percent of Turkey’s land mass is in Asia, but it has been an applicant to become of the European Union for over 20 years.
Some suggest that the separation between Eastern and Western Europe occurred as a result of the Great Schism of the Christian Church in 1054, but that would mean that parts of Italy all of Greece would be considered Eastern Europe. For some, Italy and Greece seem more identifiable as Eastern European countries, especially when considering the family structures. But with Greek and Roman Empires being the foundation of European history, it is important for European countries to hold them in a high esteem.
Is there a definitive geographic separation between Western and Eastern Europe or Europe and Asia? The Western European countries were involved in the Scramble for Africa and the colonization of the continent: Belgium, France, Portugal, Netherlands, England, Italy, Germany, and Spain. It seems that besides looking at family structures, the wealth of countries has also helped demarcate boundaries between Western and Eastern Europe. A better question might be, how can their be a definitive geographic separation between what is termed the East and the West when most of Europe and all of Australia is in the Eastern Hemisphere based on where they
While England and other European countries colonized territories all around the globe, depending on context, only some of them are considered Western countries. While all of the Americas, Europe, Australia and New Zealand are considered to be Western countries based on having a shared cultures based on Ancient Greek and Roman histories and philosophies, some South American countries are excluded because they are economically still developing countries. For others, “western culture” is synonymous with “modern culture” and would include countries like Japan because it has been so heavily influenced by European culture.
Those places fully accepted as Western countries are those where European countries were able to colonize territories, establish ____ and win the culture war by establishing their philosophies, languages, political systems, etc. Places like India were heavily influenced by colonization, but never culturally dominated.
Where does Africa Fit?
But what about Alkebulan? Where does it fall in this discussion of what is Eastern or Western Culture? Although the majority of the continent is geographically in the Eastern hemisphere and more than 90% of the continent was colonized by European countries, it is not recognized as being a part of Eastern or Western culture. Some suggest that African countries are is considered a Southern Countries, however, the majority of the landmass of Africa is above the Equator. And again Australia is fully located in the Southern and Eastern hemispheres.
So even the concept of what what up, down, left and right are subjective. There were two ancient African Kingdoms, Egypt and Nubia, who both identified Upper and Lower parts of their kingdoms in opposite ways than the way they would be identified on a map today. What is commonly shown as north was south for them. They based their identifications of upper (north) and lower (south) on how the Source of the Nile River flowed, which allowed them to grow food and assisted in trade as a source of transportation in an otherwise desert area.
As with the previous example about Africa, it seems that the definitive definitions are not always possible, but when they are those who seek to remain in power use them to suit their needs. It is important for Black people to understand this truth: The definitions used to categorize people, places and ideas are developed to serve the people who design them; and to promote and sustain the systems that allow them to maintain favorable .
Those in power create scenarios that help them accomplish their ultimate goals. If the goal is religious, separation is made a certain way. If geographical or economic situations are being observed, and it is more advantageous to divide and categorize in a different way, then that is what is done. If the objective is to ensure that certain groups of do not know of their contributions to humanity or see themselves in history so that they willingly remain in subservient roles throughout the world, then it seems reasonable to deface statues so their ethnic identities are less recognizable. If sequestering the truth is the goal then it makes sense to loot burial grounds for treasures and artifacts and then seek to destroy remaining evidence that would allow these people to see aspects of their history. And it would seem reasonable to feel entitled to determine how people should define themselves and seek to discredit all those who disagreed by creating more standards.
People of African descent would be wise to work to reclaim their personal autonomy - physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually - and to more fully embrace the Kwanzaa principle of KUJICHAGULIA, which is Self-Determination. We must cease willingly hand over the power we have "to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves." There is no need to have your truths and observations affirmed by those who have systematically sought to eradicate your people, your culture and your spiritual beliefs on a global scale.
An African Context for Black Couples
For an African context, we will look toward the Cradle of Humanity and Civilization, to Africa itself. This is not an exhaustive ____ but is intended to provide some context for your consideration and later research if you desire. This list is is not to some of the oldest and most After almost a Many cite Egyptians, however, I will point you further south to the Ethiopia. Why?
This is similar to countries where the traditional marriage declared before the community is still honored above the legal contractual marriage.
Is considered to be the cradle of humanity by many scholars.
The Kingdom of Aksum (in present day Ethiopia) is
is the only African country to resist colonization by Europeans.
Ethiopia is the location of the rock hewn Lalibela churches from the 12th century that still serve as places of worship.
King Ezana of Aksum (in present day Ethiopia) established the first Christian state and Ethiopia is the home of the oldest church in Africa. Christianity was not a western concoction for African people, however, the current iteration of Christianity is a Western creation and many agree that Western Christianity has played a major role in politics and the development of Western Culture.
The “Queen of Sheba” was from Ethiopia
Ethiopian empire (Aksum) was involved in international trade and, while Christianity was its primary religion, multiple religions coexisted in Askum.
Ethiopia established a pre-colonial Christian church, not influenced by European colonial powers.
Throughout Nubian/Askum history, Queens lead multiple successful resistances against Rome who consistently tried to conquer it.
Nubian empires were known for having co-regents… the first power couples
Consider epigenetic context… memory…
Assimilation as a detriment to the collective
Complementary roles do not always equate to oppression.
There is diversity on the continent and different ethnicities of Africans with different cultures, yet the many were able to coexist. Few suggested that there was a single language, practice or culture that all others should adopt.
All of this information is important because every other culture, ethnicity and race of people that makes up the U.S. landscape looks back to the land and the people to establish cultural context. Western Europeans reach back to the accomplishments of the Greeks and the Romans as a foundation upon which they can
African peoples have different names for the most high, the Divine based on their language, different explanations for the “helpers” (angels, ancestors, Orishas, etc.) , different wedding customs.
Even now while in the United States there are arguments about whether a married woman should drop her family name, there are other Africans of the Diaspora in Latin America who carry both names. In truth, naming practices are more about culture than they are about a commitment to live in marriage with a husband in a certain way.
Marriage means different things in different cultures. In some countries in Africa, the traditional commitment before family and the community still carries more weight than the “white wedding” as it is often called. WHo gets to decide what customs carry the most weight? Ultimately, YOU DO!
Even more ____, when one considers how policies influenced the way Black men and women saw themselves an function…. especially if there is an effort to assimilate:
If you don’t fit the mold, you can either seek to further assimilate (like a square peg in a circle hole) or you can realize that you ready do not fit that mold and you can serve yourself and your family best if you prioritize making, maintaining and maximizing the connection in your partnership.
For many years in this country, Black people knew that is not true.
I want to encourage you to embrace the freedom tht contunues to be avaialable for you and your partner.
It is important to considerthe type of country this is with the many cultures that have intermingled with each each other. Sometimes there is a belief that if a person shares a similar background or beliefs or is “equally yoked” then the romantic partnership shoudld be a guaranteed success. However, statistics for divorce do not support that assertion.
It is notable that the ______ text has not been able to be translated but there have translated ______
One of the greatest challenges to African American couples in the U.S. in recent years has been the continued attempt to adopt practices and patterns of the majority culture. After hundreds of years of romantic unions not being acknowledged in the same way that white men and women’s unions were acknowledged in the United States, the situation has changed.
Embrace the freedom of understanding that … understand the place and time you live in…
To those who hold to this propaganda, I ask, “Which truth do you prefer? The one that says that one drop of Black blood makes one subhuman? Or that one that says African people
God… Yourself… Others…
Ultimately, BLACK LOVE cannot fully express itself if you do not yet know how to love yourself beyond what others have told you about yourself and shown you about your history. The truth is that deeply melanated people have been here since the beginning and have made contributions throughout the world for thousands of years. People of African descent have always valued spirituality and craved to be connected to the Divine.
For African people, it was common to see the value placed on both masculine and feminine energy expressed in their dieties as well as their rulers. It was not uncommon to see the male Pharoah, the female Kandake or a husband and wife serving together as Co-Regents, some of our first examples of POWER COUPLES!
For Africans of the Diaspora, there are many aspects of our family lineage, languages, and traditions that we can no longer know in detail, but we can
Before continuing to present an African context for couples, it is important to share my position on Africa and its people.
that make it acceptable to acknowledge the accomplishments of the continent their own, just as one does for any other continent. There is no need to seek to redefine boundaries, create divisions, or explain away the influences of the people on the continent of Africa.