The Necessity and Power of Black Love

BLE 2016 Photo Credit: Mayowa Ojo

Last year Anika Hobbs, owner of the Anacostia-based boutique Nubian Hueman and the brains behind the 4th Annual Black Love Experience, asked me for some programming ideas. Having attended the year before, I was excited to contribute to this elegant and progressive take on the enduring need for Black love. The Bonner Room was born and a host of panels and workshops took over the Black Box Theater in the Anacostia Arts Center. I am back for the 2017 edition and as a curator I had to first ask myself, What is Black love? What seemed like an obvious answer took some time to work through and I realized that this is not an easy question to answer. Nonetheless, for me, Black love is truth in spite of…everything.

A truth that is constantly reminding me and people who look like me that we are human, that we are deserving of fair and equal treatment, that the “norm” is simply not right. It is the look of solidarity when we see each other out in the streets and give that slight nod. It is the shared experience of watching two fierce sisters battling it out on the tennis court, knowing that even though only one can be victorious, they are us and we are them. It is in every “Slay” and “Flawless” response we post when we see our sisters and brothers serving style and grace.

Black love pushes back against the MAGA chants that threaten the little strides that have been made to make America true to its word. It pushes back against discrimination of all kinds, because on the real, without the systematic efforts made by African-Americans to publicly hold the Declaration of Independence to its word, many other movements would not have the blueprint that has been followed time and time again. Black love resists the daily onslaught of negative energy, alternative facts and gas lighting that creates tension, fear, and anger in a community initially forced together by capitalism and history. From such ugly things, beauty and depth has found its way to the surface, so much so that those who would have us marginalized still find time to pluck our ways and try to claim them for their own. Black love is this dance between life and living. It serves as partner, shield and reminder that we have always been here and that here is everywhere. This was my jumping off point for this year’s programming of The Black Love Experience.


From top left: Mayasa Talfair, Amtchat Edwards, Grace Gyemfi, Sheldon Scott, Tamara Wellons, Rodney “BUCK!” Herring, Madia Brown, Amina Carter, Tewodross Melchisua, Eshe R. Armah, Edward Jones, and Adamaah Grayse

WORKSHOPS

Mayasa Talfair is a wise juju woman who uses folk ways to heal and restore. She will be leading two workshops for women called WOMB WORK that are grounded in both earth (7:45PM Honfleur Gallery) and fire energies (9PM Black Box Theater). Given how much Black women bear, I felt these two approaches would be the most beneficial in these times. Meditation and movement will be the focus along with instruction on holistic care in the form of herbal remedies and touch techniques. The movement piece was especially important when working on these workshops. Having viewed some of her videos, I knew that Mayasa’s movement instruction was just the thing needed to ground and stoke the fires.

Mayasa Talfair

In wanting to balance out all of the yin energy, I had to invite Amtchat Edwards back. Bringing his reiki and tantra knowledge to the fold, the YANG BUILDERS workshop (9PM Honfleur Gallery) will allow men, in private, to honor and build their energy through movement and breath. Using tantra techniques, the yang energy is manifested in a way that is sustaining and dynamic. By the time all of this yin/yang work is done, everyone should be ready for THE INTERPLAY (11PM Black Box Theater) session which brings everyone together in a fun and playful setting to learn how to share yin and yang energies in a safe space. Having watched this session in action, I can say that it offers a transformative and necessary understanding of how to love and protect on a soular level. It also speaks to the benefits and necessity of platonic touch, something we don’t always learn on our own.

VISION BOARDS

The BLE is expanding this year and will now include the lower level of the Anacostia Arts Center as part of the festivities. For those of a more visual nature and/or those wanting to ease into the night, Amina Carter will be hosting THE BLACK BOARD, a session on vision boards (8PM The Breathing Room). Moving in the space of self-realization, this session is essentially a metaphor for crafting your vision of yourself and your community. It speaks to the power we all have to create our own truth.

PANELS

Finally, I am excited to bring two panel discussions that explore Blackness, creativity and resistance in varied measure. The first, ON THE BLACK-HAND SIDE (8PM Black Box Theater), is a conversation about the need and importance of supporting Black creativity. I was reflecting on how the “Buy Black” movement does a great job of featuring product and service-based businesses, but often does little to encourage creative output like art shows, performances, and lectures. So, I tapped some of my favorite creatives and artists to offer up some insight on why it is just as important to support Black creativity as it is businesses. Moderated by Grace Gyemfi, the panel will include: Madia Brown, Rodney “BUCK!” Herring, Sheldon Scott and Tamara Wellons.

As I considered the response of protest to the recent election outcome, I wanted to explore resistance and how it could be integrated into daily life. The second panel CREATIVE RESISTANCE (10PM Black Box Theater) explores actions such as: homeschooling your children, growing your own food, documenting your stories, and creating giving solutions that support your local community efforts as daily tools of resistance. Let’s face it, everyone isn’t a marcher or grassroots activist. Moderated by Amina Carter, this panel will feature lessons and insights from: Eshe R. Armah, Tewodross Melchishua, Adamaah Grayse and Edward Jones.

In offering up this program, my hope is that we all come out better from the experiences. I would like to thank Anika Hobbs for entrusting me with this task and the whole BLE squad for the support. There is nothing more freeing or magical than creating your truth, this is mine. I hope you enjoy it.