‘Black Love’ picks up where JET Magazine’s wedding section left

Why OWN’s “Black Love” matters so much to African-American viewers

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Aug 27 · 4 min read
Photo credit: Create Her Stock

I judge myself every single Monday and Wednesday because I loyally tune into some of the most dysfunctional reality TV relationships ever. And many of them are women of color who are dealing with men with multiple wives, nonstop cheating, physical and mental abuse, and a whole lot of unprotected sex. But then I turn the TV off and go back to my “normal” life. I can go hang out with my parents, who have been married for 39 years (this coming Friday). I can call my brother, who married his high-school sweetheart and celebrated 20 years of marriage earlier this year.

Photo credit: Create Her Stock

And my grandfather and I often joked about his honeymoon at White Castle’s after he left the courthouse. He was married to my grandmother for 49 years, and those two traveled the world together. If I go off into more happily married African-American couples that are godsisters, cousins, friends and other relatives, this would be a pretty long post.

Photo credit: Free-Photo/Pixabay

Before most of these couples even knew who each other were, I grew up flipping through the pages of JET magazine. I saw announcements for African-American couples getting married in every issue. And JET magazine lasted 63 years, so those announcements were showing up long before I was alive. While I have mixed opinions regarding a woman’s need to marry, I’m happy as hell to see a woman who wants to be happily married get her wish.

Photo credit: One zone Studio/Unsplash

But if you have no other reference to look at, an uncomfortable amount of people would swear that a “Love & Hip Hop,” “Basketball Wives” or “Couples Therapy” relationship is typical.

But the point is that I know what’s normal and what’s not. I see a balance of how relationships should be and how they definitely should never work. And I also see melanin-rich couples in all shapes and sizes who don’t need the police to be called every single time they disagree on something. But if you have no other reference to look at, an uncomfortable amount of people would swear that a “Love & Hip Hop,” “Basketball Wives” or “Couples Therapy” relationship is typical. It is not. In all fairness, viewers do get sprinkles of “black love” from the Mackies (married rappers Remy Ma and Papoose) on “Love & Hip Hop (New York).” The duo show it off in random promos, Papoose’s caps and their outfits.

But OWN TV’s “Black Love” does it bigger, better and blacker! The “Black Love” series, created by filmmakers Codie Elaine Oliver and Tommy Oliver, is now on Season 3. And it’s showing healthy, constructive conversations about how many well-known couples met and married. Yes, they explore infidelity, family deaths, miscarriages, illnesses, addiction and abuse. But they also explore practical and positive ways to get over relationship humps — and that’s not with a load of security guards, and calling each other all kinds of n-words and bitches.

Shows like “Black Love” and photo spreads like JET’s wedding photo series prove that yes, black women and black men do actually like and respect each other.

Just as importantly though, shows like “Black Love” and photo spreads like JET’s wedding photo series prove that yes, black women and black men do actually like and respect each other. And we’re attracted to each other enough to do something other than bang each other out. From most TV sitcoms, if you get the one token black person, you’re hard pressed to see a dynamic black couple on the show. “This Is Us” is an exception with Randall and Beth. A handful of others include “Black Lightning,” Netflix’s “Family Reunion,” “Blackish” and even awkward college relationships on “Grownish.”

But browse through a stock image site, and you’d swear that black women and black men never locked eyes. Positive representation on TV, in magazines, in photographs and in person help young, black girls (specifically brown-skinned girls) grow into young women, and those women are paying close attention to how they’re loved and treated.

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Idiotic reviews from sites like Daily Dot completely miss the significance of why African-American families need to be seen onscreen. They’ll never understand why a token character on your favorite mainstream show doesn’t do the trick. They’ll never get why African-American writers, producers, directing teams and stations matter as much to how black folks are represented. They don’t get why “Family Reunion” has zip zero to do with “Fuller House.” Some viewers get it, others just don’t — because they’re unsettled seeing black couples who are not in a constant fit of catastrophes.

While I can look to reality TV as a source of (mostly) hysterical entertainment, in my world, “Black Love” and JET magazine are the real reality. Thank goodness that stations like OWN, CW and Netflix just get it.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

14-year journalist; freelance writer/editor (Upwork); Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters member/3x officer; cohost of Do Not Submit; Shamontiel.com

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