We are heading into the last few months of 2016 and it’s almost too draining to look back and too exhausting to keep moving forward. We have literally witnessed live public executions–learning about one killing at the hands of a police officer after a man’s car broke down, and went to sleep and learned about a disabled man reading in his car being killed by another. And over the weekend, another young man was fatally shot by an officer in Los Angeles. Lately, this has been our reality, and I have nothing new to add that hasn’t already been covered brilliantly by A.J Springer, Damon Young, Luvvie Ajayi, or many other Black writers.
According to Business Insider, 69 civilians (most of them Black men) were killed during the month of September by law enforcement officers. As if these statics alone aren’t enough to snatch the breath out of your body, when Black people use silent protests in response to state-sanctioned violence we are instructed to consider the feelings of those who may be offended by our demonstration of discontent. Or as President Obama put it, “consider both sides.” It’s been an insane year and nothing about it makes any sense. It’s like a Tim Burton movie, except its actually starring Black people.
It’s easy, and often necessary for me to slip in a joke as a coping mechanism. The truth is my emotions have been all over the place lately. Sometimes they have been hard to control but never hard to determine the source of the turbulence. I live in country where the men I love, fight for, call brothers, and date are being murdered daily. The hatred for Black men is being live-streamed on social media and played on every news station. It’s almost like the world is becoming desensitized to Black death and pain. While enjoy the liberty of desensitization, that is simply untrue for me, and every other person that dies a little inside when we are forced to move forward with our daily routine after waking up to a brand new hashtag.
I have no immediate answers. I don’t know how to combat the killings or the hate. In fact, I’m too exhausted. All I can do in this moment is love you harder, and publicly, and intimately, and intentionally.
So Black men, this is an open love letter to you.
I love and adore you in a way that only another Black person can. I truly need you to see this far beyond a sexual context and beyond just the emotions of one writer. Even though these are my words I would dare to say that others share the same thoughts. The world may be screaming, “We hate you,” but simultaneously, we–your community–are declaring and displaying our love in every way we know how. It’s important that you know this during this season. It’s equally important that you remember the power and resilience that resides in Black love.
Black love is probably the most tested love on the planet. What other love could grow through centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, the new Jim Crow, Nixon, Reagan and George Bush—parts one and two—and still thrive? What other love can turn an impoverished home into a place where brilliant Black children can grow? I don’t know if I have the language to fully capture the depth of what Black love is. Perhaps I will have better luck if I attempt to describe its resurrection power.
Black love, in all its glory and even flaws, has transformed dead situations. Its turned drug addicted zombies back to themselves and breathed life into people who couldn’t hold on for one more second. Black love has birthed movements and shaped nations. It was Black love that started the Civil Rights Movement and empowered the Black Panthers. This love pushed us to fight for each other and our children. It propelled our heroes to fight for lives of people that weren’t even born. I imagine it’s what drove Harriet Tubman, inspired Nat Turner, and birthed all of our present day freedom fighters who defiantly declare that we matter in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Black love is powerful. It’s honest. Its healing. Its transformative—and it’s still highly visible.
It lives in the subtle nod we give one another when we pass each other on the street. This love is felt when we rejoice over the victories of brothers and sisters we never even met. Its present during those times when we can just sit in each others company and bring peace without ever speaking a word.
Brothers, I wanted to remind you of this love in the face of so much death. I wanted to urge you to tap in to it. Beloved, I know the power of Black love. How it heals, changes, nurtures and provides strength in our most painful moments. I know you have probably died a little inside with all of the turmoil of 2016, as have I. But if you are crawling into these last few months of 2016 it can help you rise. Sometimes, before you can tap into this sources of love we have to be reminded that you have it and directed where to find it. Please allow this love letter to serve as that reminder.
Shanita Hubbard is a mom, writer, traveler, speaker and social justice advocate. Follow her on Twitter.