Terrence Shambley Jr., A&E Editor
On Valentine’s Day, Augsburg’s Pan-Afrikan Student Union (PASU) hosted Black Love, an event that centered discussions on black love, love and relationships.
First, attendees walked into the Marshall room and were greeted with a selection of strawberries, pretzels and cookies, all of which they were drowned in the big bowl of melted dark chocolate placed there before them. They had a seat amongst the wonderful black faces that made up most of attendance, though there were also many non-black POC present, and they mingled over hip-hop hums and throwback love jams. Everyone was chilling, the energy in the room was pleasant, unbothered, and faces are stuffed with sugary cheat-day joy. PASU created a space about what it means for people to love, particularly, what it means for black folk to love.
I asked Hasna Ali, PASU’s Public Relations Officer, why it is important for her and PASU to create space for black love. “My vision was to empower black college students on the understanding of love,” she says. “Most Pan-Afrikan communities suppress different ideas of love. It’s always about following tradition or upholding societal standards. Love is a continuous relationship with yourself and the people around you. Love comes in all forms and is expressed in different ways that can all be healthy. Love is limitless, and that’s the message that ties in our Black History Month.”
During the presentation PASU prepared for us all, Ali reminded the audience that love doesn’t have to be romantic. “Love is not only a connection to romance; love is an understanding,” she says, scoffing at the idea of love being limited to one form. There’s familial love, self-love and platonic love too, people!” Nafisa Warsame, PASU’s Vice President, affirms the importance of consensual relationships. “Consent is freely given. It’s a choice you make without pressure, manipulation or under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Warsame says. She adds that consent is reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific.
What does “love” look like? What does this word that is used so freely, spoken so passionately, sworn on with the force of an oath mean? The crowd discussed in small groups, and they discussed in large groups, and here was what the folks of Black Love and PASU came up with: love don’t gotta be heterosexual. It doesn’t have to be monogamous, it doesn’t have to be a marriage, and that love at first sight bloo blah is for the birds. True love doesn’t only come once, using online dating services is okay, and the notion that black women are characteristically difficult and have attitudes is another myth.
A loving relationship is, says the people of Black Love, one that practices effective modes of communication. Love is boundaries. Love is respecting someone’s emotional and mental capacity. Love is consensual, and its importance includes but isn’t limited to physical touch. PASU prompted the crowd to identify their love language. Do you feel most loved when you receive acts of service, quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, or (consensual) physical touch? The audience identified their love language and shared it with the room. Share your love language with your loved ones and teach them how to love you.
PASU’s Black Love was informing, energizing and needed. It was a fun opportunity to be in community with one another and build on our understandings of love. I can’t imagine a better way to spend Valentine’s Day.
This article was originally published in the Feb. 22, 2019 issue.