By Chante Dyson. Photography By Deun Ivory.
Growing up, I never understood why my friends would tell me that I’m “so lucky that my parents are married.” To me, this was normal life. I’d grown up with very present parents in my life. I often awed at the story of my young parents meeting, falling in love, getting married, and bringing me into the world one year later. I grew up an only child, as my older brother passed away at a very young age. We had different fathers, but my dad took on the responsibility of a loving and present step-father and from the many stories, I learned that my brother grew to truly love and appreciate the sincere effort. My mother gave me the type of love that seemed almost fairytale-like. She spoke so sweetly to me as a young girl, allowing me to play in her soft hair that made my rough hands feel delicate afterwards. She never found an issue with a 7 year old me snuggling in between her and my father every night, even though I was prone to bed-wetting. She was and is the best love I’ve ever known.
My father was incredibly overprotective and quite harsh in demeanor. I never understood why he was so angry -- so rough. I understood that he’d had an incredibly difficult childhood, growing up in poverty, not knowing who his own father was, having to take the lead in caring for both his older and younger siblings in the house. He’d dreamt of becoming a professional athlete, but instead opted for the navy; an experience in which I feel only intensified his natural scorn. I never viewed my parents' relationship as something I’d want to emulate one day. God no. Not for me. I always felt like I would deserve better someday, although this was the only marriage I’d ever seen. Movies, books, and television told me that something more beautiful, more kind would some day await me. Why was he so mean? I often had private discussions with my mother about how she deserved more and how I hoped that one day my parents would move on from each other so that we could all have more peace. As my mother’s own flesh and blood, I wanted her to be loved purely. I wanted her to be talked to with love, admiration, and respect. My father was very mean and the piercing of every harsh remark, every low blow, every disinterested stare, emotionally scarred us both. How did we even get here? I loved my father very deeply. It was a hard love. A love that was often tested. A love that inevitably left me wounded.
I remember being at my college graduation feeling incredibly indifferent. I didn’t have the same excitement as my peers; I was just there to make my family cheer proudly and see me walk the stage. I was thinking of other things -- moving to the other side of the country in a few weeks, post-grad life, and who would ultimately be here to stay in the new chapter of my life. I remember my mother and father’s faces as they expressed their pride in their only daughter for setting a new legacy of college education within our small family unit. I was the first out of our unit to graduate from college and I could tell that they were so happy that day. Something was different though. I felt all the love, but in my spirit I knew that the family that I’d once known, as dysfunctional as it often was, was not the same. It was disappearing before my eyes.
After a lonely post-graduate stint in Seattle, I found out that my father had left my mother and I and had started a new family out in the West Virginia countryside. All the while, we thought he was getting treatment for a mental imbalance at the VA hospital. The horror of the news still lingers in my soul. Not only was I abandoned by my father who’d always been present in my life up until my college graduation, but I also had to experience my mother’s betrayal, pain, and financial devastation all while many miles away. My father wouldn’t tell us his new address, and barely responded until one day, the day after my aunt’s funeral, a white woman messaged my mother on facebook and broke the news to us all. They’d been living together for almost a year at the time and he was an active part of her family and a huge part of her children's lives. He’d been to Africa with her to experience her missionary work as she adopts African children. It was impossible at first to believe that the first man that I’d ever looked up to, was living a real life Get Out spinoff.
My father’s mental health was deteriorating long before the news of his new life and the scars of abandonment began to form. It was my senior year of college when I’d come home to notice him in the basement, alone in his depression. I’d creep down the stairs and offer words of wisdom. I remember giving him a Thich Nhat Hanh book that I had and prayed it would give him the peace I knew he needed .
I say all of this as a statement of my harsh reality -- A confession that allows me the space to recreate and redetermine what family means to me. My vision of afrofuturism centers the Black family unit because if we do not have stability within each other and for our children, we are existing in an undesirable realm of forgottenness. Preserving black love -- PRESERVING BLACK LOVE, is revolutionary. Too many of our children, myself now included, don’t have images of what it means to commit to the family. Many of us fear relationships based on what we’ve seen growing up. We have no clue what real love and intimacy looks like because subconsciously we assume it is not for us. This does nothing for our collective healing and evolution. We deserve love. I deserve love.
“If love is not present in our imaginations, it will not be there in our lives” - Bell Hooks
We must work diligently to heal from the traumas of our broken families. In this country particularly, our ancestors were attacked and ripped away from their families and children, and we’ve seen this experience in many forms whether that be through slavery, the war on drugs, Jim Crow, economic injustice, mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of anti-black love imagery in all forms of media. It is a revolutionary act to love, even when you don’t understand your many pain, your many fears.
The afrofuturistic vision I have for myself is one that preserves black love by any means. That looks like co-creating a healthy, loving, and long lasting relationship. That looks like raising children who see that beautiful black relationship as a glimpse of the infinite opportunities that one can bring forth in this lifetime through a commitment to our love. That looks like loving my community by any means. That looks like my work here at Black Girl In Om -- raising all of our voices in solidarity. That looks like loving me for who I am, unapologetically.
I am committed to rejecting the internal notion that I should fear love based on my personal traumas. I am not a victim. My declaration, my choice, is radical. I choose black love. I choose to do everything in my power to uplift, honor, envision, and support our black families. We will never die. We will commit to infinite love, and together, we will survive.
I want to share wisdom on relationships and unity from Queen Afua’s highly recommended reading ‘Sacred Woman’:
With the Creator
“The union of the Creator and ourselves is the most critical union, for all that we are begins with the Great One, In order to be inside the Creator, to be fully aware of the Creator’s presence within us, and to be. Guided by the Most High, we must first love ourselves as the Creator loves us. When we truly love ourselves, we become one with the Divine. It is then that the Creator can enter our house, and all of our unions will be blessed."
We all have at least three or more active aspects or personalities within ourselves. Each of these personalities develops in divine time to aid our growth and development. To be effective, these various parts of ourselves must come into harmonious union and work together in concert for the greater good. For example, one self protects us, another self inspires us, a third is brilliant, and yet another is sensual. The male and the female parts of us must come together with love. These complementary aspects must unite into one team — one entity with the strength necessary to ultimately give us all that we need as we journey through life. Meditation and fasting will help us learn to honor our own Sacred Union within.
With Our Mate
“Once the two forces of male and female come together in complete harmony, heaven and earth become one. The wellness of the earth is determined by the union of these two opposite forces. When earthquakes, tidal waves, and hurricanes manifest, it is a direct result of lack of harmony between the masculine and feminine energies on the planet. We must be committed to the Creator and our planet, and begin the process of healing ourselves. We must develop harmony first within ourselves, balancing our own inner masculine and feminine forces. We must strive to become sacred, divine mates to ourselves and others, learning to live in perfect union.”
Relationships Prayer by Queen Afua:
“Divine Creator, I stand in need of Sacred Union. I pray for a Sacred Union with myself, with you, Creator, and with my mate. Divine Creator, help me to attract and establish harmonious, healthy relationships, and joyous oneness with my life partner. Help me to identify and release old hurt feelings, resentments, and hostilities that are trapped within my Body Temple. Help me to have the vision, strength, and courage to learn from all my past and present relationships, as they are all reflections of my own consciousness, each and every one. If by chance my intimate relationships do not change, may I remain undaunted and fearless. May I be the one to become the first link of change and transformation in my life, for all healing really begins within me. I affirm that each one of my intimate relationships, past or present, has value and has in some way prepared me to grow into a more conscious Sacred Union with my self. As I reflect on the true purpose of Sacred Union, I give thanks to the divine masculine and feminine in me and the divine masculine and feminine that unite to create Sacred Union — the life force from which all creation flows within us.”
Chantè Dyson is a DMV girl currently residing in LA. After graduating from Rutgers University, she moved cross country to continue pursuing her fashion dreams. A writer at heart, Chantè is passionate about telling women's stories and using words to empower and raise our collective consciousness globally. Her fashion magazine background exposed her to the biases in mainstream media as it pertains to relatable stories that center women of color. Serving as Editorial Coordinator at Black Girl In Om is a dream come true for Chantè, as she has always hoped to highlight the stories and identities of amazing women of color around the world. Personally, embracing a more holistic and wellness-centered lifestyle has been transformative to Chante's experience of growing more into her womanhood, and it is her honor to contribute to Black Girl In Om's magic through inspirational and impactful storytelling. Follow her on social media @chantedyson.