BY BLACK GIRL IN OM. COVER PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMIRA MAXWELL
Revolutions are created and conquered daily. Think for a moment about the many ways you've expressed love and care, this week, this month, this year— from telling a friend to stay safe, or calling up mom and pop to say "hey, I love you. I'm here,"— love and Black love, in and of itself, is revolutionary. It's soft, it's strong, it's serving someone in their time of need while also navigating through your own bumps in the road.
Here at Black Girl In Om, we're celebrating the beauty that is Valentine's Day. Whether single, coupled or on the couch with our best gals and a box of chocolate, we believe love isn't a thing to celebrate one day out of the year— it's how we live and express our truest selves. Our freest selves. It extends to every corner of our lives. To give us a glimpse into what revolutionary love looks like in practice, we sat down with our fave couples, and asked them how love has become a mainstay of their wellness. Let your heart melt this February with the warmth of their stories below.
A scroll through their feed, and you can see that Roe and Erin (lovingly referred to as "E") are unapologetic in all aspects of their life: from their minimalist living to their liberating love. This dynamic duo helps us create space in our lives for a more intentional and grounded experience through their own journey as mindful lifestylists. Follow along on their Instagram, @Brownkids, as they share the beauty of consciously designing a life of love and freedom.
Where'd you meet?: Online! (before it was cool to do that. We're talking pre-Tinder here, people)
How long have you been together?: 6 years, going on 7 (we're the absolute worst, neither of us are exactly sure when our anniversary is, so we just celebrate the month of September.)
Love Introduction: "She and I are not in the taming business. We are each others' and we are free." - E. Johnson.
What does revolutionary love mean to you?:
Recognizing the difference between partnership and ownership.
Roe: I have been asked a few times why I call E "partner" and not anything else. The answer is because I can find no other word that could fully honor what we have like partnership does. I mean it, we are linked like iron to what our mission in life is and clear on what we need to be for ourselves and one another to reach that goal. And you can't reach your soul's calling alongside another person if you're in the practice of treating your partner like an accessory.
I do not own that man. He owns himself. E does not own me. I own myself; and we are running together in the same direction because we want to, not because we have to. We will stop whenever we are tired or need to change directions. And that is Liberating. Fresh. Dynamic. And more true to what human relationships are at their core: m u t u a l .
How do you keep one's own identity as you become closer to one another?:
E: By remembering ... your partner as the full embodiment of who they are, without apology, is the most attractive thing you've ever seen. It's what makes them your perfect match.
R: E's so right. To build on our last point, I think if you relate from the belief you don't own the other, building one's own identity becomes less of an issue. Doing things you love, making things that challenge you, having different sets of friends, taking care of yourself and not going out if you don't want to, makes the development easier. A practical thing we do is we take our core value (freedom) and check-in with one another. "Hey, where in your life are you feeling hemmed in right now? And how can I help make that lighter?"
What wellness practice do you do together?:
Mindful communication (and the most hilarious session of couple yoga EVER). We're here to midwife the arrival of the best in our partners and facilitate that process through openness, understanding, and shared purpose.
What has your relationship taught you about love that was a bit difficult to learn?:
E: It's not what other people say it is; that it's what you say it is; that its defined by the participants with the best interest of the participants in mind. I came in with expectations of love songs, 90s R&B, and it was hard. Now, it has those elements, sure, but all of that is a supermarket, full of ingredients and we're meant to craft a meal with our own hands.
R: Love of a Black Man requires a strong woman. I hadn't wanted to do that work. I wanted to be supported. I wanted to be soothed.
Truth was, I was actually terrified about his demons and what he faced everyday when he stepped out of the door.
What I learned is our men need to lean on you sometimes, the world can be rough out there for them. I am strength... I don't have to be scared.
What advice would you give to others on finding (and keeping) a freeing love?:
E: You can't enter a freeing love if you're shackled to your demons.
It's incredibly refreshing to see a couple stand in their power. Jamila & Jackson do just that. Whether staying true to their challenges as partners, to speaking openly about the unhealthy barriers society places around gender and sexuality, Jamila and Jackson show us there is a well of strength in aligning with our authentic selves. Their partnership reflects the vulnerability that is so reminiscent of Black love. Hang out with them on Instagram to learn more: @blackauntiesupreme and @ratchetaffirmations.
Where'd you meet?: At a private arts college, where we collaborated to produce events for the Black Arts Collective.
How long have you been together?: We’ve been together two years.
What does revolutionary love mean to you?:
Revolutionary love means love that transforms your life for the better — love that opens up possibilities instead of limits them. So often, love is positioned as something that “ties” you to someone. It’s seen as a commitment that “locks you down.” Revolutionary love is the key to the lock. It’s love that supports you in pursuing your own liberation, whatever that looks like for you. Revolutionary love doesn’t tie you down, it’s the pillar that you stand on.
How do you keep one's own identity as you become closer to one another?
You have to have a strong sense of self before you get into a relationship. We both spent a lot of time working on ourselves before we found this partnership. You have to know what your own individual priorities, goals, and desires are, so that you can share those things with another. When you use your love as a pillar — and don’t subscribe to the idea of it being a ball and chain — your own identity is strengthened, not copromised.
What wellness practice do you both do together?:
So many! We cook. We do yoga. We take walks. We go out to nature. We camp. We chant. We go to the farmer’s market for fresh, local produce. We eat really well. We drink teas. We read to each other.
What has your relationship taught you about the love that was a bit difficult to learn?:
One way or the other, your life is still 100% your responsibility. Whether or not a relationship works is entirely up to you. It’s easy to blame others for conflict and suffering, but that won’t get you what you want. You have to take full responsibility for the outcome of every situation. How things work out in your life is a direct result of the choices that you make, not anyone else.
What advice would you give others on finding (and keeping) a freeing love?:
To communicate honestly and transparently about your desires and intentions, and to recognize that those things might change. You’ve got to overcome fear that what you say and what you want won’t be received well by someone else. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Speak from your truth. It’s always better to be honest and forthright.
What does revolutionary love mean to you? As you shower loved ones this Valentine's Day with love and care, think about how you can create space for them to feel the freedom, and power of your presence. Stay open to how they too gift you their love. And give yourself permission to walk freely in it's revolutionary light.