When we invited readers — as well as renowned writers such as Staceyann Chin, Mahogany Browne and Damon Young — to respond to the question “What is Black love today?” we were moved by the strength, resilience and diversity of the stories they told us.
To love, or be loved, while Black in the United States has always been tied to community, country and all the ways in which racism can infiltrate a love life: an unwanted third party to any Black love affair, one that refuses to move out no matter how often or how hard you try to evict it. Race, and the inheritance of racial bias, was a thread through nearly every story we read.
In large cities across the country, 81 percent of Black communities are more segregated than they were 30 years ago. As recently as 2017, 82 percent of new Black marriages were between two Black partners. Yet we weren’t looking solely for stories of intraracial romance and the submissions we received remind us that Black love is far from a monolithic concept. These essays tell of heterosexual partnerships, queer love, open relationships, missed connections and the kind of loving familial bonds that often prove to be among the most complex love stories of all.
It’s been 18 years since the Modern Love column debuted — and in all its iterations, it continues to beguile us. Perhaps that’s because, as the poet Nikki Giovanni once wrote, “We love because it’s the only true adventure.” Every Black love story — like every love story — is a journey into uncharted territory, making us explorers and lovers at the same time.