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Black Love: Symposium & Soirée

by Katrina Spencer

We’re always singing about it. Pick your era!

  • “I wanna be living for the love of you” ~The Isley Brothers, 1975
  • “Dream lover come rescue me” ~Mariah Carey, 1993
  • “You’re my water when I’m stuck in the desert” ~Daniel Caesar & H.E.R., 2017

We make countless films about it. Name your cult classic!

  • Love Jones
  • How Stella Got Her Groove Back
  • Love & Basketball

And the abundant dating apps suggest most of us are after it!

  • Bumble
  • Coffee Meets Bagel
  • Grindr
  • Hinge
  • Tinder
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Image provided by Khalilah Jones, Owner of Chic and Classy Image Consulting

Love. But not just any kind– Black Love. Now we have an event about it– one that celebrates the romantic type, sure. But also Black love in all of its other manifestations: self-love, community love, maternal, paternal, and fraternal love, to name a few. So while a certain type of love dominates the radio airwaves, we’ll spotlight love in its many facets. Check out this brief Spotify playlist for more, and join us at the Black Love: Symposium and Soirée.

Local programming partners Khalilah Jones, Owner of Chic and Classy Image Consulting, and Charles Lewis, Owner of Out of Sight Events and President of the Black Professional Network, are organizing a special and FREE gathering the evening of Friday, February 11, 2023 to celebrate the seekers, the finders, and the disciples of Black Love. Scheduled the weekend right before Valentine’s Day, the night is a dynamic one to be filled with a panel discussion, music by DJ Uptown Skye, a photo booth, a fashion show featuring local couples, catered food by Royalty Eats, and even an opportunity to purchase specially designed gear. Starting at 7:00 p.m., the evening’s host is local comedian Chris Alan, who is also Khalilah’s husband; the venue is the Center at Belvedere; and the link, if you decide to register, is right here! Come “dressed to impress”!

Buy Black Love Merch

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Both organizers Khalilah and Charles know something about Black love. Khalilah has been married to her spouse for 18 years, and Charles has been married to his for the same amount of time! It would seem that they have access to some of the secrets for forming the steady foundations of long-lasting unions– and maybe some will be shared that night! The event is generously sponsored by Vinegar Hill Magazine, Black Women of Central Virginia, and the University of Virginia Equity Center. It is also supported by Discover Black Cville and Charlottesville Black Excellence.

For better or for worse, the love we hear about most is the romantic sort, from Romeo & Juliet to Bonnie and Clyde. We’re inundated with messaging that tells us that romantic love is the highest pursuit of land. But even this much lauded paradigm has transformed over the years and suggests that new priorities need to be foregrounded.

For example, the more formal days of chaperones, handwritten love letters, and the sock hops and Sadie Hawkins dances that allowed for courting are a thing of the past. Today? We’ve got the “gm/wyd/wya” texts, the “Send me a pic” requests, and the infamous “Netflix ‘n’ chill.” With no manual to guide us, it’s the Wild Wild West out here!

Knowing how reckless it can be to navigate love in these streets, one of the important parts of the the upcoming Black Love Symposium & Soirée will be a conversation shared by professionals and people experienced in Black Love: Nicholas and Michelle Feggans, Jessica Carter, Sharon Millner, Melody Pannel, Christopher Sims, Avis Fields, Juanika Howard, and Dr. Shae Graham. Their words of wisdom will assess the climate and provide pillars of guidance for Black love in all its forms, and when we look around and take stock of everything, we can agree we need it.

While the yearning for love in our music has been consistent and “Unforgettable” (Nat King Cole, 1951), it also documents rifts and unraveling. Alicia Keys, for example, eulogized a concept of Black Love in her funky 2005 R&B song “Unbreakable,” citing the names of famous couples whose pairings appeared to be enduring: 

“We could fight like Ike and Tina/ Or give back like Bill and Camille/ Be rich like Oprah and Stedman/ Or instead struggle like Flo and James EvansSee, we could act out like Will and Jada/ Or like Kimora and Russell makin’ paper, oh yeah/ All in the family like the Jacksons/ And have enough kids to make a band like Joe and Katherine…”

But are these particular unions exemplary? After all, these famous Black couples, immortalized in song, suffered through much including mental, emotional, and physical abuse, public and criminal scandal, infidelity, and divorce. One of them was complete fiction from the start. So what then, after all, is Black Love? Is it as “unbreakable” as the song suggests? Worthwhile? Aspirational? Realistic? Is the “good morning beautiful” text a reliable seed for growing a union? Might there be other ways beyond the insistent and ubiquitous narrative of romance to live a life filled with love? We think so and we hope to share more with you soon. 

The playlist above and other musical citations should get you pumped for a night of dance. Be prepared to stimulate your mind, care for your heart, gyrate your hips, and satisfy your tummy! We’ll see you there, ready for it all. 

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Vinegar Hill Magazine is a space that is designed to support and project a more inclusive social narrative, to promote entrepreneurship, and to be a beacon for art, culture, and politics in Central Virginia.

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