Black love is one rooted in resilience and hope. Black love allows us to reimagine our lineage and connections to ancestors through passion and empathy. It means recognizing that divorce isn’t necessarily a sign of universal “failure” and marriage may not be a “success.” Black love means allowing for balance and yielding space, while allowing a person to grow and change, and figure out ways to navigate the world separately and with a partner. That’s why it’s critical to explore both Black History Month and Valentine’s Day. These three couples are but a few who represent the meaning of Black love.
Magic Johnson and Cookie Johnson
Basketball star Magic Johnson and Cookie Johnson wed on September 14, 1991, just 45 days before he revealed his HIV-positive diagnosis to his wife. Cookie is adamant that she never wavered in supporting her husband. They exemplify Black love by continuously loving on each other during tough times, as well as through the support they show their son, EJ Johnson, a gender-fluid Black gay man.
Fierce, fashionable, and fearless are just a few words that describe EJ Johnson. He is the image I have often envisioned for Black gay boys growing up to say “Finally, someone is like me!”
In the newest episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch series, Red Table Talk, Cookie and EJ detailed how the 26-year-old told his parents his truth and Magic’s initial harsh reaction. Magic eventually told EJ they were going to get through it, but he just needed some time.
These relationships — both Magic and Cookie and Magic, Cookie, and EJ — show the power of Black love. A love that allows for support within a relationship but also of a Black queer child who could have otherwise experienced trauma.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith
Will and Jada have always had a marriage that defied societal norms. From comments on not celebrating their anniversary to rumors about being in an “open relationship,” they have keep social media ablaze. On Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk, she’s open about the highs and lows of the couple’s marriage, at one point noting they needed to “destroy the marriage.”
“We essentially had to destroy our marriage,” Smith said. “She was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ and to me… it was over, but divorce was never even an option.”
“It never crossed my mind,” Pinkett Smith agreed. While she understands the need for divorce, she said it didn’t feel like the right solution for the couple. “We just needed to get to an agreement between he and I.” What’s important here is that they both understand that Black love sometimes means taking a break and coming to an agreement on loving each other better.
Will and Jada’s relationship is also important because of how they raise their children, Jaden and Willow. Jaden and Willow are often allowed to exercise their creativity and freedom in ways many may not be familiar. It’s beautiful to see, and it’s what Black love necessitates.
Rachel Fisher-Tuck and Amanda Fisher-Tuck
Black gay writer James Baldwin once said, “Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” While Rachel and Amanda Fisher-Tuck may not be celebrities based on societal standards, they are in my eyes. Engaged on June 10, 2017 and married on October 7, 2018, Rachel and Amanda is an undeniable Black love that must be explored.
Rachel, born in Kansas City, Missouri, and Amanda, born in the nation’s capital, met when they worked together. That collegial relationship eventually led to a lifetime of love, blackness, and queerness. I was blessed enough to see this bond form under God as a member of this bridal party last year.
What makes Rachel and Amanda’s relationship so beautiful is that they allow each other to be their individual selves, while allowing that difference to strengthen their collective. In 2019, perhaps being a Black lesbian couple should not be a milestone yet, for many reasons, it still is. I was able to witness them jump the broom, a symbolic and spiritual reference to pay homage to our ancestors who weren’t able to legally marry. This ritual is particularly heartwarming with two Black lesbian women because lesbian and gay people weren’t able to legally marry until 2015.
Rachel and Amanda have a Black love that the world should see. A radical and transformative love that society attempts to tell us isn’t appropriate or necessary — but one they recognized from the moment they met.
These beautiful couples have withstood trials — some of them in public spaces — and have fully still been able to envision Black love. While it’s important to celebrate Black love every day, the combination of Black History Month and Valentine’s Day allows us to revisit what Black love means for the spirit of our ancestors — a truly unbreakable and spiritual bond of blackness (and, yes, even queerness), and not fitting within heterosexual paradigms of what love is.
Image credits: Cookie and Magic Johnson, Will and Jada Smith via Getty Images (embed feature); Rachel and Amanda Fisher-Tuck via Yanair Photography
Preston Mitchum is a Black queer writer and public speaker based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @PrestonMitchum.