For the last few years, and since day one, my husband and I have watched and admired OWN'S Black Love series (#BlackLoveDoc). I even have a "black love" cut-out plastered on my vision board. Hence, it was exhilarating and exciting to attend the Black Love Summit (presented by BlackLove.com), and we are even more excited about season three, which will premiere Saturday, August 10 on OWN.
The creators of Black Love – Tommy and Codie Oliver – and their team hosted the summit in Atlanta, Georgia on July 20 at the Mason Fine Arts Gallery (the first one was held in LA last year). The atmosphere was so optimistic, enthusiastic, and supportive. It was as if everybody in the room was not only "rooting for everybody black," but for love as well.
Just like the hit series, the Black Love Summit painted a beautiful picture of love, dating, and marriage, directly from the eyes of the artists, and without any filters…raw and uncut. From sex to submission, faith and finances, to dating, parenting, marriage, and money…no topic was off limits.
Men and women -- single, married, dating, and divorced -- filled the gallery, wall to wall. Attendees anxiously and enthusiastically collected nuggets of wisdom from a variety of couples (and singles) including: LeToya Luckett and Tommicus Walker, Erica and Warryn Campbell, Dondre Whitfield (Queen Sugar), Devale Ellis, Egypt Sherrod and DJ Fadelf, Terrence J, Kevin (Kevonstage) and Melissa Fredericks, Karli and Ben Raymond, and many more.
Why Black Love?
Like many of us, Tommy and Codie didn't have a lot of examples of marriage to look to. Not to mention, the fact that society and the media often create false and negative images about love, especially black love. Nevertheless, they were determined to help change the story by allowing others to share their stories. Through these stories and experiences, they (and many of us alike) have learned, and are learning, how to navigate and make marriage work.
Despite the overwhelming response and success of the series, Tommy and Codie couldn't have imagined seeing Black Love go from the screen to the Summit:
"We needed the advice. We knew we weren't the only ones. So, we were like 'someone's going to appreciate this. We couldn't have envisioned it, but at the same time we were like 'oh, we were right. People wanted to see it.' So, it feels amazing and I'm really grateful that it has resonated."
Here are a few reasons why you don't want to miss the next Black Love Summit (and season three of the series)*:
1. It’s real.
On social media, most of the time we only see the positive marriage highlights. However, the show and the summit pulls back the curtain on marriage. You're able to hear and bear witness to candid conversations about what it really takes to make love and marriage work.
Erica and Warryn
"You come to marriage with a lot of preconceived notions. When you first get married, you don't know really know how to be married when you get married. You have to figure some things out, and we were committed to figuring it out."
2. It's relatable.
Celebrity or not, it was easy to connect and relate to many of the experiences and lessons that were shared by the couples. There was always at least one or a few couples that reminded my husband and I of our relationship.
"It's very difficult to be what you don't see. If you're not around husbands who are good husbands, then being a husband is going to be a struggle for you. So what you want to do is find a community of men who are dedicated to being husbands and talk to them about what that entails."
3. It's relevant.
By hearing different perspectives and experiences from a variety of couples, you quickly realize that everyone does what works best for them, and you, too, have to do the same.
Karli and Ben
"It takes time to become one. It's a learning of someone day to day. Set your own boundaries and figure out what works for you."
4. It's revealing.
Although at times uncomfortable, the necessary truths revealed by the couples in turn help reveal a lot of truths within ourselves…both as a couple as well as individuals.
Egypt and DJ
"As women, we can manifest the lives that we want. We can talk the destiny into our lives. But how are you going to be with the man that God designed for you if you're not even the woman that you need to be? I went to therapy to better myself and to work on myself."
5. It’s restorative.
It's the therapy session you didn't know you needed, because one person's triumph over a difficult situation can initiate the healing process for someone else. A perfect example was when after LeToya explained how her parent's divorce influenced her relationships with men, Terrence J was enlightened and he shared:
"It's incredible how deep that cuts. As you're talking about that, I'm thinking about my dad and how I only know three things about my biological dad. I realize it is an emotional thing and a vicious cycle, but I don't want to damage a woman like my dad did."
6. It’s reassuring.
The mere fact that we were surrounded by a community of black couples -- the creators, the panelists, and the attendees -- was powerful, encouraging, and inspiring alone. It's a testament to the fact that black love isn't a trend; it's a commitment built to last.
Tommy and Letoya
"With us being married, being a young black couple, we felt it was necessary to put our story out there to give people hope. So many people may feel like 'I don't know if it's going to work, or I don't know if I'm good enough for this man or woman.' But to see the struggles that we went through before we met, before we got together, then how we got to this place now, it was necessary to tell it."
*Responses edited and condensed for clarity.