How Black Revolutionaries Revived Love & Romance for Me

Turning the Other Cheek

I betrayed the melodic instructions of my younger self in the summer of 2016, after the trauma of watching the police execute Alton Sterling on video and the aftermath of the killing of Philando Castile on Facebook Live within 48 hours.

“So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, ‘I love you. I would rather die than hate you.’ And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed.”

I wanted to believe in the power of turning the other cheek, but at the time, it didn’t seem that strategy would do anything but make Black people easier to kill.

Falling Out of Love with Love

My early days of political awakening were full of studying the history and anatomy of this domination system we live in. The more I read, the more it became painfully clear that every domination system has some romanticized story to cover up power dynamics and violence.

“…romance as an ideology tells us stories that keep gender and racial hierarchies in place.”

But the most salient part of Essig’s book for me, at the time, was the observation that romance is “a privatized solution to what in fact are structural and global threats.”

“Romance lulls us into focusing on our love life rather than politics.”

The data suggests her point above to be especially true in difficult political times.

A Love Bigger Than the Couple

Ironically, the more radical tradition of Black liberation — as opposed to Dr. King or Gandhi — would reclaim love as a political force.

“It is also the consciousness of collaborating in the immense work of destroying the world of oppression. The couple is no longer shut in on in itself. It no longer finds its end in itself.”

Fanon put the possibility of a non-privatized romance, a romance in collective struggle with other loved ones, on the table.

“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.”

I believe self-described pleasure activist adrienne maree brown is echoing Lorde’s idea when she speaks of seeking the “orgasmic yes” in justice work. In a podcast interview with me, brown ruminates on that “internal sense of satisfaction” as “a technology” in our bodies that speaks to us.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

We’re not talking about love as an empty sentiment that would ask oppressed people to excuse the violence of their oppressors so they can live in superficial peace while oppressive power arrangements remain intact.



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Andre Henry

Andre Henry


Singer-songwriter & producer fighting for the world that ought to be.