The title in itself forces you to either hold tension in your forehead and shoulders or deeply exhale at the thought of just existing as a Black person in the world. This year’s virtual Black Love Summit masterfully served us a panel, presented by Neutrogena, featuring newlyweds Reginald Cunningham and Brittany Packnett and Atlanta couple Terrell and Jarius Joseph, who are the parents of 2 toddlers. Moderated by media maven Jemele Hill, this panel opened up conversations on setting boundaries, self-care, and the challenges of existing within multiple intersections of identity.
Reggie and Brittany are very well-known for their work in social justice which can be an extremely daunting task of constantly capturing the front lines or engaging the masses on why Black lives matter. In their marriage, it would certainly be a challenge to separate all that the outside world brings upon them individually and as a unit, but also learning how to navigate a marriage while your work is rooted in fighting for the marginalized.
The Safe Space
It’s imperative that Black love shows up as a safe space. Jemele asked Reggie and Brittany how they support one another during a tumultuous time for Black Americans as a result of the pandemic, police brutality, and so many other issues that plague us daily.
“As an activist, I always have to remember that before I give to the world, I must start at home. Our therapist is really helpful in giving us the space to talk through all the complex emotions of what it means to be Black in America in this moment…What I appreciate is that I know that we are both safe here. That our emotions and vulnerability is safe while trying to always maintain that,” Brittany shared.
For Jarius, he believes in providing a space where he and his husband Terrell can just talk and really get out their truest emotions. “I think as a society, especially Black people, we don’t do enough talking. We don’t do enough of sharing, especially having to find safe environments. For me, I believe it’s freeing to be able to just say all the things we want and need to say,” he expressed.
When was the last time you were so entrenched in the kids or work or other obligations that you realized you hadn’t even eaten in the entirety of the day? That is many of us. Having a great partner that blesses you with the subtle reminders to not forget about yourself and your wholeness helps with navigating the go through that life has placed upon us. As a community, we often bear the weight of the world and having a great reminder can reset your spirit and allow you to show up without being broken.
Reggie stated that he has to remind his wife to eat and will also not just remind her through verbiage, but will provide her with a meal–the action of the reminder solidifying that love and care goes beyond the words. It is often stated that caring for yourself, allows you to better show up in the world for others, so doing something as small as taking a walk to get fresh air is how Reggie reinforces his wife’s self-care.
An actionable step would be to set alarms with actual reminders for you to eat, sleep, take a walk, call a loved one, or even take a bath. It’s important to remember to give yourself grace and allow your partner to be given grace while also providing a cyclical reminder for each other to have a minute to themselves.
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Crossroads and Intersections
As a couple, Terrell and Jarius are also Black, gay, and fathers of two. The more intersections that exist for Black people, the harder just merely existing can become. Jemele asked the couple, “As a same-sex couple, raising children, you’re going to face some different challenges and a lot of inequities mushed together. How do you uplift and hold each other up as these challenges arise?”
The couple made mention that they are set on their boundaries and have often had to provide family and friends with ultimatums that if they cannot accept their union then they would not be allowed to be around their children — a package deal. “You have to establish respect for our love and our union before you can get to anything else,” Jarius affirmed.
Terrell also stated, “I’m raising the next generation to know love and I cannot allow any outside influences to derail what we’re doing.” As a gay couple their intersections often come with having to choose to be labeled or not to be labeled, but they hold their identity with pride, even at the expense of possible internet trolls.
“When we do put those adjectives in front of who we are I think it helps others to feel validated. I think it makes other people feel that they have a home that they can go to because they may not have it…It allows others to find a sense of relief and we try to filter through those who choose not to understand,” Jarius concluded.
As a community, we are constantly striving to move forward, advance, and excel through recognizing that all Black lives must be in the fight collectively to end oppression and phobias that exist against us is vital to the flourishing of us as a people.