Feb. 14 is an amazing holiday within a holiday. It’s a time to celebrate love when we’re also celebrating the numerous contributions of Black Americans from the past and the present during Black History Month. And these Black history icons have a lot to teach us about what love means not only in relationships, but in our community and for ourselves.
On Valentine’s Day, let’s take some lessons on love from 10 Black history makers of yesterday and today who remind us what real love should look like.
“I am grateful to have been loved, and to be loved now and to be able to love. Because love liberates.” — Maya Angelou
Poet, singer, actress, dancer, civil rights activist and phenomenal woman Dr. Maya Angelou learned what love looked like from her mother, that love gives space and freedom for the other people to find themselves and be themselves. Love is freedom.
“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” — James Baldwin
James Baldwin was a writer, a speaker and a gay Black man during the height of the civil rights movement. In his book of essays The Fire Next Time, he reminds us that real love allows us to let our guard down and be our authentic selves. Love is fearlessness.
“We choose love. Our love for our children. Our commitment to leaving them a better world. Our love for our country ... our love for our fellow citizens ... that’s what we choose.” — Michelle Obama
When former First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the 2016 commencement speech at Jackson State University, she reminded students and the rest of us that love is more than a feeling, it’s a gift we give to our community that helps makes the world a better place. Love is a choice.
“Out of love, / No regrets— / Though the goodness / Be wasted forever. / Out of love, / No regrets— / Though the return / Be never.” — Langston Hughes
In one of his many poems, Langston Hughes describes love as a thing that is often painful and unrequited but still a blessing to experience and feel. Love is having no regrets.
“i found god in myself / and i loved her / i loved her fiercely” ― Ntozake Shange
In 2018, we lost poet Ntozake Shange, author of “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.” But through her work, she left us with a lesson that love is a journey toward finding and appreciating yourself for everything you are. Love is a divine act of self care.
“Love is an endless act of forgiveness. Forgiveness is me giving up the right to hurt you for hurting me.” - Beyoncé
Years before the release of her record-breaking album, “Lemonade,” Beyoncé gave this poignant reminder that love sometimes means forgiving someone who has hurt you and choosing to love them all the same. Love is forgiveness.
“Paradise is one’s own place, One’s own people, One’s own world, Knowing and known, Perhaps even loving and loved.” — Octavia E. Butler
Acclaimed author Octavia Butler explains how to recognize love by how it feels: like being understood, like feeling safe, like paradise. Love is peace.
“The leaves believe such letting go is love, such love is faith, such faith is grace, such grace is God. I agree with the leaves.” — Lucille Clifton
In her poem “the lesson of the falling leaves,” Lucille Clifton tells us that love sometimes means walking away and leaving people and things behind. Love is bravery.
“To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients — care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” — bell hooks
Feminist icon bell hooks gives this simple recipe for love as a reminder that love is about communication, respect and honesty. Love is unapologetically asking for what you need.
“I love myself.” — Kendrick Lamar
On his groundbreaking album “To Pimp A Butterfly,” rapper Kendrick Lamar made this declaration that true love always starts with the self. Love is about you!
Happy Valentine’s Day!