New series comes up hard against the vicissitudes of black dating

25 October 2017 - 07:05
By Andile Ndlovu
INTERRACIAL  Codie and Tommy Oliver's 'Black Love' television docu-series is a frank exploration of love, romance, marriage and divorce  for black men and women  Picture: Black Love
INTERRACIAL Codie and Tommy Oliver's 'Black Love' television docu-series is a frank exploration of love, romance, marriage and divorce for black men and women Picture: Black Love

A good documentary or work of literature or film or piece of music will almost always leave you with an epiphany.

This past week I finally managed to get my hands on filmmakers Codie and Tommy Oliver's Black Love docu-series, which highlights love stories from the black community.

It features many a familiar face in the black entertainment world - including Emmy Award-winner and How To Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis and husband Julius Tennon, Think Like A Man actress Meagan Good and husband DeVon Franklin, and Tia Mowry-Hardrict (of Sister, Sister fame) and her spouse Cory Hardrict.

The series aims to find the secret to making a marriage work (spoiler alert: it failed to convince me that any of us know how).

It's broken into four parts: "Where does love begin", "Tripping over hurdles", "Falling down" and "Getting to Forever" - where they offer advice for people who are on their journey to, hopefully, eternal love.

There were some gorgeous moments. There were some uneasy ones too - such as Good speaking about being "afraid that I would lose myself" - and having her husband help her learn how to "take pride" in being a wife.

It was uncomfortable to learn how he assumed that despite his marrying a woman who had a career, she would still make it home in time for her to make him dinner every night.

It was even more uncomfortable to watch how she still felt the need to explain herself. Good said she didn't want to become docile "or someone's caged lion".

Then there was Davis, who made a comment that startled me a tad - she even admitted that it would not be "politically correct".

Davis said: "The gift of getting married is the understanding that it is a commitment . you almost die to yourself when you get married - not that you don't have needs, but your needs have to meet the needs of the whole.

"That's the agreement and I understood that when we got married. That was even one of the sayings at our wedding: 'There is but one degree of commitment: total.' He gives 100% and I give 100%, not 50-50."

But the realisation for me came when watching young married couple Ashley and Bryan Chea - she is African-American and he is Asian-American. They talked about the dynamics in an interracial marriage.

Cue Ashley: "I don't really want to be the poster child for interracial relationships because I'm not the biggest advocate for it. It's not that easy. I don't like when people date outside their race like it's a fetish or a fantasy.

"That bothers me because I love black men and I think they're beautiful. He [Bryan] understands that - I don't want him to feel like he's my saviour. That's not it."

And in that line she reminded me of the handful of instances when I have had the misfortune of striking up a conversation with someone who has immediately let it be known the real reason they would want to be with me: that they've never been intimate with a black man and that they have always been curious about our prowess in bed (read: the size of my penis and how I use it).

Log onto any dating or hook-up site and that is all the rage.

Ashley's comments about people terming white or non-black men "saviours", because they're perceived to be capable of loving you better, or provide financial support or comfort or stability, rankles me, too.

I found her frank assessment of her relationship with Bryan to be my favourite moment in almost four hours of viewing.

She continued: "I love you because you're a good person. But there's a lot of good black men, too. I try to get that point across because it often hurts me when people compliment my relationship because he's not black - they're like: 'Oh, it's because he's white or Asian.' No, you need to get someone who loves you and is faithful to you, regardless of what they look like.

"Love is something that is beyond colour, sure, but you have to have more than love to make a relationship work, especially if you're going to date outside of your race. It's super important to be strong in who you are, and your relationship has to be strong."

Black love is, frankly, more attractive a prospect for me because I can love and potentially be loved unconditionally without having to explain myself or my struggles with identity, without having to conform or assimilate.

I also want to love black because for the longest time we've not known how to.

Part of me feels like black love is the salve to our deepest wounds and fears.