A Universe Called Black Love

Category > Art and Culture

Date

Fridday, February 19th, 2021

Location

Montreal, Canada

Author

Chidera Ihejirika

Editor

Fatou Alhya Diagne (Invitée)

Editor-in-Chief

Tamy Emma Pepin

“Black love is a multidimensional space. Black love is a spectrum spanning centuries of expression. Black love is an endless expanse rooted in community. This story, as many stories about black love do, begins with community.”

It is February 2020 and the Un Peu Plus Loin (UPPL) team is in Marrakech for the 1 – 54 Contemporary African Art Fair. It is a magnificent celebration of art, culture and the vastness known as the African Diaspora. During this time, the team was invited to the Advisory Council Summit & Think Tank Retreat which took place from February 20th – 24th at Jnane Tamsna in Marrakech. Meryanne Loum Martin, owner of the exquisite hotel and the only black woman in Morocco to do so, organized the event in collaboration with AFRƎEculture founder, Mashariki Williamson.

AFRƎEculture is an esteemed Cultural Diaspora Collective celebrating International Black Excellence through curated global events. This particular event was a four-day immersive cultural experience composed of moderated talks and screenings, author salons and readings. In true AFRƎEculture fashion, the weekend was a diasporic reunion. Over 200 guests from across creative, cultural and entrepreneurial fields flew in from all over the African continent, the United States, Europe and Canada. In a similar vein, the event was a true embodiment of black love. Its origin story is literally embedded in the joint efforts of two black women seeking to create a space for diverse members of the African Diaspora to be joyfully reunited in the land that has bound all of them together for centuries.

Left to right: Jodie Turner-Smith, Daniel Kaluuya and Melina Matsoukas on the set of ‘Queen & Slim’
One of the events which took place during this noteworthy reunion was a screening of the film Queen and Slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas and written by Lena Waithe. The film follows Queen and Slim from their first date, to their journey across the country as they flee the crime scene of a dead police officer, who Slim kills in self-defence after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation. It is a tale rooted in the varying dimensions of black love and the recurring reality of many black people being slain worldwide by law enforcement.

Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya in ‘Queen & Slim’ - Universal Pictures

Following the screening, Melina spoke about her own personal journey and its impact on the making of Queen and Slim. She reflected on her extensive experience as a music video director and how that experience informed the film’s intentional fusion of compelling visuals and impeccable sound. She expanded on this:

“[Music videos], they’re really these experimental short films. I love that as an art form, I love that you’re able to weave in different genres. It really helped me hone my craft. Hmm, and I just love the power of music and visuals together.”

Melina Matsoukas, Screening of “Queen & Slim”, AFree Culture, February 2020, École Supérieure des Arts Visuels, Marrakech.
As Queen and Slim embark on their journey from North to South, the audience is taken on both a visual and sonic journey. As Queen and Slim drive through the greens, browns and blues of the South, we hear the sounds of local New Orleans bounce and Mississippi blues. Amidst the blues, terror, and pain of their journey, the viewer watches Queen and Slim experiencing joy and love through a community of black people and communion with each other. Melina stated that for her, the film was a “testament to our resilience and… how through the struggle and the trauma, black people have always found a way to love each other and find joy.”
Left to Right: Indya Moore, Bokeem Woodbine, Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluyaa in ‘Queen & Slim’ - Universal Pictures
While my opinion of this film is complex, the moments of unadulterated black joy and black love remain a true delight. Specifically, I think about the scene where Queen and Slim find themselves in a club surrounded by black folks who create space for them to share a joyful moment. Black love can be found not only in the film itself but also in the film’s creation story. Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas’ beautiful black sisterhood allowed for the making of this art. Daniel Kaluuya’s early involvement and collaboration with both Matsoukas and Waithe as well as their joint decision to introduce Jodie Turner-Smith, a talented, dark-skinned actress speaks volumes about the community and love out of which this film was born.

Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya in ‘Queen & Slim’ - Universal Pictures

The film’s roots in black community, empowerment and sisterhood resonate with me deeply. This is because I have been privileged enough to experience these blessings. Everything I am, I owe to black love, community and sisterhood.
Left to Right: Bokeem Woodbine, Melanie Halfkenny and Daniel Kaluyaa in ‘Queen & Slim’ - Universal Pictures
I have proclaimed the depth of my love to the black people in my life many times before. And still somehow, there is nothing I can say that accurately describes what I genuinely feel. How do you tell someone that their love showed you how to love yourself in a world that taught you to hate yourself? Perhaps there are no words for that. And yet, still I try to find the words to encapsulate the great love I feel for the black people in my life and the dreams I dream for them as a result of that love. And for the umpteenth time, here is my latest humble attempt.
“Black love is feeling seen without effort. Black love is the look of solidarity you share with a black person you have never met before. Black love is a bond that transcends normal progressions of relationship. It is feeling like you knew someone in a past life because of a depth which occurs so quickly and yet still feels so natural. Black love is a soul connection which transcends time, space and physical distance.”
With that said, for all the beautiful black individuals I have met as well as the ones I have yet to meet, I dream of a life where we can move beyond survival mode and into an authentic space of thriving. I dream of unbridled joy and love for each and every one of us. For the black women in my life, especially, I dream of romance that transcends the subterranean bar the world has set for us. I dream of a love that lightens our load and lifts us up to heights higher than we have ever imagined. I hope that we continue to grow, connect and create community with each other for centuries to come because our unity is truly our greatest power.

Jodie Turner-Smith in “Queen & Slim - Universal Pictures

Chidera Ihejirika
@chiddynasty

Chidera Ihejirika is a soul in evolution, a Canadian born Naija gyal. She is a multidimensional artist with a passion for the ways in which art and activism intersect. Her work has previously been published by Afropunk and gal-dem magazine.

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