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A Love Supreme: Celebrating African-American Love with Dignity & Pride

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/19/2014, 3 p.m.
The couples we spoke to represent a mélange of people, ideas and experiences. They took the bold step to get ...
Diallo Sumbry and Maisha Hyman (Courtesy photo)

There was a time in this country, where enslaved Africans were not allowed to marry and owners, overseers and any white man in the South and wherever African-Americans were in bondage had the right to have sex with black women.

There was a time in this country, where enslaved Africans were not allowed to marry and owners, overseers and any white man in the South and wherever African-Americans were in bondage had the right to have sex with black women.

For centuries, those with the power of life and death over African-Americans tried to erase the practice of marriage impose their will on them, but being the people that they are, black men and women who loved each other created their own spaces, carved out relationships, tried to make safe spaces for their progeny.

Those marriages — some sealed in secret, relationships and liaisons by any other name — illustrate the power of the love supreme. Nothing and no one could take their souls.

Renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda sweetly captured the elixir, that ephemeral something that has led men and women to see each other, fall hard, come together and stay together.

"... I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close."

Anyone who has stepped into this sacred institution will tell you that nothing about being and staying married is easy. Among other things, it takes guts, savvy, compromise and an understanding that is distilled from experience.

I watched my parents, Stephen Lloyd and Enid, fashion a life as partners while they navigated the nuances and subtleties of their 57-year association and marriage. There was a lot I saw that I didn't understand but as a wise friend told me recently, there are often things going on between a man and a woman that no one outside of that marriage understands. Dad loves recounting how he met my mom: He was on a bus in the country in Jamaica going to see a girlfriend and he saw my mom on the road. He banged on the bus, telling the driver to stop, hopped off the bus and struck up a conversation.

He was attracted first by her features and beauty and then by her inner beauty. Dad said he was attracted to Indian, Spanish and Chinese Jamaican women and mom fit the bill. He loved his "Chiney Gyal" passionately and that was best exhibited when she suffered a massive stroke at age 61. She confided in me in the months after that first attack that she didn't know dad loved her as much as he did. He did everything for her. Lifted her, fed her, bathed her, combed her hair and attended to all her needs for the 15 years between her first stroke and her death from complications of strokes 15 years later. True love, in practice. The couples we spoke to represent a mélange of people, ideas and experiences.