Black Community Is Our Superpower

February 24, 2021


women dancing and posing outside

Image by Nawaal illustrations/ Sarah Dahir

Black love is Black wealth, and they’ll/probably talk about my hard childhood/and never understand that/all the while I was quite happy.

-Nikki Giovanni

When thinking about what to write for Black History (and Futures) Month, I debated the topic. Maybe I should discuss redlining, Jim Crow laws, or mass incarceration? Perhaps a better story would be the disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black folks globally due to systemic racism in our health care systems. I could discuss stop and frisk, colorism, big corporations selling lightening creams that perpetuates colorism, the privatized prison systems, or lack of education funding in predominantly Black areas. I could discuss the Black wealth gap, police brutality, the war on drugs, the constitution that still upholds slavery if a person is a criminal, or where it all comes from; slavery. Black Americans face these conditions due to the systematic oppression forced on us, yet; we are more than our trauma. We are joyful and happy people, and this should be uplifted too. Instead, this article will discuss our biggest weapon against oppression imposed on us; our community and our love that creates our joy.

My Instagram feed inundated with #Blacklove pictures on Valentine’s day, and it made my heart smile. I loved seeing Black people be in love with one another and display that affection. Nikki Giovanni once said that the most radical thing Black people can do is love each other, and it’s true. It’s how we’ve survived slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality and why we’ll always rise. We consistently band together in community, protect one another, advocate on our community’s behalf, and it’s all a form of love.

Black Community and Creativity

Our love and community are why we are the creators of the most engaging, authentic, and creative pieces of modern popular culture. Black people started Hip Hop in the Bronx, standing around in the community and being creative together. We didn’t have fancy instruments, formal musical training, or many resources yet found a way to create something innovative.

I remember traveling to Gallery Place in DC when it was known as Chocolate City and standing around to listen to the Go-Go music playing outside of the train station. The artists were in bands and would create beautiful music on pots, pans, and sometimes plastic buckets. We’d dance and say “ayyyeeee” as call and response, demonstrating our African rooted traditions. Whether it’s us creating dance trends on Tik Tok that go viral with global participants or making a brand new music genre with other artists (Hip Hop, Rap, New Orleans bounce, DC Go-Go, Jersey Club, Baltimore House Music, Blues, Soul, Funk, Jazz and more), we create with each other.

Black Fictive Kin

Our focus on community and love is woven into other aspects of our culture. Many of us have those “cousins” that aren’t our blood relatives, yet we treat them like family just the same. Growing up, I had a host of aunts and uncles from my grandmother, mother, and grandfather. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that those people were their friends that turned into family. As I got older, I saw this tradition in my schools. Students, including myself, would call each other their brother or sister, and that title held weight. We acted as though we came from the same parents being just as protective over one another, fussing like actual siblings do and looking out for one another. We were creating our communities within the schools and thriving within them. It’s a practice that I still do today. I have a host of sisters, brothers, and cousins that are the family I had the privilege of choosing.

Black Cookouts and Block Parties

Black folks love a good cookout or block party. It’s one way we gather with our community and express joy. You can see us swag surfin with our loved ones, doing call and response to the music we listen to, and line dancing when Wobble or the Cha Cha Slide comes on. My grandma’s backyard was a hot spot for the 4th of July and other summer cookouts. There’s always the group playing cards in the corner, the kids running around playing, and someone on the grill keeping the buffet stocked.

You can get your Tupperware and foil ready because at the end of the cookout, you’ll be offered to take food home, and it’s no use wasting good burgers. These gatherings are examples of how loving we are towards each other and how the community is where we thrive.

Black Kindness

According to the Washington Post, Black Americans are the most charitable giving demographic in the U.S. despite the racial wealth gap that impacts us. These statistics may be surprising to people outside of our race due to centuries of propaganda that has depicted us as savage, brute, or mean. To anyone that identifies as being Black, this isn’t surprising. I’ve never known anyone kinder than my household growing up. My grandma was thoughtful in her honesty. She didn’t tell pretty lies to make anyone feel good and would often tell the hard truth out of care. It may not have been what you wanted to hear, but it was what you needed to hear. She’d also show her love through giving to her church, her neighborhood, and her loved ones. Even when she didn’t have much, she’d be more than willing to help someone else with less. These are the experiences many of us had with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents.

There are so many other examples of historical and modern versions of us banding in community within formal organizations like the Black Panther Party, the Divine 9, the National Council of Negro Women, the NAACP, the Black Lives Matter organization, or MOVE in Philadelphia. Wherever we exist, we create these groups in the communities around us. They are safe spaces, brave spaces, and spaces where we advocate on behalf of our people.

Community, joy, and love are so crucial to our survival. On a call with the Black, Indeginous, and People of Color group for B Corps in September 2020, Dr. Cecelia Saunders-Baldwin explained it best:

When we are with other people we trust, our Limbic System tells us there less to fear. Fear and anxiety cause our hearts to pump faster and to race. Fear and anxiety also can cause health issues like strokes, heart attacks, broken heart syndrome, and high blood pressure. When we gather in community, we tell our Limbic System it’s okay to relax. Our heart rate slows down; we feel safe, we can experience more joy and live healthier lives. We need each other, and how lucky we are that community is already a part of our culture.

Black people are not the trauma that has been imposed on us. We are joyful. We are kind. We are happy. We are truthful. We are advocates. We are love. And we are community.

Happy Black History and Futures Month.

Sign Up for our B The Change Newsletter

Read stories on the B Corp Movement and people using business as a force for good. The B The Change Newsletter is sent weekly on Fridays.