I began this blog to inspire, inform, mobilize and demystify things for my beloved Black people. Also, I write to express my feelings about things I struggle to understand.
I realize that every essay represents a constellation of ideas and opinions and my own interpretations of phenomena. And I do so with the idea that readers can agree or disagree at their discretion.
Whether the topic is politics, culture, history, education, or popular culture, my aim is always to address relevant things that resonate with large numbers of people and to let the chips fall where they may.
People have a tendency to define things abstractly. I find it useful sometimes to put abstract ideas into the context of lived experience. That said, “love” is not expressed in one way, and it’s certainly not always comfortable and pleasant. Yet in countless discussions and on various social networks people present love in a sanitized and idealized fashion.
It’s as if we impose our fantasies and utopian values on love without considering its varied expressions. There is for example romantic love, humanitarian love, familial love, and spiritual love, but we tend to focus primarily on feel-good love.
Because I believe this term is largely misunderstood and romanticized, and yet so important to the maintenance of our lives, I’d like to share my own opinion on the topic.
I believe that love is not always soft, warm and fuzzy. Our failure to understand this leads us to sometimes miss when it appears or is expressed. Like truth, we’ve been conditioned to view love like a desert: If it’s not sweet and pleasurable, it is not acceptable.
But my own life experience tells me different. I’ve demonstrated love in pleasant ways like: giving gifts, paying for dinner, writing poetry, giving a massage, listening attentively, tending to a sick person, providing consolation, protecting a child from getting a parental beating, cooking, cleaning, apologizing, buying flowers, sacrificing time and money, biting my tongue, teaching etc.
But my expressions of love are not always pleasant or romantic. Sometimes I’ve expressed love by disciplining my children, withholding gifts, telling someone “no,” refusing to support someone’s decision or behavior, sharing points of view on sensitive topics, correcting someone, distancing myself from someone, not responding to someone, arguing, pointing out an error or bad judgment, chastising someone, expressing disappointment or disapproval, participating in civil disobedience, denying permission, resigning a job, etc.
I’m sure that you will see similarities in your own life. Simply put, we’ve all expressed love in non-pleasant ways. It is our duty to speak and acknowledge truth. We must recognize love in all its forms, and stop privileging only those forms that we associate with pleasure, acceptance and warm feelings. Demystifying the term will make us better givers and receivers of love.
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.