What Is Black Love Day?

While Feb. 13 is not a federal holiday, a deeply meaningful celebration rooted in the Black community exists: Black Love Day. The first Black Love Day was established on Feb. 13, 1993, when Ayo Handy-Kendi, a spiritual community organizer, felt compelled by a higher power to bring her community together, she said in an interview with The New York Times. The first sign came on New Year’s Eve in 1992 after she saw Spike Lee’s film “Malcolm X,” which follows the life of the civil rights leader of the same name, portrayed by Denzel Washington. On the bus ride home, she said, she reflected on the assassination of Malcolm X and heard a voice — “the creator”— speak to her.

A decade prior, Ms. Handy-Kendi founded the African American Holiday Expo in Washington to promote Black businesses and the observance of holidays celebrating Black history, like Kwanzaa. She then created the African American Holiday Association, a nonprofit that encourages the celebration of alternative holidays focused on Black history and the preservation of Black culture, in 1989.

In 1993, “the creator,” Ms. Handy-Kendi told The Times, instructed her to organize the first Black Love Day. She hosted the event, which resembled the expo’s gathering of Black vendors and artisans, at Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon’s office in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., drawing from her own experiences and the history of the Black community.

Ms. Handy-Kendi, 72, affectionately known as Mama Ayo, now lives in Capitol Heights, Md. For the last 50 years, she has been practicing and leading breathwork, in which she guides individuals and groups through breathing techniques to help promote mental, physical and spiritual well-being. She is also a community organizer in anti-violence and social justice initiatives.

While she credits the inception of Black Love Day to divine intervention, she acknowledged the day’s connection to Black History Month.

“Black Love Day gives us that chance to bond and reconnect around who we really are as a people,” she said. “Not only to be proud of our accomplishments, but to be unapologetically Black and feel good about that.”

Black Love Day and its rituals are guided by the original five tenets: love for the creator, love for self, love for the Black family, love for the Black community and love for Black people.

Celebrating Black Love Day is about acknowledging those tenets throughout the day, Ms. Handy-Kendi said, and can involve a ceremony to honor Black love and relationships. “It’s not where you go on Black Love Day, it’s what you do on Black Love Day,” she said. “The Black Love Book” by Ms. Handy-Kendi outlines ways to practice those values, including a reconciliation ritual in which someone chooses to apologize or forgive someone in front of others or in private.

Ms. Handy-Kendi created the ritual in 1994 after the death of her 17-year-old son, Rashid Malik Handy.

“When you lose a loved one, sometimes you think, How do I get revenge? How do I get the people who hurt me?” she said. “And so in one of the Black-love-and-relationships ceremonies, I stood up and I forgave the person that took the life of my son.”

Black Love Day differs from the more mainstream Valentine’s Day, offering instead a day dedicated to prioritizing self-love and forgiveness as a means of spreading love in the Black community. Her hope is to help drive a “shift in consciousness,” she said, in which practicing the tenets can help people be more open to giving and receiving love.

Despite pushback from some people in the Black community, Ms. Handy-Kendi revised the last tenet in 1994 to include that white people should also participate in the holiday by “showing love through action.” White people, she said, “could begin to inspect their own prejudices and begin to make an effort to have real quality conversations with people that didn’t look like them.”

A theme is chosen for Black Love Day each year to honor one of the five tenets. The theme for this year is Black family, a value that resonated with her after she researched mental health struggles among Black youth. On Tuesday, a livestream event will be held at the Harlem Park Theatre in Baltimore. The day will include poetry, drumming performances, breathwork exercises led by Ms. Handy-Kendi and the reconciliation ritual.

Observers of Black Love Day are encouraged to spend 24 hours immersed in “true, divine, authentic, agape, unconditional love,” Ms. Handy-Kendi said, adding that the day provides an opportunity for the Black community and a broader “diaspora of humanity to come together in spite of our differences.”

Source link: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/13/style/black-love-day-ayo-handy-kendi.html

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