Aletha, 1860

Eight Mississippi months later, the young woman birthed a tiny red-boned baby girl. Unfortunately, the southern heat was too intoxicating for the young woman to bear; she died soon after childbirth. Henry was left to be a father. Instinct and adrenaline overtaking him, Henry found a neighboring slave woman, who’d recently had the master’s child, to nurse his own. She obliged. Henry named his daughter after the woman who would nurse her into childhood: Aletha. Aletha grew quickly, and had a good childhood.

Thomas and Lizbeth would come to die on the plantation. Ella and the dark-skinned man, Henry and his daughter’s nurse-maid, Aletha, whom he would come to marry, and his daughter Aletha would continue working on the plantation until word came of President Abraham Lincoln passing into law a formal ending of slavery. They were free. Well, almost.

The new Emancipation Proclamation may have made it now illegal to own slaves, but the freedom of slaves came with no land or money to live on their own. Being a communal people, the Brown slaves kept close and traveled off of the plantation to a land in Attala county they would call their own. Aletha was three when the law took effect on January 1, 1863.

A few years after the law’s passing, the freed Brown community was doing well. Some men taught themselves to be doctors or dentists, some cooks, some blacksmiths. Some knew how to read and taught the others quickly. Aletha’s parents, Henry and Aletha, had more daughters and sons, and Aletha enjoyed caring for them.

As she grew, so too did her responsibilities to the family. She learned to make clothes, prepare meals, and teach traditional songs to the younger children. Now a young woman, Aletha was of age to marry. She became keen to a young redboned man named Jimmy Lee who often fished on the Mississippi river. The young people grew in love. As the story goes, they wed and she became pregnant: twelve times. Aletha’s last pregnancy was in 1910 to a short and skinny girl, whom they would name Estelle.

Estelle, 1910

Estelle grew quickly. Estelle grew up through the Great Depression, which hit the Brown community very hard.They depended heavily on one another for livestock and produce -- for survival. At the age of fifteen, Estelle became pregnant for the first time after marrying a neighboring young man.

Estelle and the young man had eleven children. These children were very hard workers and enjoyed one another on the Brown farm. It wasn’t an easy life, but there was laughter and music and food; that was enough to keep their hearts well. One of Estelle’s girls, Evelyn, was special. She wanted to go to school to become a nurse.

Evelyn, 1958

Born just a few days after the white folks celebrated their freedom, Evelyn grew quickly. In the thick of civil rights, Evelyn Brown would go to Michigan State University only to be overtaken by youthful love; she would become pregnant by a young man named Darryl, move back to Attala, Mississippi and give birth to a quiet baby girl. Evelyn named her Natalia.

When Estelle died by house fire, Evelyn left Mississippi with her children to a foreign land known as -- Minnesota. Evelyn was in and out of relationships that were affected by a new slavery, the War on Drugs. Natalia, never feeling safe, emancipated herself at age sixteen.

Natalia, 1978

Natalia grew. She worked many jobs before and after school to support herself. In a tiny apartment building she lived alone. That is, until, a friend would introduce her to a young man by the name of Samuel. He was a silly and charming young man, yet, as broken as she. They would grow in love and share a bed.

By the age of nineteen, Natalia became pregnant with her first child. She was confident that she would be a good mother. More than that, she was thrilled to have someone to love and be loved by. On June 16,1997, Raygen Samone was born.

Raygen, 1997

Raygen is still growing. Nearly twenty-one years later, now a young woman, I am of age to marry. While some families arranged marriages, my parents, and the world around me, suggests that I be with whomever I choose. But, that doesn’t seem right to me. Being African American is to have an ambiguous existence. More than that, it is to exist in a state of trauma.

Whereas most trauma is an event that happens to you, the black experience is a never ending trauma and, therefore, something one is born into and dies with the burden of. I hold fast an obligation to forward the black movement - that is, dismantling systems of oppression toward African Americans internally and externally. This certainly dictates my career path, or, that is, the object of my career path, but ought it also influence whom I desire as a romantic, life and parenting partner?

There are few sources that offer guidance in evaluating racial discrimination in the choice of friends, dates, or spouses: this essay extends itself as such a work. Using Jill Scott’s poem The Sky Ain’t a Ceiling as backbone, this essay will examine and answer four questions as is related to a Liberation Theology of Black Love:

-What is the state of relationship between black man and woman?

-How did this happen?

-How ought we be?

-What must be done?

Let’s journey on.

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