Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African American Marriage — My Review

Hello World,

Today marks a year that my debut novel Destination Wedding was released into the world! And God has been so good throughout this year in helping me to get the word out about my book to the world. Just this week, I discovered that the Detroit Public Library  chose my debut novel as one of the best works of fiction for 2019-2020!!! It was mentioned in its 2020 AFRICAN AMERICAN BOOKLIST!!! I’m on the list with the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Victoria Christopher Murray, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Jacqueline Woodson & More!!! (Crazy, right?)

Below is the cover of the booklist, which has been published for 52 years, along with my book cover. According to the Detroit Public Library website,  “this bibliography provides a selected list of books by and/or about African Americans. The works of fiction and nonfiction for adults, children and young adults were reviewed and recommended by librarians of the Detroit Public Library.” Click HERE if you want to see the entire list.

Along with celebrating my book release anniversary, I also wanted to help spread the word about another important book that validates why I wrote Destination Wedding in the first place. Destination Wedding is my response to a real ABC News Nightline piece “Single, Black, Female and — Plenty of Company” in which it was reported that 42 percent of black women have never been married, which is double the amount of white women who find themselves in that dire predicament.

Obviously, as my book is a novel, the women in my book are fictional; however, this statistic illustrates a very real dilemma. Dr. Dianne M. Stewart, an associate professor of religion and African American studies at Emory University here in Atlanta, writes about this dilemma in her sweeping treatise Black Women, Black Love America’s War on African American Marriage, which was recently released. Dr. Stewart actually interviewed me about my novel last year at my book launch at Auburn Avenue Research Library in downtown Atlanta. Through our discussion, we were able to identify how our works intersect. While I address personal solutions to this dilemma through the lives of my main characters in my novel, Dr. Stewart identifies systemic solutions for what she refers to as “our nation’s most unrecognized civil rights issue” in her nonfiction book.

Similarly, as the ABC News Nightline report was broadcast in December 2009, Dr. Stewart cites that in 2009, 71 percent of Black women in America were unmarried, according to the 2010 US Census. As the ABC News Nightline report was broadcast in 2009, that time period was explored in my novel, but Dr. Stewart starts at slavery. She writes that “endless studies examine racial slavery in America as a reverberating assault upon Black people’s historic and contemporary liberties in perhaps every arena of life but one: romantic love and marriage.” Further down, she writes, “yet from its very beginnings, the transatlantic trade in human cargo, which set the American institution of African bondage in motion, required the disruption of intimate relationships and marriages.”

In Chapter 1 “Jumping the Broom: Racial Slavery and America’s Roots of Forbidden Black Love,” Dr. Stewart writes about a 19-year-old slave Celia who was hanged to death after killing her owner, who repeatedly raped her. Her true love was her boyfriend George, but she was unable to “freely choose a Black man as her lover and life partner.” Additionally, she writes that “less than 1 percent of slaveholders in the South held more than 100 persons in bondage, and by 1860 enslaved persons in the South, on average, lived in groups of 10. For this reason, enslaved women such as Celia were fortunate if they found romantic partners residing on the same properties with them.”

In the next chapter “Slow Violence and White America’s Reign of Terror,” Dr. Stewart writes about how Black love continued to be under assault even after slavery ended. Although they had been married for 22 years,  Atlanta, Georgia resident Carolyn Gilbert’s husband, 42-year-old Henry, was lynched in 1947. Through sharecropping, the  couple had saved enough to buy a 111-acre farm. But reportedly, he was shot and killed for allowing a “young black troublemaker” to hide on their farm. Additionally, a police officer shot Henry claiming the “deacon and treasurer at his small Baptist church ‘drew a chair on me.'”

In the third chapter, “Love and Welfare: Johnnie Tillmon and the Struggle to Preserve Poor Black Families,” Dr. Stewart interweaves pop culture examples in addition to more poignant real life cases of how Black love has been disrupted throughout the decades. I loved the 1974 movie Claudine. Dr. Stewart wrote that the movie “depicted the structural obstacles welfare posed to Black love and marriage and the stark reality that for millions of Black women in America at the time, choosing marital fulfillment (as the main character Claudine eventually does) meant loosing welfare benefits.”

Due to my age, I’m most familiar with the examples presented in the next chapter “Black Love in Captivity: Mass Incarceration and the Depletion of the African American Marriage Market.” And the first sentence in this chapter is particularly arresting. Pun intended. “No other institution has perfected America’s project of forbidding black love better than the contemporary prison industrial complex.” Further down, she writes, “Black men are incarcerated at much higher rates than any other group in the United States, even when convicted for the same crimes.” Did you know that former President Obama was the “first sitting president to actually tour a federal prison in 2015?” Additionally, former President Obama, “actually commuted the sentences of more inmates than his twelve predecessors combined.”

Speaking of Obama, Dr. Stewart writes about the former First Lady Michelle Obama in the chapter “Will Black Women Ever Have it All? Michelle Obama, Kheris Rogers and African Americans’ Shifting Landscapes of Love.” Dr. Stewart cites an article “Dark and Lovely, Michelle” by Vanessa Williams. Williams wrote, “A lot of Black women fell for Barack Obama the moment they saw his wife.” Let me raise my hand because that is true for me as well. While Dr. Stewart provides example after example of how Black love has been under assault by exterior forces, in this chapter, she presents an interior force that has its beginnings in slavery. In slavery, lighter-skinned Black people were treated better than their brothers and sisters of darker hues. And unfortunately, due to colorism, light-skinned Black women have more of a chance of getting married than medium-skinned and dark-skinned Black women, according to Dr. Stewart. Within this chapter, Dr. Stewart presents many solutions that I won’t reveal here because you have to read the book. However, one solution that I will share from her book is addressing colorism in the Black community.

Recently, actress Gabourey Sidibe shared that she got engaged to Brandon Frankel, who also works in entertainment. Sidibe, who is a dark-skinned black woman, has apparently received some criticism from Black men for being engaged to a White man. One YouTube blogger points out that in the past, many Black men have criticized Sidibe for her complexion and deemed her as undesirable and therefore have no standing to critique her coupling choice now. See the commentary HERE. Dr. Stewart writes that “Black women not only confront a shortage of Black men but also wrestle with internalized and interpersonal color consciousness.”

You have to read the book to experience the full breadth of Dr. Stewart’s exhaustive examination of this dilemma, but I hope I’ve provided enough information to make you buy your own copy of Black Women, Black Love America’s War on African American Marriage. It is a must-have resource if you care about Black love. I think employing personal solutions while addressing systemic solutions is the most comprehensive way to win the war on African American marriage.

What say you?

For more information about Dr. Stewart, see her website:

Any thoughts?


All Love is ‘Struggle Love’ – Breaking Down the Humans of New York Instagram Story of Bobby & Cheryl Love…

Hello World,

As the week of love begins today with Valentine’s Day on Friday, I thought I would write about something that has been brewing in my mind ever since I heard the term “struggle love” a few years ago or so. According to the Facebook page “Just Say No Struggle Love,” ” below is the definition of “struggle love” –

And last week, I heard about the curious case of Bobby & Cheryl Love whose love story was featured in an 11-part Humans of New York Instagram Post…The gist of the story is that before Bobby Love was a husband to his wife Cheryl for 40 years, he was a criminal named Walter Miller. After Walter Miller escaped from prison in North Carolina, he traveled to New York where he began going by a different moniker and he married Cheryl, who knew nothing of his past. Bobby Love seemingly became a different man, having and raising four children with his wife and named a deacon in their church to boot.

This charade went on for 40 years until the FBI showed up at their doorstep on morning, and his secret was revealed to Cheryl and his new family. Bobby Love went to jail, but his wife advocated on his behalf, sending letters to the governor, testifying for him, getting testimonies from others who knew Bobby Love not Walter Miller including church members and children he coached. Luckily, he was only in jail for a year as Cheryl’s advocacy worked. After he was released, Walter Miller officially changed his name to Bobby Love, and Bobby and Cheryl are still married today.


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(11/11) “I got to work. I wrote letters to the governor. I wrote letters to Obama. I gathered testimonials from everyone that Bobby ever knew: all the kids he used to coach, all the people at our church, all of our family members. I testified on his behalf. I didn’t know a thing about Walter Miller. But I told them all about Bobby Love. And the parole board took mercy. After a year in prison, they let him come home. The day after he was set free, I sat him down and asked: ‘What is it? Are we the Loves? Or are we the Millers?’ And he said: ‘We Love. We Love.’ So I had him change his name legally. And now we’re moving on. I still have my resentments. When we get in a fight, I’ll think: ‘This man better appreciate that I forgave him.’ But the thing is– I did forgive him. And when I made that decision, I had to accept all the territory that came with it. I can’t make him feel that debt every day of his life. Because that’s not the marriage I want to be in. The whole world knows now. We’ve got no secrets. But I think this whole mess was for the better of things: better for me, better for the kids, and better for Bobby. He doesn’t have to hide anymore. He can look at me when I’m speaking. Not only that, he’s hearing me too. My voice is heard. I used to walk on eggshells. I used to just go along. But I told him one thing. I said: ‘Bobby, I’ll take you back. But I’m not taking a backseat to you no more.’ Because I got my own story to tell. I can write a book too. I might not have escaped from prison, and started a whole new life, and hid it from my family. But I forgave the man who did.”

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It was a fascinating love story of forgiveness that is worthy of a book and a movie…While Veronica Wells of Madame Noire writes that Bobby and Cheryl’s love story was “beautiful,” she notes the love story is not “romantic.” She also writes,

“And while I certainly appreciate the story, the fact that they were able to work things out, and that Bobby is a free man. I want the Black community to place it in the proper context. It’s not relationship goals. And honestly, while Cheryl and Bobby seem happy together, I don’t think Black women should be applauding this type of narrative. Women shouldn’t have to deal with not only liars but emotionally unavailable men for decades. They shouldn’t have to marry men who are harboring life-altering secrets. Secrets are a trope in the Black community.”

Veronica Wells did not use the term “struggle love,” but based on the definition above, I would imagine that the writer of these “Just Say No to Struggle Love” Facebook posts would probably put Bobby & Cheryl’s love story in this category. But I would like to submit that all love is struggle love. Yes, I will admit that I would not sign up for Bobby & Cheryl’s love and this is an extreme case of the struggle love, but in all love, there are struggles. I know of another fascinating love story of forgiveness that I also wrote about the Sunday before Valentine’s Day in 2011…I wrote about Betty T. Smith’s story that she wrote about in her book, “Nothing Wasted: When Evil Befalls You, Know That God Keeps You Standing.”

See the description below –

When her husband announces that he has been unfaithful and asks for a divorce after twenty-eight years of marriage, it appears to Betty that her dream has died. However, in the midst of her pain, God gives her a promise of restoration. Clinging to that promise, she chooses to stay faithful until her husband’s return, however long it may take. With candor and courage Betty Smith shares her highs and lows, from the courtship, to the birth of her children, to seeing the man she loved walk out the door, and how she weathered the storm by standing on the promises of God. “Nothing Wasted” is a love story, not just between Betty and her husband, but also between Betty and the God who was always there, always faithful, and who never let her down.

Her husband Bob left her in 1978, and it wasn’t until 2008 when he was sick and about to die that the two reconciled. He revealed to her that he had never stopped loving her and asked for her forgiveness, and Betty confessed her love as well. But secretly within, she grappled with other emotions…

“I had waited thirty years to hear those words, but they came from a broken man, and I never wanted that. I wanted my strong, virile Bob to knock on my door, confess his undying love, sweep me off my feet, and then we would have many more years of wedded bliss. But we were running out of time.”

Bob died days later…After the funeral, Betty went to the cemetery to take fresh flowers to his grave. Mysteriously, one faded yellow rose lay on his grave.

“I took it home with me, for I recognized its name: Acceptance with Joy. My Lord retrieved for me one yellow rose as confirmation that He does not waste anything. He kept every promise and gave me a happy ending.”

Betty dedicated her book to Robert Lee Smith, “her soul mate.”

To me, that story is a “struggle love” story and is a white woman’s story. Truly, I’m not envious of Cheryl Love nor Betty T. Smith, and I hope that I don’t ever have to be in a love that requires that amount of struggle and forgiveness. Though all cases of “struggle love” may not be as extreme as these two cases, trust and believe that if you endeavor to love someone, there will always be a struggle…(Even self-love requires a struggle, but that is another post for another day…)

In the love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, it is stated that,

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

If love is not supposed to be “struggle love,” why does love have to be “patient?” If love is not supposed to be “struggle love,” why does love require not being “easily angered?” If love is not supposed to be “struggle love,” why can’t you keep a “record of wrongs? And then at the end, it is said that love “perseveres.” By definition, to persevere means to struggle…

And in traditional marriage vows, where “better” is mentioned so is “worse,” where “richer” is mentioned so is “poorer,” where “health” is mentioned so is “sickness.” And then at the end, staying together until “death” is mentioned. Staying with someone until they die is a struggle…

I understand that by coining the term “struggle love,” it is meant to keep black women from making stupid choices in love. And there are stupid choices to be made. I understand that Lori Harvey is having fun with Future right now, and I get that as a young woman on the scene to be seen…But chile, please don’t make him your future and become one of his baby mamas…

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But I don’t care if you marry Barack H. Obama, there will be a struggle or struggles…Now, every love story won’t require what was required of Bobby & Cheryl Love or Bob & Betty Smith, thanks be to God who sits on High but yet looks Low, but if you aspire to be in love, know that a struggle will be required…All. love. is. “struggle love.”

With that being said, Happy Valentine’s Day, LOL?


Any thoughts?



Soul Mates…even after Divorce?

Hello World,

It’s Valentine’s Day Eve, and since I don’t post typically post on Mondays (I post on Sunday and Wednesday), I have dedicated today’s blog post to one of my favorite topics (which you know if I you have read more than a month or so of my blog posts) – the pursuit of romantic love…

I first heard about this love story that I will feature in today’s post about a month or so ago at the annual Racial Reconciliation Service we have at our church commemorating the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. Each year, my father and a worship service planning team invite a white minister to come to our church as a way of bridging white Christian churches to black Christian churches. Even if we work together all week, I still believe that Sunday mornings at churches all over America are still overwhelmingly segregated…

“Unfortunately, most of the major denominations still practice segregation in local churches, hospitals, schools, and other church institutions.  It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, the same hour when many are standing to sing:  “In Christ There Is No East Nor West.'”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958

And so this year, we had another white person, but instead of the usual white male minister with a booming voice and large stature, a tiny white lady with a sweet voice showed up. Betty T. Smith, a retired legal secretary, spoke with passion about her lay missionary trips that she had taken over the years to Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Russia, Siberia, Israel, Estonia, China, Uganda, Wales and New York City. Smith penned a book about her experiences “Around the World in Seventy Years: Finding Healing and Fulfillment in the Pursuit of God,” which was published in 2008.  I was enthralled as she told stories of smuggling Bibles and God’s providential care as she risked her life to spread the gospel.

In passing, she mentioned that God taught her to forgive as she had to forgive her husband when he left her after 28 years of marriage all the while hoping that he would return to her. Since I am a journalist, I knew I had to get to the bottom of the story…So after she spoke, I walked up to this woman that I had never met before and asked her if her ex-husband ever returned to her…I figured if she did not want to share, she shouldn’t have said anything in the first place…(Yep, I’m nosy, and I get paid to be that way…) Instead of shrinking from my question which I anticipated, she told me that she could not tell me but the answer was in her book, “Nothing Wasted: When Evil Befalls You, Know That God Keeps You Standing.”

I thought I had her cornered, but as it turns out, she had me cornered. I had to get her book and find out the answer the hopeless romantic that I am…I read the entire book that day since I could not put it down until I got to the end! It starts off like the story of many Georgia girls of that time I imagine…Betty met Bob when she was still a student at the now defunct Hapeville High School, and he was attending the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs). She was a member of Hapeville Presbyterian Church, and he was a member of Hapeville Methodist Church. They spent many evenings at the infamous Fox Theatre downtown and enjoyed the greasy goodness of The Varsity.  “In those days, no one gave cholesterol a second thought.”  They married three years later on June 29, 1952.

They settled into a normal life attending Forest Park United Methodist Church where her husband was the treasurer. After Bob joined the Army, their lives changed, and they moved to several locations before finally settling again in Georgia – this time in College Park. By this time, Bob and Betty had three children Steve, Scott & Stacey. All was normal until 1978. After returning from a business trip, Bob confessed to Betty that he was having an affair with a mutual friend and that it had been going on for 10 years! And then he left…and this is where the story gets interesting…Now, with my temper and flair for the dramatic, I think I would have flung myself on the floor and cried for a while before hatching a plot to take him out…But that is not what Betty did…Betty prayed and asked God to forgive her husband through her!

“Forgiveness is not a one-step operation, it is a process, and I began by prostrating myself on my bedroom floor, crying out to the Lord to forgive Bob through me and to remove any bitterness. I felt His cleansing touch as I lay on that floor with my face in the carpet.”

During her time with the Lord, Betty also discerned God telling that her relationship and marriage with Bob would be restored. Wow, that’s a lot of faith….

In the months and years that allowed, God confirmed His word to her through many signs and wonders which are too many to detail here, but I will mention a few. Just after Bob left Betty, Betty read this book “Hinds Feet on High Places,” in which one of the characters in the book is afraid as she follows the Shepherd (Jesus) to high places. On her path, she discovers a yellow flower, and the name of the flower is “Acceptance-with-Joy.” From reading that book, she felt that God was challenging her to accept her circumstances and find a new life even as she expected her husband’s return…

But as any dyed-in-the-wool Christian knows, even when we know that we have heard God’s confirmation of victory in a difficult situation, we still have to endure until our change comes. And it is hard to believe when faith is the substance of things hoped for and not seen – yet at least…Her faith in God’s promise to her was especially challenged when Bob filed for divorce about two years later…Their divorce was final on Feb. 5, 1980, and he married the other woman on Valentine’s Day of that same year…I cannot imagine her heartbreak…She said that to shield her pain from her children, she often took “hour-showers” so that she could cry without them knowing…

Although Bob was no longer her husband, she claimed God as her husband according to various promises in Isaiah 54.

5 For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.

But Betty’s life did not end. She took her family on vacations. She hosted an exchange student from Sweden. She watched her children get married. She went on mission trips all over the world…

Twelve years after Bob married the other woman, they too divorced. Now you would think that Betty and Bob reunited then, but that is not case. And if not, you would think that Betty would have given up her hope of reconciliation at that point, but she did not. In 2001, she professed her love to him after a graduation ceremony in which Betty received a bachelor’s degree. That’s right, Betty received a bachelor’s degree when she was 67 years old and received a master’s degree two years later…All the while, she held on to her love for Bob, only going on very few dates in the many years after she and her husband divorced…It’s hard to believe that she continued to be faithful to a husband that was flagrantly unfaithful to her, but as they, God is able…

Aside from praying for her husband’s return, Betty also prayed for his salvation. After her marriage was over, she discovered that Bob’s faith in Jesus Christ was cursory and that he had only gone to church to please her. Years later, after their divorce, they started dating again, and he even invited her on a trip to Acapulco. But Betty refused to go…

“There was no mention of restoring our marriage, or any talk of forgiveness or commitment. It appeared to be an invitation to shack up, and it was offensive to me. I sadly declined his offer, answering that since he did not have Jesus in his heart, I could not go with him.”

And yet she still held on…You have to read the book to discover all of the wonderful ways that God reassured her of His promise to her…

In 2002, after years of praying, fasting and interceding for him, Bob declared that he did believe that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior, and Betty expected “Bob to knock on my door any minute, but he didn’t.” At this point, I wanted to yell, “Wake up Betty! This guy ain’t coming back. And if he does, why do you want him anyway?” But this is not my story to tell so I had to read on…

In 2008, Bob got sick…The family decided to place him in assisted living home, and Betty was there to help Bob get adjusted…On April 12, he revealed to her that he had never stopped loving her and asked for her forgiveness, and Betty confessed her love as well. But secretly within, she grappled with other emotions…

“I had waited thirty years to hear those words, but they came from a broken man, and I never wanted that. I wanted my strong, virile Bob to knock on my door, confess his undying love, sweep me off my feet, and then we would have many more years of wedded bliss. But we were running out of time.”

Bob died days later…After the funeral, Betty went to the cemetery to take fresh flowers to his grave. Mysteriously, one faded yellow rose lay on his grave.

“I took it home with me, for I recognized its name: Acceptance with Joy. My Lord retrieved for me one yellow rose as confirmation that He does not waste anything. He kept every promise and gave me a happy ending.”

Betty dedicated her book to Robert Lee Smith, “her soul mate.”

I must confess I don’t know if I would have held on to my love for someone who clearly rejected me over and over again as is detailed in the book, but I am inspired that the Lord led her on her path every step of the way. And He made sure to take care of her, making sure that not one of her experiences was a waste…Although romantic love was the centerpiece of this story, it is also story of God’s unfailing love…Happy Valentine’s Day to Roberts everywhere and to God, most importantly!

For more information about this book, go to

Any thoughts?

I know this song is thick on the melodrama, but I still love it, and it is appropriate for this post…

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion…