Self-love is the foundation of our loving practice. Without it our efforts to love fail. Giving ourselves love we provide our inner being with the opportunity to have the unconditional love we may have always longed to receive from someone else. We can give ourselves the unconditional love that is the grounding for sustained acceptance and affirmation. When we give this precious gift to ourselves, we are able to reach out to others from a place of fulfillment and not from a place of lack.
~ bell hooks
“Commitment: Let Love Be Love in Me” in All About Love (p. 67)
I ate the yam. I ate the yam between a pair of greasy chicken-fried colored legs and well-worn hands that carved hair plots for my budding locks beneath the buzz of blackgirl talk and a florescent flicker. For some of my stay-woke hip hop sistren, our return to feminist roots was all (about) the rage. I believed my minute meditation, speed journaling, and my manicured Badu hairdo were the seeds to recovering my Black self. (Commercial break makeovers were fashionable in the 90s.) So, when I changed my (out)look and my worldview with her four words (read: white supremacist capitalist patriarchy), this candied yam-fed feminist felt personally betrayed by bell hooks who now seemed hell-bent on some love kick. What’s self-love gotta do with it? I ate her yam—brushed over her book. But, how was a series of self-help survival guides gonna save me?
I was young.
Yesterday, I ruminated about Love Day. I unearthed hooks again along with other Black feminists writing about self-love as a meaningful political act of resistance and reclamation for Black women who are trained to be the first-responders to other folks, to be the bystanders of our own crisis. Love—rooted in an unique, emotive, empathetic ethic of care—is the hallmark of Black feminist thought. I was reminded that to do the work of feminism is to do the labor of loving ourselves.
Changing my hair has been much easier than changing my heart.
On a day when we are encouraged to shower someone else, I want to turn love inward too. This ain’t ego-trip. For some of us, it is a lifelong journey just imagining what love feels like. To starve my all-consuming rage that used to poison me and those I cared for, I have practiced patience and forgiveness, learned emphathic listening to hear with my spirit, and devoted time to cultivating dreams for my lovers. After another day of guilt-grabbing drive-thru food between on-the-book and off-the-clock meetings, I see myself flopping fully-clothed and head first on the bed falling back out of love with myself because of my inner people-pleaser. Still growing. The outsider-within still needs to nurture love from the inside out. I do know how to love. Yet, each day I must remind myself to give to myself what I willingly offer others. I gotta love me like I love my lover. We, sisters of the yam, have strong roots. This V-Day, let’s plot and nurture the kind of revolutionary self love that Black feminism has sown.
Revolution begins with the self, in the self. It may be lonely. Certainly painful. It’ll take time. We’ve got time. That of course is an unpopular utterance these days. We’d better take the time to fashion revolutionary selves, revolutionary lives, revolutionary relationships. If your house ain’t in order, you ain’t in order. It is so much easier to be out there than right here. The revolution ain’t out there. Yet. But it is here.
~ Toni Cade Bambara
“On the Issue of Roles” in The Black Woman Anthology (pp. 133-135)