This piece is part of a 28-day series celebrating modern black love among millennials. It was created by Chuck Marcus and Michelle Nance, exclusively distributed by Blavity.
Her: Chantell | 26 | Fitness Instructor
Him: Tarik | 28 | Education Manager
Relationship Status: Dating, 5 Years
Harlem based couple Chantell and Tarik met at Syracuse University during undergrad. Tarik admits to low-key "cyber stalking" Chantell, ensuring they'd end up in the same places to secure a chance at seeing and, ultimately, talking to her. She left the states to study abroad and upon her return, a relationship began. The two have been going strong ever since.
Q: What does black love mean to the black community?
Tarik: I think it’s interesting. What could black love mean to the community? We’ve got staple couples, like Barack and Michelle and Ossie and Ruby. When you think about the history that black couples have had on the community, I always think they have one thing in common, which is social justice or social action. It’s got to be more than just being a black couple. You’ve got to be doing something for the community.
Chantell: Black love means strength to the black community. It shows that we can overcome anything and that we’re capable of anything. I think it’s a true inspiration to the next generation.
Q: Do you think there’s sufficient/significant representation of black love in media? Are you encouraged or discouraged by those you see in real life or in media?
Chantell: Right now, my favorite black couple in the media is Randall and Beth from This Is Us. They have such a connection and understanding of each other. I really appreciate them. But what I think the media is lacking is a lot of representation of darker skinned women and couples. You always see the light-skinned girl with the curly hair.
Tarik: In the media, I would have to agree. We watch the same shows and the relationship that Randall and Beth share on TV is absolutely ridiculous. In real life, I would have to say a couple that we appreciate is Will and Jada. Well, maybe not Will and Jada as a couple, but [them] as parents. I think as parents they have done a phenomenal job of not only making sure that their children are socially aware of the things going on around them, but they also did a really good job of allowing them to explore themselves and the world while giving them this knowledge that I think is really powerful. It manifests itself in the way that they do their art. The things they talk about in interviews are really powerful and dynamic. I look to them as an ideal atmosphere to raise free black children.
Q: What’s the hardest part about being a millennial in a relationship?
Chantell: I think the only thing I can say is seeing everybody’s life and seeing all the good moments in real time and expecting yourself to be in another place. But then you gotta snap back to reality and just understand that you are where you need to be. But I think that applies to everything — work, relationships, social life. You just always see the good parts of everybody’s life. It can sometimes put you in a fog about where you’re supposed to be, or put expectations on yourself that are unnecessary because you’re on your own path.
Tarik: I feel like everything’s moving so fast. I think about us as humans and we’re like, if something’s not working for me if something’s not making me happy, I’m gone. And it’s like, that can manifest itself in all sorts of social relationships. I think about our friendship [with Chuck]. I’ve known you since I was 11. That memory is something that keeps me grounded. I can meet somebody on the street and we can be cool for a couple of months, get some business done, get a connect or two to an opportunity and then the relationship can dwindle just like that. And there’s no animosity, but just the energy that drew us to each other at that time has gone.
There is no work. There is no nuance of figuring someone out. There is no developing a deeper and deeper relationship.
Q: Are there any individual relationship struggles that you had to overcome?
Chantell: I’m an only child so I’m not used to having to share a lot with other people. I can be very introverted and in my head, and having to privy someone else to that information was difficult for me. I like my way about things because I’ve always gotten my way. I’ve had to learn to compromise. I think it’s always a work in progress. It’s been understanding where he’s coming from and, because I love him, how I want to take his opinion into mind. It’s worth the compromise.
Tarik: I’m hard-headed. I’m a little rigid. I’ve had to be more flexible and understanding. I think building an understanding was really helpful for me. That’s my baby, I love her. Everything that I do, everything that I want, is not going the be her exact understanding of it. Being more flexible has stopped a lot of arguments.
I’ve gotten to a point now where it’s not an issue. I’ve learned, through time, how to lead with understanding before I say or do anything else.
Q: Previous generations had clear and specific gender roles. How do you two define each other’s roles in your relationship, if at all?
Tarik: We have gender roles? I don’t think so.
Chantell: He gets his way more.
Tarik: I don’t think we have traditional gender roles because I’m more than happy to do all of the cooking and cleaning. I told her that once her enterprise explodes, I would be more than happy to stay at home and raise the children.
Q: What is it about having a black significant other that impacts you the most?
Chantell: Family. I was raised in a very close family and it’s very important to me. Just having similar values and being able to relate culturally is very important to me.
Tarik: When I think about what I want my family to look like and what I want everybody’s understanding to be, I want it to be synonymous. I grew up in a black family so that’s the family that I know.
Q: Do you feel pressured by your family to be with someone who looks like you?
Chantell: I wouldn’t say pressured, nothing else ever occurred to me. I never pursued or have been pursued by people who didn’t look like me.
Tarik: I might have been around 11 when my mom said, “You better not bring no white girls up in here.” We got out of the Bronx, we moved to New Rochelle and I started going to a different type of middle school. I wasn’t the majority anymore and my mom knew I was starting to like girls. I’ve had weird experiences with white women in my life and I’m good.