Valentine's day is known as the day of love around the world. Flowers, lavish gifts and even marriage await those on February 14th every year. The day is highly commercialized and called out for its Eurocentric roots and often blurs the lines between genuineness and clout.
However, there is a day when true positive love is being shared throughout the Black community and more. Black Love Day, founded by Ayo Handy-Kendi, celebrates Black culture right before the biggest day of love in the world.
Handy-Kendi, with her program PositiveEnergyWorks provides "life-changing wholistic services for stress/trauma management…self-development, racial/diversity/gender training" and more. In addition, she is also the founder of The African American Holiday Association.
Created in 1989, the organization is a "national, non-profit organization that perpetuates and preserves culture through traditional and non-traditional holidays, celebrations and rituals." Later in February 1993, "Sekou Mama Ayo" decided to create Black Love Day as an alternative approach to the Valentine's Day season for the Black community.
Founded in her hometown of Washington D.C., Sekou Mama Ayo was inspired by the Spike Lee drama Malcolm X. During the bus ride back from the viewing, "her creator spoke to her." She was then motivated to create Black Love Day.
"The scene in which Spike Lee shows Black people shooting down my black brother Malcolm—who is really my hero—it was so graphic," she stated in an interview with The Daily Dot. "It touched my soul so deeply…As I thought of this scene and I could see the pain of Sister Betty [Shabazz], and I said it out loud to the Creator, 'What can I do to stop the violence and increase the peace? What can I do?' I heard the Creator say to me that we need more Black love."
Black Love Day aims to increase peace, stop violence, end Black self-hatred and White supremacy/racism. Additionally, the day encourages White people in the 24 hours of February 13th to show love in action towards Black people. It offers a spiritual, African-centered alternative to the commercialized and sometimes violent Valentine's Day.
Sekou Mama Ayo's partner was the one that encouraged her to include white people in the holiday to not only "…heal our relationships…" but also encourage "white people looking at their white privilege and their attitudes about race."
The day is founded on five tenets: love toward the Creator, which includes expressing gratitude to your Creator for their love and sustaining power. Then, it is love for self; practicing self-care by spending time with and taking better care of yourself. Love for family inspires the Black community and more to speak power over your loved ones and thank them for their continued support. There is love within the Black community, where it is encouraged to "participate in efforts that support your community." Lastly, there is love for Black people, actively looking for ways to uplift one another.
The holiday has grown since its founding 29 years ago. The day is trendy on social media, and people even create their own Black Love Day events across the country and have stayed consistent with its themes of unity and love for Black people around the globe. According to Sekou Mama Ayo, this year, the theme of Black Love Day is Finding Spiritual Joy Thru Black Love.
"Without question, the world is facing uncertain times and extreme challenges, so our 2022 theme envisions a collective focus on the first tenet of Back Love Day, love for the Creator. To inspire hope, resilience, and joy to reduce fear, grief, and trauma. The times require we stay prayed up to our Higher Power, so we can feel Black Joy despite the times," Sekou Mama Ayo said.
"Yes, Black people have struggled disproportionately more than White people due to COVID-related deaths, illnesses, and economic down-turns. But, we can't afford to get COVID burned out," she said." "Yes, we're overwhelmed by violence, grief, trauma, racism but in the best of times and worst of times, when facing historical, major challenges, the Creator sustained us, and our love fostered self-help as a unified vibration of joy because love is opposite of fear…"
During February's holiday season centered around love and romance, it is essential to find the love for one's culture and those within it. Sekou Mama Ayo has created Black Love Day amid the chaos to celebrate Blackness in all of its forms and dial back into what matters most around the Black community.