It’s hard to believe I’m seeing 2023 on the calendar, and yet here we are—that time of the year where things feel fresh, possibilities are endless and the slate feels clean. In my case, that’s quite literally the circumstance as I step into my new role as Executive Editor and VP of Content.
If the years since the pandemic started have taught us anything, it’s that rules can be rewritten. We can not only challenge the status quo, we can transform it, finding new and exciting ways forward. That’s the energy I’m bringing to this new role: to take the incredible foundation of this brand and make it even stronger, by challenging us to rethink some of the things we’ve accepted as truth. And what better way to start than with Black love?
For years, we’ve seen beautiful but mostly heteronormative couples grace our magazine cover. We’ve defined Black love through the bad-ass Black partners on so many of the vision boards created by those of us looking for love. But Black love is also so much more.
In this issue, we pushed the boundaries and expanded the definition of loving while Black. In “Lori Harvey Loves Herself” (page 52), our gorgeous cover star commands attention all on her own, with no man on her arm. Sometimes Black love is about cherishing yourself enough to know when the moment is about you and no one else.
And Black love isn’t just romantic. It’s also about how we display affection and acceptance within our families. This becomes all too complicated for our queer and trans family members—for whom love can be compartmentalized when relatives refuse to accept their truth. Activist Ericka Hart delves deeply into that topic in a powerful personal essay, “Love Without a Limit” (page 76).
Being loved by a Black person is unique. It looks a certain way. It smells a certain way. It’s cool hair grease on your scalp as a caring finger rubs it in. It’s the scent of well-seasoned food wafting through the house as your favorite meal simmers on the stove. It’s the first step to the other side of the broom and into your future with the love of your life. In “Let Me Count the Ways” (page 70), we celebrate the beauty of Black love traditions and the ways that only our community shows affection.
Unfortunately, Black people are deeply familiar with grief as well— as Black love has long been intertwined with loss. For generations, we’ve watched Black women like Mamie Till, Betty Shabazz, Sybrina Fulton and Lauren London carry on the legacy of Black men and boys. Now, as we share in “Black Love Matters” (page 29), Kenneth Walker is forging a new path—as a man making sure the world continues to say the name of the woman he loved, Breonna Taylor.
Love is also giving flowers to our legends—and we do just that in “Supporting a Queen” (page 44), honoring the incomparable Sheryl Lee Ralph for her decades-long career in Hollywood and the overdue honor she’s finally receiving. To be Black and to love is an act of resistance. We live in a world that tries so often to steal our joy and even our reasons to love. So as we start the new year, let’s allow ourselves to break the mold and celebrate Black love together—in all its forms.