There's a Spectrum of Black Love—Here's What It Looks Like for These Parents

These four families have different stories of Black love, all worth celebrating.

Two fathers, lovingly walking with their children.
Photo: Joseph Family

This is not your typical love story.

We can almost see you yawning, because you think you know what you're about to read—a roll call of handsome men and pretty women with perfect lives and children. The love stories featured below are as rich and full of affection as the ones that you're used to, but they're different from the ones you may have heard. Love is not a gender or even a set number of partners. It's not about traditional roles or expectations or rules. What the four families featured here have in common is, simply, love that's been tested and tried and comes out true and lasting on the other side.

Here are their uniquely beautiful Black love stories.

Writing the Template for the Love Story They Wish They Had Seen

Terrell and Jarius Joseph, both 29

Parents to Ashton and Aria, both 4

Atlanta, Georgia

Jarius: We were 22 years old and wanted to have a family. People told us we were insane to be so young, on top of being Black and gay. We wanted to find something in the community that we couldn't find, so why not fill that void ourselves? Once we decided to live out loud, the next step was iIf we're going to have children and be together, we have to commit to each other. It's so important for us to show up.

Terrell: We've been married for five years and together for 10. We were already big on starting a family, but there was this fear of not thinking that marriage was something we could do, of how our families back home would feel about it.

I think we started doing social media, as part of #YouTubeBlack Voice Fund, mainly because we couldn't find representation and visibility for people who look like us. There was no rule book. All of the What To Expect books were based on heterosexual couples. It's widespread with our white counterparts—their adoption stories and surrogacy journeys. We would fill in that voice for people who were like us, wanting to start a family, and know they can accomplish it.

Being Black and gay on reality TV shows, everything is one way. We don't want to be in just one category. Love comes in many forms, and this is what our family looks like.

A mother and father, lovingly walking with their child
Davis Family

When "In Sickness And In Health" Gets Real

Gabrielle and Antione Davis, Sr., 39 and 40

Antione Jr., 2

Orlando, Florida

Gabrielle: Antione and I went to Florida A&M University (FAMU) together, and I used to always say that I was tired. I credited it to my crazy college schedule. In hindsight, I was falling asleep to rest and catch up for the later part of the day.

When I was diagnosed with lupus, I was in shock, in denial. I knew Antione loved me, that we were in love. You never know until sickness comes into your life how much someone loves you, when they are tested. Certainly there is a lot of guilt about just how much he'd have to do. I know how independent I was. It was unsettling how much I had to lean on him. He didn't get to experience a "normal" marriage. So many life plans had to be postponed or adjusted because of lupus.

We had planned to wait three years to have kids. The plans, we say, were heavenly pushed back. It was 11 years in when I had AJ. There were questions, definitely, about whether I could have a baby. Kidney disease was introduced a year and a half after diagnosis, and I remember my gynecologist telling me that we needed to go ahead and get pregnant right away in case we couldn't later. But we weren't ready to have a child yet. We knew surrogacy and adoption were an option.

I knew this was a lot for him. He's had his own battles to deal with, but you would never know it. This was not something that broke him. I don't know too many people who would do this with such resilience and affection. We can say that he really understood the assignment.

I want to be able to tell AJ how he came to be, that we can tell you that you are super unique and special. You were wanted. We have receipts, sir.

Antione: February 2009 was our first Valentine's Day as married people. We had hotel reservations, and I'm pretty sure we had dinner plans and whatnot, but we spent Valentine's Day in the ER, because the pain was getting too much for her. That's when I knew something outside of just typical tiredness was going on.

It would be more difficult if I hadn't intended on being with her for the rest of my life. When the sickness came about, it wasn't a dealbreaker for marriage. Honestly I didn't think, initially, that it was going to be something so all-encompassing in terms of our whole life. The adjustment part isn't easy. I can definitely say that dialysis put some things into perspective, traveling with the machine. I remember going to Miami with boxes of the dialysis solution with us.

We're taking [our son] on a whole field trip when he's older. "This is where Mama and Daddy lived, but we sold this house to pay for surrogacy so you could come into the world."

A mother with her children
Vonetta Berry

Loving Multiple People Meant Loving Herself First

Vonetta Berry, 48

Jahina, 17, Nambawani, 21

Houston, Texas

I identify as solo poly, a kinkster who is bisexual. I'm in a few relationships: one that's a comet relationship, that's a long distance relationship with an intermittent aspect. He lives in Austin. And then I have one that lives here, who is my submissive. Being solo poly means that you have partners who are not connected to each other in any way.

This is not the way I had planned my polycule. I thought it would be more of a quad, all closely related and living together. When I was in 10th grade I had this brilliant idea that we were all going to get a house together, in the shape of an octagon, with space for everyone to have their individual room, but also a room to share, and a sexy room. My friend was like, "That would be weird." I think it would be great if everyone just shared everyone.

I would tell someone "I'm really into multiple partners. Are you cool with that?" and the guy would be like "No," so I would squish myself into a monogamous bond, only for this person to cheat on me. I started to realize that me not standing on my own boundaries was creating my chaos in my life. I require my partners now to be poly and respect my polyamory.

My children aren't children anymore. I call them my offspring. Adult-ish. They have a community of people that they can reach out to. When my relationships end, by and large, things kind of shift rather than just break to allow my children to stay connected to those partners. It's like, "We're not bitter. It didn't work out for us, but do you mind if I call such and such?" I've been incredibly blessed to have a very strong relationship with my kids. I'm a crunchy mom.

So people, who are mostly Black people, will tell me, "You're just a freak who wants to have lots of sex," or "Do that, girl, you better than me," and we all know they don't mean that. One of the hardest ones was a Black female therapist who was like, "I just don't understand why you have to have so many boyfriends." She missed out on the growth there. I'm not proselytizing. I'm just living my frigging life—and I'm happy.

A mother and father with their child
Reeba Daniel

Black Love as an Expression of Loving Your Own Blackness

Reeba Daniel, 39, and Justin Blackwell, 46

Aria, 5

Portland, Oregon

Reeba: I identify as queer, but my partner is a straight man. He's part Indigenous but for all intents and purposes is white. When we're talking about Black love, it's not traditional, but I see the fact of having this man who loves my culture, who loves my food, who believes in me and the ebbs and flows, that person is supporting me to make sure my dreams come true.

I started a self-care product company with my daughter Aria. Black love is getting your scalp greased before getting your braids done, the sing-song in my mom's voice. It starts with the love that our ancestors had for us before we were ever created, how they built their resiliency so we could be here today. When I think of Black love, it goes back to the community, the way we were tribally, caring for each other, and rooting for other people's success as much as we do our own.

I want my daughter to know that her hair, her skin tone, her culture is beautiful. She will learn at home how she is treated, and how she will allow herself to be treated. The respect level is there, and she's taught the internal love for herself, so when she goes out into the world she has the armor to combat the injustice she will face. No one can tell her that her Blackness is not beautiful.

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