Take Valentine's Day. I'm not against celebrating love, of course. No, I'm far from it. The problem I find in Valentine's Day is that it can feel like a cheapening of the true value of love, reducing it to expectations of material things and the kind of love that fits into a particular picture, one that leaves out many of the bonds that keep us strong, including love for family, for friends, and perhaps the greatest love of all, love for ourselves. No wonder so many people end up hating this day.
So I'm on the lookout this year, for more holistic celebrations. Some fun examples of folks who are celebrating love in their own way are posted on the Occupy Valentine's Day tumblr.
My focus for today is self-love, because I can always use a reminder to love myself, so I might as well turn Valentine's Day into exactly that.
How can art support self-love? Here's a great example - Jackie O'Nappy's written a lovely blog post about the potential influence of photography. She writes about being photographed by Saddi Khali, whose photographs of black folks take my breath away, and says, "I fell in love with a woman last week...my reflection in the mirror." It sounds like a transformative experience. Read her post, "Let's see ourselves beautiful again," and check out Saddi Khali's photos.
In his own words, Saddi Khali writes: "Black people need 2 see images of ourselves w/ humanity. women beautiful regardless of size, shape or complexion. men strong, sensitive & loving. parents & children caring & happy. couples in love in warm intimate moments. us as lovers, sensual & sexy but not nasty even when we’re nasty. this is not 2 say that other folks don’t need 2 see themselves in certain ways. but, i don’t know those ways. i DO know how my folks r being fooled by & misrepresented in arts & media. & i DO know how its affecting us. so, all the work i do is in the intention of combating that."
And this beauty isn't purely a physical manifestation - it's the beauty found in strength and spirit, that which sometimes goes beyond words, found only when art speaks.
It's this kind of beauty that's on my mind when I think of Whitney Houston, gone now from our world, leaving behind, as Jamilah King said in this Colorlines article, twin legacies of beauty and pain. I feel that I don't have the words to honor Whitney, at least not yet, so I've been looking to others. It's hard, though, to get through those pictures painted with a filter of judgment, and misconceptions about addiction, and our human need to illuminate the flaws of others in order to cast a shadow over our own. Stacia L. Brown conveys how I've felt about it, in this hauntingly beautiful post on her blog.
When art is unafraid to embrace us in our wholeness, we know that we don't need to erase our scars to be beautiful. Everything about us, from our shadows to our light, creates the spirit that gives us true beauty. For each of us, the one close enough to see all of our darkness and light is the self. So that's where love begins. With compassionate care for one's whole self, inside and out.
Looking for a place to celebrate love on Valentine's Day? Join us at CUAV, where all are welcome to attend our monthly membership meeting. We'll talk about what the media says about love, and how we can tell our own stories. Dinner is included!
Whose Story? My Story! Our Stories! Tuesday, February 14, 6:30-8:30 pm at CUAV, 427 South Van Ness Ave, in San Francisco.
Also, check out CUAV's website for some loving reminders on staying safe on your Valentine's Day date.