by Mary Liz Flavin | news editor
Feb. 24, 2022
With students dressed to the nines, a live jazz band performance and an array of food, the Power Center Ballroom was transformed into a celebration hall as the Black Student Union celebrated Black Love Day: Harlem Night. The night was dedicated to the conversation of black love where guest speaker, Ronald Taylor, spoke about what it means to support and represent Black love in our city.
Taylor, Director of Training and Development for The California University of Pennsylvania, and creator of the Instagram page Black Burgh Love, spoke on the importance of Black love.
“Why is [Black love] important? It breaks down generational curses. When we change the narrative it changes the stereotypes that are put onto you guys, your parents and your family,” Taylor said. “We want to show love in a positive way, we have the power to control the narrative and influence what we see.”
Taylor said that growing up he always looked up to his grandparents and the way they showed their love for one another. He connects Black love with a sense of home and security, which is something that he wants to transfer to the ‘Blackburgh’ community – to build a foundation that has strong family ties. Taylor also stresses the importance of committed relationships that we see ourselves and our friends in.
These examples of Black love not only appear in our personal connections to family and friends, but extends to the media and television as well. Taylor gave the examples of Martin and Gina from “Martin,” Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv from the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and Randal and Beth from “This is Us.” These were just a few couples that we saw represented on TV that showcase a strong relationship with Black love.
“It helps to have someone to look up to. With these couples we sometimes see on TV, it gives someone who maybe doesn’t have a mom or dad someone to look up to. They know these are things they can still have one day,” Taylor said. “It gives us hope, if you have hope you have something to strive for.”
Not only can we control the narrative in our own lives, but the media can help shape what we see and the type of relationships that are represented. This is the core of Black Burgh Love which was created last May by Taylor with the hope of increasing the representation of African American couples in the city of Pittsburgh.
Taylor and Dr. Anthony Kane, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, had a conversation with their friend group about the under-represenation of Black love in the city – thus, the Instagram page was born. Taylor relates the beginning of the page to that of one of the characters in “Bridgerton,” he would anonymously ask his friends and others to submit photos of them with their significant others along with their story. Within weeks, the page grew to where couples all over the city would send in responses to the Black Burgh Love account.
The vision for Black Burgh Love is to continue to grow and in the spring launch their own website. Taylor’s final remarks reminded students that with love they are never alone in the world. There is someone out there who wants to support and love them.
Duquesne student Soren De-Niz said that the event was incredible and felt very personable. In addition Taylor’s remarks were impactful.
“I think Mr. Taylor was really focused on sharing the love and showcasing it. I thought it was really interesting, there needs to be more representation and that starts with the small things,” De-Niz said.
Re’naye Waletski, vice president of programming for BSU enjoyed the experience of setting up the Harlem Night event. For Waletski, it was about coming together with the other members of BSU and creating a one-of-a-kind night.
“Picking out the theme, the attire, how are we going to bring this together. We haven’t had this event in two or three years, knowing that we had and the potential of it was a challenge but nonetheless we persisted,” Waletski said. “It was more bonding than anything, because of those challenges like Mr. Taylor was saying, it only made us stronger.”
The night concluded with special awards and acknowledgements such as best Black entrepreneur, most passionate student, distinguished female leadership award and distinguished male leadership award. Three to four students were nominated and the winner received an award in the designated category.