Black College Students Tell What Love Means to Them

Article excerpt

What does love mean to America's best and brightest Black college students? To answer that question, we dispatched writer-photographer teams to eight historically Black colleges and universities. In focus groups and individual interviews, students gave us candid, down-to-earth responses that were astonishing and in some cases shocking.

Surprisingly, but encouragingly, most male and female students said they hunger for old-fashioned, until-death-do-us-part relationships. But many said this traditional goal is threatened by new and unprecedented problems, including fear of commitment, poor communications between Black men and women, easy sex and peer pressures.

In this exclusive first-of-its-kind survey, Black America's future leaders, movers and shakers tell us what love means to them and define the mates they hope to love.

On the campus of New Orleans' Dillard University, Black collegians study more than Pythagorean theorems and the art of writing persuasive theses. Young Dillard adults also put their critical thinking energies to good use pondering the nature of love.

During an impromptu discussion, some female students voiced concern about the scarcity of Black men. Many male students said their female college counterparts are more eager than they are to jump into a serious relationship at this stage of life's game. But the group as a whole agreed on one issue: To launch a successful, endearing relationship on a college campus or in Any City, U.S.A., requires self-love, pride and respect.

"We can't love another without loving ourselves first," said sophomore Jeremy K. Dennis of Milledgeville, Ga. "Without knowledge of ourselves, we can't commit to relationship."

But not all college students were fascinated by the notion of romance. "I'm a freshman," said 18-year-old Gary A. Nicholsoh Jr. of New Orleans. "When I walk out of here, I don't want to be tied down to one girl."

Other male group members said that Black men who are interested in genuine love relationships must first confront commonly held stereotypes .

"Society says that men are macho and insensitive," said Robert L. Perry, a senior from St. Petersburg, Fla. "But in reality, men are very expressive."

Some female students said that societal norms, perpetuated by TV, music and movies, have also influenced their concepts about love. "We long to have the love that we read and hear about so frequently," said Tiffany E. Hawkins, a senior from Shreveport, La.

But exposure and experience have realistically challenged those views. "Women are starting to be more demanding because we have so many options in terms of career and the things that we do," added senior Tiffany R. Wynn of New Orleans. "We can support ourselves, join support groups and find that man who really wants us."

With all of their reservations and prejudices about the pitfalls of finding a soul mate, most students, male and female alike, said the magic of love is still well worth obtaining. "Love that's worth anything makes your spirit feel good," Dennis concluded. "That's the kind of love I want to know one day."

LOVE is thriving on the campus of historic Fisk University. Of the nine students who gathered in the library to discuss love, there were two love-smitten couples and a fifth student who is engaged to a dental student at Meharry Medical College. "Love is a good feeling," said Lonelyss Charles, as she cuddled with boyfriend Reginald Burke. "Love is unconditional," he added. "No matter what is done, you always have that deep heartfelt feeling for your partner. With us, it was love at First sight, and it only got better as time went on. Lonelyss and I just have something very special. We just clicked when we first met. I knew this had to be the one."

This couple as well as other students said that commonalities such as religious foundation and family values are important in forging solid relationships. …