At the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in 2016, Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler, frequent film collaborators, were in a photo together. Jordan rests his hand on Coogler’s head. They look directly into the camera.
The reaction to the photo boasted immature and hateful comments about what commenters thought the photo implied. There were blatant remarks of homophobia. Ultimately, the photo showed Black men showing each other love, which was also recognized by admirers. Jordan and Coogler were showing brotherly love.
#BlackBoysEmbrace was a hashtag started on Twitter in 2017 by Jermaine Dickerson. Photos poured in with generations of Black men embracing. Black boys were also centered in the photos as they embraced love. Friends on the basketball court, a child and his father in their living room, and more spaces were the centerpiece of the photos. No matter where Black men and boys loved. Black men kissed each other on the cheek. Photos showed Black men hugging each other. They stood in formation like dominoes. It was a beautiful dismantling of Black male stereotypes consistently projected in the media of fatherless Black men and boys and the idea that Black men do not love and embrace joy.
I recently watched the complete series of The Wayans Bros., starring Shawn and Marlon Wayans as brothers who hustle for success and are total opposites. After the solution of the episode’s shenanigans, Shawn and Marlon would hug and kiss. When I watched this show as a kid, it was the most surprising image. Brothers who showed each other affection, especially with a kiss. It was a beautiful marking of understanding, love, and the ole “I always got your back.” Shawn *in his voice* calling Marlon stupid was affection, even in a cruel form. It was personal.
While my examples of male affection are predominantly of Black men, the crux of the conversation is that men need space to express emotions and receive support in their journey to love. Boys who grow up in a world seeing affection and who show love can become empowered men. Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Affection is genderless. We have a powerful honor to express our emotions. Love is a constant movement. Feminism excels in a society of equality for all sexes. As the movement evolves, an empathetic world depends on how we have the space to receive affection. We need to challenge the idea that the only way to build a world is a world in which affection is reserved solely for romantic relationships. What would the world look like if we allowed all types of affection to grow? Instead of the coldness of hiding feelings, how would we act differently if we were aware of the impacts our actions had on others feelings?
Here are a selection of books that show male friendship and/or brotherly love:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is about Amir, a wealthy boy, and Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant. The friendship that grows is the bouquet of this novel’s story.
The Bromance Book Club is the first of the series by Lyssa Kay Adams about Gavin Scott, a second baseman for the fictional Nashville Legends whose marriage is falling apart. He joins a secret romance club composed of “alpha men” who subsequently help Gavin to save his marriage.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead was all the rage a few years back. The story is about Elwood and Turner, who become friends in the Nickel Academy, a reform school for boys. The story is based on the infamous reform school in Florida, which kept secrets of abuses, injustices, and deaths for decades.
How do you make space for love to be expressed? What book(s) would add to this list?