Love Me Well is a limited edition multimedia series that aims to celebrate and elevate black love through the stories of 10 different couples. Each couple has showcased their love story through photography and either a written Q&A or podcast interview. This series was made possible thanks to photographer Jazzmin Awa-Williams, podcast producer Austin Weatherington, and 32 incredible crowdfunding campaign backers who invested in the production of the project.
I can’t think of a better couple to conclude Love Me Well with than Tamm and Yalabe. I have a special tie to each of the couples that have been featured in one way or another, but my connection to these two spans a good fraction of their relationship. From Yalabe pulling me aside back in February to tell me he was going to propose to sharing in their love by reading a poem at their wedding last month, it has been an honor to be their friend and watch them evolve. In the final installment of Love Me Well, Tamm and Yalabe bring us back to a core element of this series and its love stories – vulnerability.
Photo by Erika Layne
When were you first truly vulnerable with one another? What did that feel like? What was most challenging about it and what was most freeing?
Yalabe: I was first vulnerable with her when I admitted that I was depressed and needed to seek professional help. For me it was very difficult to admit that being as I hadn’t even fully accepted it myself. I was very ashamed at first, but over time I believe our relationship has become a safe place to express such sentiments. Nobody wants to admit that they need help. For me it was getting past my ego and perhaps how I thought she may perceive me. All in all, it was more of a mental obstacle that I had to overcome.
Tamm: Early on in our relationship, I had to be vulnerable with him. I was already invested in him emotionally, but I needed him to know all of me. It was freeing in the moment, but when it came back up, that was where the challenge came. It’s challenging to let anyone into you in your truest rawest form for the first time, but it is even more challenging getting the feedback.
How has your perception of black masculinity changed because of your relationship?
Yalabe: My perception of black masculinity has changed because when you share such an intimate space with someone, you are forced to be vulnerable. You have to willingly show your scars, your hurt, your sorrow and even your insecurities. I grew up feeling like men in general had to always be strong. We always had to carry the world on our backs and no matter how heavy that burden was, we had to keep pushing through. So, to be in a relationship where you can be “weak” and those qualities are not accompanied with a negative stigma is refreshing. It allowed me as a black man to be me, in a holistic way.
Tamm: Honestly, I don’t think my perception of black masculinity has changed. I’ve always been around different types of black men – intellectuals, pastors, goons, hoteps, athletes, etc. They are not monolithic, and it would be a disservice to them for me to ever think they are. Because I’ve always had the mindset, I think my perception of black masculinity has been reinforced. There are different types of masculinity in our culture, even when the experience is shared because life molds all of us in varying ways.
Photo by Erika Layne
What is one myth about black men you believed coming into your relationship that you no longer do? How has your love helped dismantle that myth?
Tamm: I can’t say this is a myth I believed, but it’s a common myth…they don’t know how to love in a healthy manner. I truly believe our love is healthy and balanced. Relationships are give and take; and, I realize and appreciate he’s done as much as I have to make our love, not just work, but flourish. I’ve seen men say they love you and dog you (not me, per se) over and over again, and then get passes for their behavior so much so that I understand some think this is normal. Fighting against this norm can be daunting, but you do not have to settle. Our relationship cemented the necessity of not settling because the love you want and deserve is out there. Maybe that’s more a myth about men than black men but in these situation sometimes the black version is more worldstarhiphop than others which adds another level of dramatics.
What’s one thing that’s special to you about black love?
Yalabe: Black Love is timeless. It is rooted and deeply seeded in a rich history. It shares so much culture and not just from the Americas. It can truly be the ultimate test of time, but for me it knows no end.
Tamm: Black people are regal, extraordinary and exceptional; therefore, our love is all of the above as well. We are people that have been put down and forced to struggle simply because of the color of our skin, but that has only made us resilient. As I said in the previous question, sometimes the black version of relationship discourse can be so dramatic, it seems like we cannot love without it. But, just like how we crush other stereotypes, we can do the same with our love. Our love is king, just like our people are royalty.
Tamm is an event planner by trade, still waiting on her “calling” (whatever that is). She loves to acquire new things, not necessarily shop, and eat, not necessarily cook – but she’s damn good at it. You can reach her on the twitterwebs, for now, @puregr8nesss, and Facebook, T S Fitzgerald.
Yalabe is just a typical fun-loving nerdy bald black guy. A bit of an artist, a bit of a writer.