Student organizations hold ‘Black Love’ forum


Marriage and family therapy trainee Dwayne Shavers, along with youth advocate Donald Barksdale, address students inside Scripps Cottage for a Reconstructing Black Love forum on Feb. 15.

by Camille Dejoras, Staff Writer

On Feb. 15, the Afrikan Student Union, along with the Student African American Sisterhood and Brotherhood co-hosted their first ever ‘Black Love’ event at Scripps Cottage to discuss love and healthy relationships within the black community.

The event featured intimate discussions and activities led by married couple Donald and Merendi Barksdale, and Dwayne Shavers, the husband of San Diego State Africana Studies professor Antwanisha Alameen-Shavers.

Students were asked to engage in a series of exercises including icebreaker activities and discussions about how black men and women should treat and respect each other in their relationships.

Volunteers also went on stage to publicly compliment members of their community and show support for one another.

Women’s studies graduate student Victoria Blackwell-Rivas said it was helpful to hear how others feel about black love and participate in the exercises.

“I don’t get a lot of opportunities to do things like this, so it’s really helpful to sit here and go out and affirm people and have people affirm me while having honest conversations,” Blackwell-Rivas said.

She said she also appreciated the Barksdales for being honest about the work it takes to maintain a strong marriage, and she felt they could easily relate to college students because they’re still young.

Merendi Barksdale, who is a recent SDSU graduate, said she wanted students to understand that romantic and platonic relationships are equally important, and everyone should always receive the same love.

“It’s okay to walk down the street and love that black man you see just like you would love your brother, to love that black woman you see like you love your best friend and to love that older woman you see like you love your mom,” she said.

Merendi Barksdale said she hopes SDSU will continue to hold events like ‘Black Love’ so African-American students can openly talk about their feelings and learn to understand each other in a comfortable space.

Neicey Renty, who is also pursuing her masters in women’s studies, said the discussions gave her the opportunity to learn more about black men and masculinity because she personally doesn’t have many black male friends.

“Everything I know about what it means to be a black man I basically learned from my grandfather and uncles,” Renty said. “It was good to learn how black men around my age perceive themselves and hear what they have to say.”

Donald Barksdale, a youth advocate, said the energy of the crowd was perfect, and he was happy everyone was so willing to connect and dive right into deep conversations.

“I didn’t want people to just come and have a nice discussion here, but I wanted them to feel inspired and bring these exercises home to do with the people that they love,” he said.

He said he hopes to make ‘Black Love’ a regular event, and he wants everyone in the young black community to continue to share their own knowledge about love and spread positivity.  

“Remember to love people they way they want to be loved, not how you want to love them,” Donald Barksdale said.

An earlier version of this story did not include the Afrikan Student Union among the co-organizers of the event.