Joys And Challenges Of Marriage In 'Black Love'

Sep 1, 2017
Originally published on September 1, 2017 6:27 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A documentary series about black married life debuts on the Oprah Winfrey Network tomorrow. It shows the joys and challenges of marriage in a community we're committed loving relationships are often underplayed. Karen Grigsby Bates of NPR's Code Switch team spoke to the creators of "Black Love."

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: Codie Elaine Brooks remembers exactly when she decided she wanted to make a television show about loving black couples. Barack and Michelle Obama had just moved into the White House. And the media was full of affectionate images of the new president and the woman he called the love of his life.

CODIE ELAINE OLIVER: And so everyone's looking at them going this is beautiful. This is amazing. They are so in love. It was obvious that we needed to see that. It felt good. It meant that it was possible.

BATES: It was a stable long-term loving relationship between black people. That's something Oliver says she didn't see enough of in popular culture. By the time her idea moved into production, she had another reason. Codie Brooks had just married producer Tommy Oliver. The Olivers were still in newlywed bliss. But Codie says they both knew that doesn't always last.

OLIVER: My parents are divorced. Tommy's never seen his parents together. So we've never looked at a marriage going, oh, I want what my parents have - no.

TOMMY OLIVER: One of the things that I wanted to do was sort of understand marriage from people who are married and not just sort of these misrepresentations that we see on TV or in film.

BATES: They got wisdom like this from a Los Angeles casting director.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I think most people mistake being married and things being good for it being easy. I think when you think things are easy, that's when, you know, there's probably a lot more lying beneath the surface cause marriage is work.

BATES: And some of these couples have had to work through some very real stuff - infertility, infidelity, bankruptcy, even the death of a child. Although nearly all the couples in "Black Love" are black, a writer discussed how she eventually released her goal of having an African-American mate.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: After a while, I stopped paying attention to the fact that he wasn't a black man and paying attention to the type of man that he was. And he's super loyal and super loving. And he's like that with everybody - complete strangers. So I'm like, I can't pass up this good soul because it's not packaged the way I thought it would be.

BATES: Codie Oliver says they just wanted to show black people finding love with whomever.

OLIVER: We wanted us black folks to be able to see ourselves in happy loving relationships. And it never felt right to suggest that there was only one way.

BATES: The series is part of a planned online project that eventually will make the interviews available to everyone because the Olivers want to, well, spread the love. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.