When it comes to having conversations around the beauty and strength of Black love, what’s key for our community is that we don’t ever stop having them. We grow from sharing and dissecting our unique love stories and hearing about others’. When it comes to championing Black love, no one does it better than film and television producer Codie Elaine Oliver and her husband and co-creator, fellow director and producer Tommy Oliver. Together they are the creators of OWN’s hit docu-series Black Love and BlackLove.com.
In addition to their popular show, the Olivers are busy taking the conversation about Black love around the world and elevating it on every platform. Their upcoming third annual Black Love Summit has gone virtual and is happening this weekend. We caught up with Mrs. Oliver to discuss her deep commitment to inspiring connection, the meaning of radical Black love and what to expect at this year’s ticketed online event.
Get into our lovefest below.
ESSENCE: What does the phrase radical Black love mean to you?
Codie Elain Oliver: Honestly, to me it is, and I have always said this, radical Black love starts from inside. It’s about being love. Right? And that is work that we have to do every single day. To love hard, love on ourselves, love on our partners, pour into our kids, and pour into our parents. Because of the weight and the pain that we have endured for centuries, that lived within us, that the only way out of it besides the actual political and policy change, but the only way out of it is to love ourselves so hard that we push ourselves into working together and creating better circumstances. And that just starts with Black love from the inside out.
How do you and Tommy feel about how far you’ve come with highlighting, spotlighting and tributing Black Love?
We feel great that we have been able to do something that was important to us and for us, as into Tommy and I, and for our relationship, which is talk to and highlight love stories. We feel great that we’ve been able to capture that and share it with others and that the response to it has been positive and consistent and that we can continue to expand that outside of romantic love. Right? Because Blacklove.com, Black Love our socials, our live events, we try very hard to make sure that we are challenging our people to love at every level. Look at your parents differently. Look at your best friend differently. Love yourself. We feel just frankly very good and very passionate and that we have so much more to do.
This is the third Black Love Summit…and this time it’s virtual!
It’s the third one. The first was LA, the second was Atlanta. Now we are on the Internet. We can get access to so many people domestically, around the world. So that part is really exciting.
Sterling K. Brown and his wife Ryan Michelle Bathé are your keynote speaker this year. Talk about couple goals! Why did you choose them specifically for this year’s event?
Specifically, for this year, in part because they’ve known each other for so long. Those two have been through college, grad school, um, you know, then moving to Los Angeles and certainly off and on relationship, as we’ve learned, with the Black Love series. But they’ve been together so long and in the same industry that I was genuinely curious, how do you maintain some kind of individuality? Which is so key in a marriage while also growing as a unit. So that’s why. I was curious about that (laughs). [They enjoy each other] and respect each other so much. Like they’re, they’re just able to be… They’re so individual. That’s why I wanted to talk to them. They’re different in so many ways, and they’re so complimentary and respect each other so much and I just, well, I admire them.
What are your goals for everyone watching the summit this weekend? What do you hope they take away and take back to their relationships?
Well first off, my biggest goal with the summit was to give our community a big old smile on their face for two days. It’s been a difficult year, it’s been a difficult election season and quarantine, you know, so much it, it’s hard to even boil down the “uprising” and our fight for racial equality. It’s hard to boil it down. But there’s just been so much pain and darkness, that well, you know, Codie and Tommy, Black Love, you know, we wanted to give our community something to, to look at and smile about for two days. Um, so my biggest hope is that people just have a good time. As far as relationships, you know, we design every conversation to be helpful for folks that are partners, but also for people who want a relationship for the long haul. My hope is that with everything we do that our audience takes away the fact that no relationship is perfect, but with work and communication you can get through anything.
The summit lineup speaks to both new couples and those who’ve been together forever.
The hope is that it doesn’t matter how far in you are into your relationship. Not only can you learn something new, [but] you can share your experiences… good or bad as long as we continuously learn. And so we have a lot of couples who are featured in the summit that come from the show. But we also tapped people that we admired on social media, even. So, like, Ray and Roslyn Singleton, she was dealing with brain cancer and Ray has been singing to her so beautifully. We actually have them talking about sex and intimacy. What does that look like when there are times that you can’t be intimate in the way that you are used to being intimate? So, you know, it was exciting to bring Ray and Roslyn into the summit. We’re also having an exciting conversation with Jemele Hill and Brittany Packnett Cunningham and her husband Reggie, and Terrell and Jarius Joseph. They are a gay couple with two kids and we wanted to talk to that group of people specifically. The conversation is called, Say It Loud, We’re Black and We’re Proud…But We’re Exhausted.
Learn more about the Black Love Summit here.