A Love Supreme:
Real Life Stories of Black Love

by TaRessa & Calvin Stovall
(Warner Books, $23.95, G) ISBN 0-446-52171-X
*****
A little boy and girl played together in their Washington, D.C. neighborhood until her family moved away to Florida. It took nearly four decades before the childhood playmates were reunited. A long distance courtship soon began and they were married a short time later.

A young wife and mother desperately needed a kidney transplant in order to survive. Her own kidneys and a previous transplant had failed. The couple got another chance at life and love after her husband successfully donated one of his.

A distinguished public servant declined offers to run for president of the United States over his concern for the welfare of his wife and family.

A mail carrier was so taken by a customer on his route, he gave her his phone number. Although she immediately threw it away, the number kept reappearing at the bottom of her trash can. She decided to give in to fate and call him.

Before you go running to the romance section of your local bookstore to find these love stories, you need to know that these are true stories. They were collected by a couple on the eve of their tenth anniversary. So, you won’t find A Love Supreme in the romance section. Try the nonfiction or biography section instead.

And if, as poet Nikki Giovanni wrote, “Black love is Black wealth,”then the twenty vignettes of love, romance and marriage the Stovalls have compiled are a veritable treasure trove. TaRessa and Calvin Stovall produced A Love Supreme “in the hopes of dispelling these harmful stereotypes [of Black male-female relationships presented on talk shows and in the media] and providing real-life examples of the existing and prevalent sanctity of Black marriage.”

The collection begins with a forward by Ruby Dee, who has been married to and has worked with Ossie Davis for more than five decades. As the Stovalls wrote, “Their fifty-year union full of passion, creativity, politics and wisdom, is rich and deep enough to fill a book.” (The Dee-Davis story is not recounted in this book, but rather in their own, Ossie & Ruby: In This Life Together.)

Among the couples profiled are names you will recognize - Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., Pearl Cleage, General Colin Powell, Iyanla Vanzant and Jocelyn Elders. There are also names you will not. One of the strengths of the collection is in the fusing of the stories. Another is the inclusion of wedding photographs. As familiar and unfamiliar faces stare out into the camera on their wedding day toward their futures together, there is a sense of symmetry. Older and wiser, the couples share their stories.

This is not a book that should be completed in one sitting. A Love Supreme is a handsome coffee-table book with warm, sepia-toned photographs. It is volume to be savored and revisited. These are truly stories of love - for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Sadly, Steven Gerard-Jones died before publication of the book and his widow, Lateefah Aziz completed their vignette with a poignant tribute to “my husband, my best friend, my life partner and my soulmate.”

There is a cross-section of spiritual, political, cultural and philosophical viewpoints and ages represented. Truth is stranger than fiction in these stories that eclipse tales of love and passion in romances written by some of my favorite authors. These are stories of how real-life heroes and heroines merge the happily and the ever-after.

The life of an African-American romance reader is not always easy. There are the naysayers who say romances are “unrealistic.” There are those who say “Black people don=t have those experiences.” The discussion is inevitable. But now, all I have to say is: “You probably need to find a copy of A Love Supreme and see for yourself!”

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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