In 'Where Did Our Love Go?' Gil Robertson explores how to bring love back in the black community

Journalist Gil Robertson, IV takes an innovative approach to understanding the precarious state of black relationships in his latest anthology, 'Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community.'

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Describe one of your favorite stories from the book that you think best underscores the importance of marriage and partnering. 

There are 45, 50 million black people in this country. I think I did a good job finding individuals who could represent the thought processes, the perspectives, and the lifestyles of a lot of those people.

Amy Elisa Keith writes a very good piece about growing up in a broken family.  Her parents got a divorce, her grandparents on both sides of her family were divorced, but there was still a family unit nevertheless. Both parents were active and involved in [her life]. Now she’s on course to get married, so she’s questioning — “that hasn’t been my experience, witnessing a successful relationship. I have concerns.”

Melody Guy wrote a piece about, “the key,” and what that key represents in everybody’s relationship.  Usually that’s the beginning of something, when the couple exchanges keys.

[Radio news anchor] Veronica Waters… you know what she talks about? “I love the brothers, you know, but, I’m getting to a point in my life where maybe I need to start looking outside the racial box and start looking at other groups of people, other ethnicities.”

That’s just the “Single” section alone.

As we go into “Married,” Anthony Hamilton, R&B recording superstar, writes a great piece about seeing the big picture. Sure, there are a lot of opportunities out there to score, but the big picture is what we just talked about a minute ago: Really wanting to have a family, really wanting to be rooted, really wanting to lay a foundation for your life, and for your legacy.

Rhonda Freeman Baraka, brilliant journalist turned successful screenwriter, wrote a great piece about her 25-plus year relationship with her husband and how it takes work.

Going into the “Divorce” section, Tia Williams wrote a great piece about finding love in a hopeless place. It was written with a very humorous perspective that I think readers are going to enjoy.

How did you come up with the title Where Did Our Love Go?

It makes sense. I mean, where did our love go? I grew up in a black community where I was surrounded by love, and my parents really just enveloped my brother and I with this sense, and the confidence, that we were loved.

As I grew older into adult life, the question just kept coming up. What’s going on with us? Because this isn’t who we are. Why are we walking around so angry with each other? Black men and women — why can’t we find a way to [love]?

When I look at my white friends, they’re all married. But, then I look at my black friends — the majority of them aren’t. I think that something’s going on here. Something is perverting, is causing a bad roadblock. That’s preventing us from being able to connect, and you start to see the effects of that.  You start to see the effects of that lack of engagement, when you take an honest look at our communities.  Our community’s been falling apart.

And then you see the numbers. Seventy-two percent of these families are headed by single parents. That must be a contributing factor. So, yeah: Where did the love go?

Do you think, as much as people will be prompted towards individual reflection by your book, there are any easy answers? Are people looking for easy answers in relationship books? 

Well, you know, we’re starting our book tour. We’re going to St. Louis in a few weeks, and we’ll be travelling to L.A., Chicago, and Detroit. We’re doing a date in Atlanta on the 15th of May. We’re going to have real life, town hall meetings where we are inviting the public in to have this conversation, and find the key that unlocks the door to the answer of this problem.

After editing three books on black folks, I think the answer to our many problems is quite simple. It is important for us as people, as individuals and as a collective, to find our purpose — really understanding your purpose, because when you understand your purpose, everything else, I believe, opens up for you. Finding your purpose is akin to finding your lane in life.  I know where I’m going, or at least, I know where I want to go. So now let me find someone who shares similar values, and similar ambitions.

I think that we need to learn in the black community to forgive — forgive each other and forgive ourselves. I think that we really say that a lot, but we really need to put that into action, and that when we forgive, to really put that behind us.  I’m not saying forget, because that would be silly, but I’m saying lock it in a place, and kind of lose the key, you know?

And then finally, I think we really need to examine how we feel about ourselves. I think that a lot of black folks suffer from severe issues regarding their own self-worth, and I think that we need to be honest with that. You have to like yourself first, and you have to value yourself.  Because when you value yourself, and when you strive to be a healthy individual, you strive to identify people who are going to bring more of that spirit, that energy, that direction into your life.

I know that they’re not as simple as they sound, but I think that we need to become more committed to moving in that direction of those three takeaways.

Is there anything else you want theGrio readership to know?

We recognize that we didn’t get everybody, so we definitely want those voices that are out there to become part of the conversation by joining us on Twitter at @WhereDidRLoveGo , that’s [with] the letter “r,” and also on Facebook at BlackLoveIsForever. The website is, again with the letter “r.”

We all know why it’s not “our” — because everything with “our” is of course going to direct you to The Supremes.

This conversation has been edited for clarity.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.