I experienced the power of Black love in a fundamental way when I confronted three recent crises in my life. This past year I experienced a physical crisis when the doctor told me that my body was nearly incurably infected with cancer. Because of the magnificent and successful surgery performed by Dr. Peter Scardino, all of the cancer has been removed. Looking back, there is no doubt in my mind that what lifted me and what sustained me was the power of Black love. The power of Black love was demonstrated to me in a very deep way by my family, including my mother, my two sisters, my brother, and my close friends (including loyal, non-Black people). My mother and my friend Leslie waited on me hand and foot every day for seven weeks. It was the overwhelming demonstration of Black love, including the prayers of supporters around the world, that constituted the pillar upon which I stood. It became my rock and my foundation as I struggled against the deadly disease that threatened my body. It is hard to put in words the kind of love I felt. It went far beyond any kind of glib formulation of mere family, friendship, and companionship. It was, in fact, a love that was supernatural and translunar and, I contend, unexplainable through mere words. To take it a step further, I believe that all forms of love are unmistakable and indefinable at the same time and this love is clearly what I experienced and what lifted me. Within the history of the Black church, as well as in the history of Black mosques and Black synagogues, there is, at the center of their teaching, the fundamental need to dignify Black people by making us view ourselves as worthy of love. This love can be God's love, the love of significant others, the love of children, or the love of our friends.
The second crisis I experienced was a professional crisis--my struggle with President Larry Summers of Harvard University. Summers attacked my integrity and insulted my character. Because I felt so deeply disrespected and dishonored, it created a sense of rage within me. In many ways, the notion of rage has always been an integral part of Black existence. However, if rage is not channeled in such a way that it is influenced and shaped and molded by love, it can become self-destructive. I was able to deal with the rage I experienced in a way that allowed me to retain my sense of self-respect and integrity, as opposed to allowing the experience of being disrespected and dishonored to cause me to self-destruct. Here again, it was the power of Black love that lifted me and enabled me to maintain my self-respect and to keep things in perspective. Without the love shown to me by my mother, my two sisters, my brother, and my friends, I would not have pulled through.