Lesson of the Day: ‘What Is Black Love Today?’

Lesson of the Day: ‘What Is Black Love Today?’

Featured Series: “What Is Black Love Today?

In a special collaboration between Modern Love and Black History, Continued, The Times asked readers and well-known writers to respond to the question “What is Black love today?”

In this lesson, you will do a close reading of one of the essays in the collection. Then, you will write a love story or poem about love in your family or community.

Read “What Is Black Love Today?,” a short essay written by Veronica Chambers to introduce the Modern Love collection. As you read, use the following prompts to help you annotate Ms. Chambers’s introduction. You can either take notes in a journal or write directly on this PDF copy.

  • Circle or write down words or phrases that stand out to you.

  • Make one connection with an idea explored in the text.

  • Underline the main idea, or the purpose, of the collection.

Then, reflect: What is your reaction to Ms. Chambers’s words? What are you looking forward to reading or discovering in these essays?

Choose one of the four essays below from the collection and read it in its entirety.

  • Was It Me? Or My Teeth?” by Damon Young
    In America, a smile is like a résumé. I was afraid mine wasn’t closing the deal.

Then, respond to the questions below.

1. How does the author hook you at the beginning of the essay? Describe what engaged you as a reader in the opening paragraph.

2. What is the main idea of the essay? How can that idea be traced through the narrative arc of the essay?

3. Choose one literary device that was used in the essay — metaphor, simile, imagery, symbol and so on — and interpret the meaning. Why do you think the author used that device?

4. Choose one rhetorical device — for example, figurative language, diction, syntax or tone — and interpret one use of it in the essay.

5. Choose one sentence or passage that you found particularly moving or meaningful. What brought that passage to life for you?

6. Return to the purpose of the series and the guiding question “What is Black love today?” How does the writer respond to that question in the essay?

7. How do you feel after reading the essay? What is one question you would ask the author?

Now you’re going to write your own love story or poem about what love looks like in your family or community. You do not necessarily need to write about romantic love; you can also explore the love you have for your friends, family, teachers, pets or anything else.

Once you have identified a love you would like to write about, choose one of the options below to kick off your writing.

Option 1: Write a short story inspired by an image.

Allow the image in this Picture Prompt to inspire a short story about love. (Perhaps the image reminds you of a relationship or connection with someone in your life.) You can share your short story with classmates or in the comments section of the Picture Prompt.

Option 2: Write a love poem.

Read the poem in this Student Opinion prompt that describes an everyday gesture — tying a bow tie — as a “miniature motion of love.” Then, write a poetic response to the question What does love feel like to you? You can share your response in the comments section or with classmates.

Option 3: Write a Tiny Love Story.

The essays you read are from the Modern Love column, whose editors created Tiny Love Stories, a series in which readers share a personal story about love in fewer than 100 words. We have a whole lesson plan to support the process of writing a Tiny Love Story, and you can find some examples from the column in this PDF.

When you’re ready to write, tell us a story about someone or something you love in fewer than 100 words.

You can share your short love story in the comments section or, if you like, you can revise your work and submit it to the Modern Love column for a chance to be published.

Teachers: If you want to learn more about teaching with the “Black, History, Continued” series, join us on March 24 for a webinar with Veronica Chambers to get ideas for the classroom and to discuss the continuing importance of exploring pivotal moments and transformative figures in Black history.

Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.