A conversation on Making Love Last Forever by KRF
In a time where love can seem withdrawn from the world, there are times where a person can come and remind you that love is as timeless (unconditional) as air. That’s how I felt when I first met LaTanya Smith, the owner of Divine Afro Mind (D.A.M.). She sent me some sample products to review flaxseed gel, an oil marinated in herbs, and a rose water mist spray. I used the products on my daughter’s afro, and my afro at the time. Her flaxseed gel had a shelf life of 6 months, and her oil could last however long I needed it. Due to the size of my afro then, I needed that oil like a crackhead needs crack. Now, I no longer have my afro, but instead timeless memories of using LaTanya’s products and the everlasting advice she’d given me behind her philosophy of love and curating it in every facet of her humanity. Of our final interview sequence, she was the last person to touch my afro delicately.
There is sustainability in love. And listening and watching LaTanya draw upon her creative process in meditation, curating a safe space, down to the expression of her clothing, everything is intentional —therefore our first interview session regarded love and the intentions that flow from it.
We sat on the ground with our legs crossed: a lavender incent burning on my side and a patchouli incent burning on hers. In the meditation process, our incents weren’t enough for the meditation space which was about to take place. Meticulously, she styled and restyled our interview setup until she felt most comfortable introducing herself. She moved a plant here, put a plant there, moved the camera here, bent it forward then back, and at once added items to set the mood right. I brought white sage as my peace offering. We burned it, a rosemary smudge stick, and palo santo. She passed the palo santo for me to wrap my body in its smoke, and I asked, “What is this –is this a piece of wood?” And she responded it’s palo santo.” I bit it and said, “I knew I was smelling burnt wood,” and then proceeded to tell her of my unfamiliarity with the scent.
“It’s [palo santo] supposed to be sacred, the closest purifier to God,” she said. The scents filled the room creating an aromatic concoction perhaps spiritual people understand, but a lingering smell I had become all too familiar with as her natural scent.
We held hands. A crystal sandwiched between our appendages. She called it, “conduction.” I said I loved it. My white sage burned intensely. I said, “I can tell when I need the spiritual enhancement, my sage will burn forever.” She responded that “white sage does something to you —it’s good for reflection.”
We sat in silence. Our chests rising and falling to the cadence of the heart frequency music. I’ve told her how I never enjoy so-called meditation music, but she prefers music without lyrics. It’s easier to not attach a memory to the lyrics, thus emoting a recollection of emotions you suddenly now feel. I still love my lyrical tunes. But, sitting cross-legged, in silence, with only a sound tuned to the heart –it was something peaceful about it.
I broke our silence with a question of sustainability and how she repurpose items instead of throwing them away. “Ask yourself in every facet of your life, ‘why do I want to preserve this? If it is no longer serving me, do I just throw it away, does the love just dissipate?”
In which LaTanya responded, “No, no it doesn’t. When it becomes a thing we’re extending too much, that’s when it becomes a problem. I don’t think it’s a problem until it’s taking from us –we’re giving out an empty cup or a half-filled cup. We have to fill our cups up first.”
“Even with glass, it didn’t take five minutes to make. We live in this fast-paced world where everything is just so disposable. It’s not helping our planet. It’s not helping us. It’s not helping the generations to come. If we want our lineage to flourish, we have to take care of the earth.” LaTanya said.
I responded, “It’s truly love in making something last forever.”
“It’s all about consideration [LaTanya speaking on why sustainability is necessary]. You know that something is happening, based on what the outside world is doing. We have this egotistical living where we think we are above nature, but nature is what takes care of us, we are aligned with nature.”
I responded, “We even look at people as waste.”
She laughed, “It’s that simple.”
Our conversation turned philosophical.
I picked up one of LaTanya’s glass bottles, “Even in the Japanese culture, there’s this art form where, if this piece of glass broke right now, it cracked, they would take colorful glue or glitter, and make a new piece of art out of it. Can we have that humility to do that? Now it’s broken –now it’s trash. This person is broken –now they’re trash. I cannot fix this person, and you shouldn’t have to, but there’s this Isley Brothers lyric when he says, ‘it never pays to give up on someone.’ Even Biblically, forgiveness is always pushed: turn your cheek let them slap the other.”
“What humility is essentially, is just putting your pride aside carrying out your purpose to serve. The reason why we’re here is to win people over to God’s kingdom, not my ideals or my mannerisms, it’s just to let you know that you are loved. As much as God forgives us every single day that we wake up, we have the opportunity to recreate and get a second chance. Who am I to deny forgiveness to somebody, when I get endless options from the Most High.”
“How can you ask for forgiveness from someone, when you can’t even give forgiveness?” I asked.
“Or even forgive ourselves.”
“Sometimes, I live with things I have not forgiven myself for what I had done so long ago, and now I just –live with it.” I confessed.
“You can always forgive yourself. You can always refer back to that moment and be like, ‘you know what, I’m okay with that happening.’ Sometimes we think forgiveness is overnight.” She begins to rapidly snap her fingers, “Because of how fast paced this world is, we don’t have patience. We only have patience for the people that we love, or the things that we desire, but when something comes up, we’re like ‘I’m out.’ ‘I don’t have time for that.’
“We really make ourselves more of an enemy than the enemy. We’ll literally beat ourselves down more than anyone else will. Self-love is truly the best love. You cannot empower someone else if you cannot empower yourself,” Latanya begins to snap her fingers and I continue with my hand crossed over my heart, “You cannot love someone if you do not love yourself.” So, whenever I think about my extensions of love with my friends, I think about what fragment of me am I giving to you?”
“You can literally emit love to a total stranger because you have that much self-love, self-empowerment.” I said.
“Just like you said, giving love to a stranger is reciprocity. Giving love is receiving love. You're openly giving love, you’re open to receiving love. That’s reciprocity.” She said in response.
LaTanya continued, “Love is like this current [speaking about us holding hands with the crystals sandwiched in between], it is endlessly flowing. You will always have a lifeline, and the ability to forgive. You will always be able to give without the intention to receive. Someone with a heavy heart cannot give love. Some people with a heavy heart cannot even give love because they’re not able to receive love. All that they can think about is the hurt and the trauma, and they’re not capable of embodying love.”
I responded, “Say for instance a person who is broken in that way, do you think that it’s love that’s going to heal, or time that’s going to heal?”
“I think time doesn’t exist, it’s just based on a person’s mindset and how they see the situation. I want to ask you the same question: do you think it’s time that heals or love that heals?” LaTanya says.
“I definitely think it’s love that heals. Patience is perhaps the word, the better measurement relative to time –it's all about Divine Timing. We can try to manipulate time as much as we want as humans, or manipulate our circumstances to fit time, like putting our ducks in a row, but I truly think it’s love that heals wounds because it takes a large portion of loving yourself to heal yourself. We can dump love into others. Someone might have had their love taken away, and they may need someone to help come and put it back in.”
“Do you think that is sustainable love though? If the love is only dependent on someone else giving it.” Latanya questioned. She continued. “Because that’s the main destination for us, to master ourselves. To grow to be independent, and not dependent on other’s capabilities to give us what we cannot give ourselves. If someone cannot give love, it’ll in turn drain the other person because they’re always filling you up when they need to also be filled too."
“That goes back to our empowering others when you are not fully empowered. You cannot outpour from an empty cup,” I restated. “I’m going to say people, because as humans, I’m sure we can all get caught up in doing this, giving something that we don’t have. It’s good to have that foundation of love. I do believe that you can be a beacon of hope in that way, but not when you’re just taking to be blessed to receive."
"I think it’s all about perspective. My grandmother, for example, would give me everything that she has. Or every grandma really. They get twenty dollars for Christmas, and then turn around and slide it to the grandchild. We can’t fault them [for giving] because what if you mean this? I have a job; I am able to get money. I am sustained.” Latanya said.
“You can’t expect to give your last dime with the expectation of getting it back or giving love to a person expecting love back. It’s the intention that you put out there with what you are giving. "I said.
“I think with my grandmother she knows it’s more that’s going to come for her, so she doesn’t mind giving this up because she’s good –she's going to always receive. When you have a lack mindset, when you’re holding onto this, I’m not going to get it back. When you have an abundant mindset, it’ll always come back to you. You’ll always be like, I’m good.”
“You have people who have an abundant mindset who are doing it out of the kindness of their heart.”
“It’s genuine.” LaTanya chimed.
“You truly have to be lighthearted when it comes to whatever you give, especially with love. If you know that you’re expecting –first of all the word expectation shouldn’t even be in front of love.” We simultaneously laughed and crossed our arms to “x” out the word expectation. “Expectation should not lead before your love. Love will come naturally, whether it’s your dog your cat --.”
“Your occupation your passion. Whatever it is. You put love into things, love is going to flow back. It’s just universal law.” LaTanya added.
“It is the universal law. Ebb and flow. I am a strong advocate for putting out love in every aspect. If your name is attached to it, your heart and soul must be too.”
I asked her a closing question, “Do you think there is love in listening?”
“Definitely so. Most of the times, the things that we want to know, God is using people as vessels to flow that information through so that we can receive it. So, if we’re not listening, then we’re not going to receive it. God is in everyone and everything.”
“I do think in love you have to be patient; you have to be intentional; you have to be–I think we should just write down everything we think love encompasses.”
I proceeded to rip out a bunch of heart shaped sticky notes and LaTanya grabbed her notebook and we both wrote out what we think love is and what it entails. From this we created a poem, line by line, based on love.
“How to Love” by KRF and LaTanya Smith
Love is what you give,
Without the intention to receive,
Filling ourselves and each other up,
Without trying to deceive,
Love is not what you want,
But it is what you need,
Having patience for our truest desires
And taking things with ease
How can you want love,
When all you want is to please?
It is essential to love,
Without resistance or greed,
Because just as the sun and the moon,
Love is the only light you’ll see,
Just be free!
LaTanya “Chrissy” Smith Instagram: @divineafromind
KRF Instagram: @vinyle_zine
Photographer, Jullian Fowlkes @xva