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On friendship

Today on the BLACKboard are two quotes on friendship. 

The first is by Anaïs Nin, eloquently capturing the essence of friendship: "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." C.S. Lewis offers a complementary perspective: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'"

Nin suggests that friends unveil new realms within ourselves, akin to discovering a city's hidden alleys that lead to unexpected revelations. This idea resonates when explored through the lens of Blackness. Friendships within the Black community often go beyond superficial connections, serving as profound sources of cultural affirmation, safety, and uplift. They act as mirrors reflecting our experiences and as windows opening us to the myriad expressions of Black identity across the diaspora. These relationships often become sanctuaries where heritage and tradition are celebrated and preserved, enriching and deepening understanding of ourselves and our community.

Conversely, Lewis's insight into the spark of immediate connection over shared experiences speaks volumes when considering millennials' collective challenges and aspirations. In an age where digital connections redefine the boundaries of friendship, Black millennials can find solace and refreshment in shared experiences.

Whether navigating the complexities of racial identity in predominantly non-Black spaces, rallying around social justice causes, or simply a good ki-ki about the random ways our childhoods all seem to align (e.g., being told we smell like "outside" and feeling SICK when we heard those keys in the door and realized we forgot to take the meat out to defrost for dinner) - through remembering and storytelling we forge bonds of solidarity and understanding.

It's been said that Millennials "have no friends" and "are the loneliest generation." Drake did say, "No new friends." However, we must remember the digital age's role in shaping millennial friendships and how, over time, social media emerged as indispensable to fostering connections. For Black millennials, these platforms offer space to engage in community-building, cultural dialogues, activism, information sharing, and even—especially during and after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—mental health support. This access is particularly poignant as we navigate the intersections of race, culture, and generational identity, finding unity in shared struggles and collective dreams. In some cases, it has also facilitated mentorship and intergenerational relationships that serve as vital networks of guidance and wisdom, exemplifying Nin's idea of friends unveiling worlds within us—worlds of changed behavior, new approaches, and reflective versus reactive response.

A September 2023 Pew Research Center study revealed that "[79% of] Black adults find a great deal or a fair amount of joy or fulfillment in spending time with family or friends." Nin and Lewis present the value of platonic ties, which can yield transformation over time and immediate connections. Friendships that, while at times challenge us to exist and show up in new ways, also validate our lived experiences and honor the complexity of our identities through our differences. Friendships that, according to Healthline, yield "less loneliness and social isolation, reduced stress, emotional support, personal development, a sense of belonging, and support through challenges."

Think about your friendships. What aspects of your identity shaped these relationships? Which perspective, Nin or Lewis, resonates with you more, and why? Until next time, let's cherish the friendships that guide us, motivate us, and celebrate the fullness of our identities. Remember Rumi's words: "Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."


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