Custom Search 1

Black wives matter

GOING THE DISTANCE: Dotun Adebayo and his wife Carroll have been together for 20 years

HAVE WE forgotten, amidst all the real concerns about the way that particularly our young men are losing their lives needlessly, not least at the hands of police officers, that we have real families with real love for us who also need to be attended to – for real?

It is one of the conundrums of blackness, that while we know that black lives matter and we devote our time and efforts to making sure the world knows that, and we stand strong to protect our
communal black lives in the public arena, we necessarily neglect the quality time that everybody else gets to spend and live with their loved ones.

We can’t get away from it. Someone dear to us will have to pay for the innocent blood that is shed every day. Mark my words. Because fighting for equality and justice takes time out of our lives that we cannot ever get back.


It’s no wonder that so many of us find ourselves anchored to the bottom rung of the social ladder, unable to aspire, when we have to devote so much time to the struggle. It is little wonder that the black family is suffering when we are out protesting or even just trying to find some space to clear our heads from all the nonsense that we have to go through every day.

Is it any wonder, then, that we have to be reminded that black wives matter? Black wives matter, I hear you say with a sniff of condescension. Black wives matter? Yes, black wives matter. This is no p*ss-take of the battle cry of the moment – as many others have done, from White Lives Matter to KKK Lives Matter.

No, it’s not that kind of nonsense. Black wives matter more than any of that foolishness. Because it is in that formalised family unit that we can see clear blue water – that light at the end of the tunnel, between our strengths and our weaknesses, our upliftment and our downfall, our love and our self hate.

Wow! Bwoy! That was heavy. I didn’t even mean to get that deep today. Not with you. Not with you, beloved.

However, we need to see the bigger picture in all of this. As I have been to that particular mountaintop, let me share a little love about why black wives matter more than anything else. It may be a cliche, but it is not a coincidence that behind every black success story, there is a woman.

And not just any woman. It might be your partner, it might be your sister, it might be your mother, or even your daughter. But let me tell you now that you will find a woman. A strong woman. Or, as they say in Jamaica, a tallawah (a much stronger word for strong than the Anglicans have).

It is one thing to have tallawah women in your family by default. But when a man grows and leaves those childish things behind and goes out into the world to find his partner, what are the chances of being able to find that perfect tallawah out in those wide open spaces that is the world? It ain’t easy.

You are as likely to find a wotless as you are likely to find a tallawah. And, although fenky-fenky women have their place, you would be mad to marry a woman for her fastidiousness. The kind of woman a black man needs is one who will put up with all his nonsense.

Let’s face it, black men come with a whole heap of nonsense. I am not saying it is our fault. It is because of the system and what we have to go through in the system. You know that. I don’t have to sing Do You Remember The Days Of Slavery for you to know that.

Consequently, black men are not just looking for a partner to have a big white wedding with when they get married. We are also looking for a crutch. No, not a crotch (wassamatter wiv you?). We need someone to lean on, or as Ben E King sang, Stand By Me.


That’s what a black man needs when he’s looking a woman. More than fitness, prettiness and obedience. We need a rock. If they are fit and pretty too, that’s a bonus.

Michelle Obama is the ultimate tallawah, of course. But so is Beyonce. Any black woman who has put up with a good black man for as long as she has has got to be tallawah. I’m emphasising a ‘good’ black man, because we don’t expect a black woman to put up with a waste man. Mel B may be tallawah, but she’s also a foolish Spice Girl for putting up with Stephen Belafonte for any amount of time, given his police record. But even a good black man comes with baggage that it needs a tallawah to put up with it and still stay married.

Anyway, let me cut to the chase of why black wives matter. Next week, it will be 20 years since me and my wife got together.


I can barely believe that we have been together that long. When I consider it, when I think really deeply about it, I cannot help but conclude that my wife must be one of the strongest women in the world.

She’s put up with me for 20 years. And she has never once reached for the butcher’s scalpel to dissect my entrails. Unbeweaveable. She has even had to put up with my lame jokes.

But more than that, my wife matters not just for the love we make, but for the love we have, and not just for the laughs we buss out, but the tears we spare. My wife matters not just for the thoughts we share, but the words we never have to speak. She matters because of what and who we are together... forever.

Dotun Adebayo is Britain’s most listened-to black radio talk show host. He presents Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 live Thursdays through Sundays on 909/693 MW, The Sunday Night Special on BBC 94.9FM and Reggae Time on BBC London 94.9FM on Saturday evenings. Tune in if you’re ranking!

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.