Interview: Hill Harper

Published October 7, 2009

What’s the community’s biggest problem regarding the lack of long-lasting relationships?

The biggest issue is that it’s not altogether clear that Black men and women are friends anymore. I want to get back to where we are friends and have positive discourse about each other. That takes us to the root of communication or the lack there of. That’s why the book is called “The conversation.”

Why should people read your book? What do you feel you have to offer others as a single man?

I’ve read a number of relationship books out there. A lot are written towards women. This book is written for both women and men. People shouldn’t choose to read my book over another. Read all of them for a broader picture. A lot of books speak to issues that are more interaction based. I’m attempting to deal with some of the root issues, not the “he say/she say”issues.

What can African American men and women do to remedy what you call a “crisis in their community”?

We can start the conversation. It has to begin on three levels. No. 1 is conversation with self. The second level is conversation with partner or potential partners. The final level is the conversation within our community. We have to become extremely honest with ourselves and with each other. I met with so many people while researching this book. It was clear that many of us come up with an idea of what we want our relationships to be and the way we want them, and then we send a representative. We don’t allow ourselves to be particularly vulnerable. We put up covers and walls and airs.

An example would be that when I’m 1st interviewing a man,  if I say, ‘How are you doing?’, he’ll say,  I’m good.’ It took a while for him to get below the service beyond that general response that he’s supposed to give as a man. Women do it in a very different way. A lot of women would say, ‘I don’t need a man.’ It’s a big difference between need and want. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a partner and doing the things to have one. To protect ourselves, we have to say, ‘I don’t need one.’ We put up covers. We send a representative.

Do you feel that A-A men and women need to be friends first?

AFI: Attraction, Friendship, Intimacy. A lot of times we go from A to I and we try to get to Friendship later. If you build that friendship, there’s that mutual respect and comfort that allows you to be yourselves. You can’t find someone unless you’re bringing your true self to the table. A man said three years into his marriage, he didn’t know who his wife was. They were still sending the representatives. They had to go through counseling, and meeting with their pastor to learn each other. That friendship is critical to find that partner – someone to build a life with. You can’t build anything with a flimsy foundation. Friendship is the foundation.

Which  model couples do you admire?


One of the couples I use in the book is the Obamas I’ve known them for about 20 years now. They represent the type of partnership I’m talking about. Independently, they’re smart intelligent dynamic people who would be successful on their own. There’s no doubt in my mind that without their relationships, they would not be where they are. It’s important that I am a single man saying this. I’ll never reach my greatest potential, unless I’m in partnership with somebody. Greatness I would not reach – Steve Harvey and I were talking about this the other day when I was on his show, we talked about both of our books – he made the point that name me one great man who isn’t married. It’s true. I will not reach my full potential as a man unless I find my partner.

For more about Hill Harper visit theconversationonline.com.

For more about Abiola Abrams visit: http://www.planetabiola.com

 

Written by Tracy L. Scott, BET.com

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