As we reflect on Black history this month, there’s much to contemplate, from the tribulations of ancestors who fought for freedom to the overwhelming accomplishments of our civil rights leaders—but in between all of that, there is love.
Black love is Black history because it represents a unique life-long experience shared between two people. Black love is all about joining families, embracing culture, and most of all, expressing joy.
Here, we celebrate that joy with four couples who honor their pasts through their futures together.
Black Love Matters
Ben and Ganesha Lorenz were married in July 2020. “It was crazy times in our house before the wedding,” says Ganesha. “Ben was working on COVID issues and I was working on police reform issues in the midst of nation-wide protests.” It was also the day after U.S. Representative John Lewis died.
Having occupations that are especially demanding today—Ganesha is a lawyer who consults on police reform, and Ben is an infectious diseases physician—the year 2020 was uniquely challenging for them, but they found space to honor their union amidst the chaos.
They married during an intimate outdoor gathering at their home and used the event as a palette for personal expression and homage to their ancestors. Roses were utilized throughout the décor as a symbol of love for both of their grandparents. Ganesha's grandmother always kept a rose garden, and Ben's grandfather delivered roses for a florist as a teenager.
It was a request by their wedding planner, Feyisola Ogunfemi of Statuesque Events, that led to an unexpected moment they’ll never forget. Ogunfemi wanted the couple's photos by a nearby landscape, and on the way, Ganesha spotted a George Floyd memorial. Her work in police reform prompted her to take pause, and the couple decided to take photos there as a reminder that the work is far from done.
At that moment, they remembered too that love conquers all. “The moment for us to be able to pay homage at the George Floyd memorial...reminded us that our own joy does not occur in a vacuum and it can itself be restorative,” Ganesha says. “...we can love, we can be successful, we can help and not harm our communities and we still do all of it in the continued plague of systemic racism.”
An Exhibition of Love
Just before COVID-19 panic ensued around the globe in early 2020, Shannon and Jerald Grafton were married at Houston’s Buffalo Soldier National Museum. Shannon, a high school English teacher, loved that guests could browse the history of African American soldiers during their cocktail hour. Jerald, an entrepreneur, believed that by having their wedding there, their contribution helps keep the museum around for years to come.
“2020 will be remembered for protesting social injustice and equality,” says Taylor Brione Ballard, the couple’s wedding planner and founder of Experiences by Taylor Brione. “And these two will have the memory that they used their wedding as an exhibition for Black pride and history.”
It was important to the Grafton’s that their wedding venue had purpose. “I wanted my venue to be historic and pay homage to the people who fought for our rights and liberties,” Shannon says. “I knew this venue would be memorable for myself and everyone special to me.”
We have to celebrate our culture and our beauty. We have to do this for ourselves, and for our children, and the youth in our community. It is so important that they know their ‘Joy.’
Amongst the relics, there was a special piece of the Graftons’ future present during their museum wedding too. Shannon was six months pregnant at the time and “being able to walk down the aisle with her baby girl” was her favorite part of the day.
“We have to celebrate our culture and our beauty,” Shannon says. “We have to do this for ourselves, and for our children, and the youth in our community. It is so important that they know their ‘Joy.’"
With Love, From the Motherland
Kristin Tellis Quaye met her husband in Ghana while studying abroad for three months in 2016. Nii Armah Quaye was an assistant working with the study program. It was love at first sight when the two met on a tour that Nii was leading. Kristin says, “We literally spent every day together after that and decided that we wanted to be married toward the end of my stay.”
For a little over a year, they waited to be together during the visa process, and in August 2018, they were married in St. Petersburg, Fla. with a ceremony that included several traditions from Caribbean American and Ghanaian culture.
“We wanted our wedding to celebrate our cultures in a beautiful blend,” Kristin says. “The same drink my family made for me growing up was also in Ghana. In Nii’s culture, it is called sobolo and in my culture, it is called sorrel. It was a small token to show that even though Black people had been taken from Africa, they held onto [their traditions]...we knew we wanted it served at our wedding.”
The families also participated in a traditional knocking ceremony and Ghanaian engagement ceremony, and “black cake” was served—a rum-soaked fruit cake prepared for Caribbean weddings.
When Nii moved to the U.S., the Quayes co-founded Certified Africa, a travel company that helps Black Americans connect to heritage and start businesses in Africa.
“It can be tough mixing love and business,” Kristin says. “But we are building our legacy together...and the best part is that we have found something that we are both passionate about—connecting the African diaspora to the continent for travel, relocation, and business while contributing positively to Africa's development.
All Black Everything
On July 7, 2016, a mutual friend introduced Eric and Lakila Bowden during a yacht party in Miami. It was the week Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were murdered. Enraged and emotional, Eric and Lakila deeply connected over heartfelt conversations about these tragedies and solutions to the ongoing injustice. That sparked a more intimate attraction, which led to skinny dipping later that night (an event that would seemingly become a tradition!).
Within a few months, Eric was ready to propose. He whisked Lakila away on a surprise “birthday” trip where he secured a private sailing charter. “About 5 minutes before I was about to get on one knee, my future wife screams out, ‘Baby, let’s skinny dip!’” He thought his sunset proposal plans were foiled, but they made it back on the sailboat just in time for the perfect proposal. They eloped one month later on a beach in St. Lucia. After signing their marriage certificate, they clasped hands and jumped in the ocean—this time dressed in their wedding clothes!
For their first anniversary, they hosted a party themed: Dope People Who…Support All Black Everything—a concept born from their relationship coaching company, Dope People Who, and their commitment to supporting Black businesses. “After we danced in during our grand entrance, we got on the mic and made sure everyone knew that every vendor used for our magnificent affair was Black,” Lakila says. “Support, like love, is a verb!”
As relationship coaches, embracing Black love is essential to Eric and Lakila’s mission to reclaim narratives and create a healthy future. “Black Love is healthy, attainable, and prominently happening, despite the constant barrage of the Black ‘Struggle Love’ narratives,” Eric says. “Black Love and Black Joy matter, and when we have exposure and access, we are empowered to foster fulfilling, high functioning, and fun relationships that improve our overall community...for generations to come!”