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He Pursued Her On Twitter, Now She's The Love Of His Life

How We Met

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

When Ayana met Bola, she was just leaving something long-term and entering her new life as a single mom.


They had no idea Twitter DMs would lead to a chance meeting, a chance meeting would lead to an unlikely connection, and that the like that would eventually follow would pave the way for a love story neither of them could have guessed were in their futures. Back then, the 27-year-old Ayana Gibbs and the 29-year-old Bola Okoya were three years younger. The photographer felt an instant attraction toward the life coach/project coordinator/founder of Authentic Convos. But he, too, was just getting out of something serious.

It would take some time and the mutual enjoyment of shared simple pleasures like walking in the park and talking on the phone, but timing would find them exactly where they needed to be. The only hesitation for Ayana would be the fact that her and her daughter, Ayo, were a package deal. Luckily for her, she fell for a man who had no intention in awakening the love within her without committing to building a relationship with her daughter as well.

In this edition of How We Met, the couple of three years talk the importance of a friends first relationship, love lessons, and challenges they overcame to forge a love stronger than any meme.

How They Met

Ayana: He stalked me (laughs). It all started in the DMs on Twitter, years before we met. He wanted to know who I was and why he didn't know me since we lived in the same town. At the time, I was dating someone and replied, "Because I have a man," and cut the conversation short. About two years later, he asked me to be a part of his photography series and I agreed because I liked his work. It was platonic. A year later, I hired him to shoot my grandmother's 80th birthday. We became friends and kept it casual until we didn't.

Bola: I first spotted her on Twitter. Oddly enough, we found out that our mothers knew each other, but we had never met each other. After that first interaction, we kind of friend-zoned each other until we reconnected a few years later.

First Impressions

Bola: [I felt an] instant attraction when I first saw her but could only admire her from afar.

Ayana: I thought he was quiet and I found that interesting, especially since most guys I dated in the past were not. My attraction developed over time and started with getting to know him.

First Dates

Ayana: I don't think we ever had an official first date. Strange, I know. Since we started as friends, it was a natural progression that intensified over time. I can share that we had many moments that were simple pleasures, like walking in the park and talking on the phone or in-person for hours, sharing our dreams and desires.

Bola: We didn't officially have a first date, but if I had to choose a time when our friendship grew, it had to be right around the second time we did a shoot together. We had gotten a lot more comfortable with each other and speaking a lot more frequently.

First Steps

Bola: I would say that it was a mutual initiation from both sides. I knew what I wanted in a partner and found that in Ayana. She challenged me in ways I hadn't been before.

Ayana: In my opinion, it happened in parts. We dated and stopped because there was a little hesitation from both of us. Since we were both fresh out of long-term relationships, jumping into a new one felt scary. When we finally took that step to be in a monogamous, it was definitely mutual.

First "I Love You"

Bola: About three months into our relationship, we took our first trip together to Dubai. We spent one week alone, and I didn't get tired of her. That's when I knew (laughs).

Ayana: I agree with his statement. He didn't make me want to choke him and that was a good sign. But, I knew before the trip and didn't hesitate to tell him. I genuinely loved being around him and the way he made me feel.

Three's Company

Ayana: [Being a mom] definitely had much to do with my hesitation in committing to another relationship. I was still in the process of healing and accepting life as a single mom. My time was precious, and I didn't want to commit to anyone who didn't recognize that we (Ayo and I) were a package deal. Honestly, Bola was always gentle and kind to both of us and I wasn't used to that. I didn't always know how to handle such kindness because I wasn't sure if there were other motives.

When you're used to dealing with boys that want to waste your time, it can be hard to recognize a man that wants to invest in you.

Bola: Although I knew what I was getting myself into, nothing really prepares you for dating a woman with a child. I admit, I had my hesitations going into the relationship, but this is why Ayana is the best person I know. I'll explain; I never felt pressure to be everything that her daughter's father wasn't to Ayo. Ayana allowed me to naturally build a relationship with both her and her daughter so that made this new experience one worth exploring and deepening our connection.

Baggage Claim

Bola: I don't think I had to communicate true feelings to anyone, not even to myself. So, when dating someone who knew themselves so well and who was able to communicate their needs and wants, there was a disconnect that I had to get right with myself. Something I'm still working on, for sure.

Ayana: I think we came into this relationship as prepared as possible, but there are things you just can't foresee. I had to learn he wasn't used to having boundaries, or [being] challenged on certain behaviors that didn't promote growth. As someone who's very vocal, I think he found me to be a nagger, which was quite the contrary.

I wasn't going to allow anyone, including him, to mess with my peace. I worked too
hard for it.

As far as my own bad behaviors, I had the tendency to lump his shortcomings with all my previous relationships by generalizing statements. Bola's an amazing guy and didn't deserve to carry the burdens of my unresolved anger.

Love Lessons

Bola: I think it's fine not to have all the answers. I'm not the best communicator so I don't always know how to express my thoughts and feelings, and it's good to have someone that knows and understands me during those times I can't express myself the way I want to. I've learned that there is a constant give and take. Love isn't a given, you have to work at it. Also, you have to figure out new ways and things to love about each other.

Ayana: I can't be happy with him if I'm not happy with myself. Since we're both creatives, we need those outlets of outward expression. If my outlets aren't nourished, I become dull and unhappy.

My motto for our relationship: We are two individuals co-creating a life together.

We need healthy boundaries and communication to be our best selves. There's no perfect love story that doesn't have a few bumps along the way. Love is the ultimate sign of patience because you have to be willing to let your partner grow and have their own transformations.

Building Together

Ayana: We moved in together in August of 2017. There weren't any challenges specifically, just clutter. We had to let a lot go in order to make the space our home. I still haven't grown tired of him (laughs), sharing the same space doesn't hinder our love. As far as finances, we've mostly split the bills. My favorite thing about living together is waking up next to my best friend…and that he buys full-size name brand detergent without price checking. My budget doesn't play those kinds of games. My least favorite thing is that he doesn't like to make the bed, still working on that.

Bola: There were no challenges [with moving in together]. It felt very natural. My favorite thing is that I get a home-cooked meal every night. My least favorite thing is making the bed (laughs).

Favorite Part

Ayana: My favorite thing about my man is his giving spirit. No matter what I need, he is there, ready to be of service.

Bola: I like how she makes everyone around her better. She sees the good in people and makes them see it within themselves. And she has a beautiful smile.

For more Ayana and Bola, keep up with the dope couple on social @ayanaiman and @primo_supremo.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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