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This Couple Of 6 Years Are Blended Partners In Business & In Love

Our First Year

In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.

Love is patient. Love is kind. And for many of us in relationships, love can be a delicate blend of ups and downs. Such is the case for Harvey and Casey Kelley.


Having known each other since high school, the two were unknowingly living in the same city around the same time and later reconnected via FaceBook. Harvey was a grant program coordinator through the school system and Casey was a consumer product goods professional and later moved from Atlanta to Jacksonville, Florida after she was unfortunately laid off from Coca-Cola. And it was there that they were dealt the hefty task of trying to meld their new huge (think, five girls and two boys kind of huge) family.

And it's arguably that very task that led them and strengthened their bond to build both in love and in their professional lives. Now serving as entrepreneurs to their own business, aptly named Blended Designs, the two have found a way to bring the story of their lives and passion to inspire into the forefront. Serving as a premium backpack and travel bag, Casey tells me that their mission is to elevate, empower, and educate people of color. And in response to the lack of representation of characters of color in the backpack industry, their endeavor thus found a much bigger purpose.

Courtesy of Blended Designs

Now with six years under their belt in marriage and two years in a thriving career, they let us in on some insight they've learned along the way in this latest segment of Our First Year.

The One

Casey: I have two sisters but I grew up an only child, so I never had to share. I never had a time where I had to share with another adult or thinking about another person. It's not that I was selfish, it's just not a skill that you learn as an only child. [When I realized he was the one] it was a point where I was thinking of him more than I was thinking of myself. I was thinking about the decisions I was making and how they were going to impact him.

Harvey: After I got divorced, I said I never wanted to get married again. But she made me want to be in a relationship again. She showed me all the things I was missing from my first relationship. She made me say, "Wow this is how it should've been. This is the kind of relationship I should've been in." That kept me close to her and getting to know her. She literally does the things that I was looking for in a relationship. She filled all these voids that I had.

Courtesy of Casey and Harvey

"After I got divorced, I said I never wanted to get married again. But she made me want to be in a relationship again. She showed me all the things I was missing from my first relationship. She made me say, 'Wow this is how it should've been.'"

Overcoming Fears in Marriage

Casey: My biggest fear was acceptance with the girls. Harvey has five girls from his first marriage. And at the time we got married, the youngest was in middle school and they're very close to their mom. And I didn't want it to be that whole 'you're taking my Dad away thing.' Some of it I think I projected myself as opposed to it really and truly happening. But once the oldest daughter lived with us for a little bit, it gave her the opportunity to really know me and not the person she sees on the weekend. I just had this huge fear and it's something that I think I put on myself. Because now I have a great relationship with the girls! And I have a much better relationship with his ex than before.

Harvey: That was one of my biggest concerns as well because as much as we were a blended family, we weren't a blended family all under the same roof. So being able to manage that and moving away from them but still keeping them involved, that was the hardest part. You have to constantly travel, constantly communicate to make sure things are working.

Love Lessons

Casey: One of the major lessons [I learned in love] is that it's unconditional. Real love will love you through your flaws. I didn't recognize my flaws as much until they were staring me in my face and someone is loving me anyway. Harvey will always say, "We're on the same team, we're wearing the same jersey." I understood that we're the only ones that can control whether or not we spend the rest of our lives together. And we both have an active desire to make sure we're always together.

Harvey: For me it's that if someone loves you, they're going to allow you to be who you are. They're not going to ask you to be different or for you to change and they're going to love you the way you are.

Courtesy of Casey and Harvey

"I didn't recognize my flaws as much until they were staring me in my face and someone is loving me anyway."

Best Advice

Casey: There was a couple that Harvey grew up with and before we got married, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The wife told me to always remember the look on your face when you say "I do". That there are going to be times where we're going to be upset at each other and when things are harder than they should be. But if I remember the look on his face when he said "I do", then I'll always remember--no matter what is happening in that moment, that he loves me unconditionally.

Harvey: The best advice that I got was addressing problems from the start and to not let things fester. I was told by someone to never go to sleep mad, angry, or upset. You need to make sure before you close your eyes that night, that you resolve whatever issue that were there that day. So that when you wake up in the morning, you both are waking up fresh and ready to go.

Courtesy of Casey and Harvey

"If I remember the look on his face when he said 'I do', then I'll always remember--no matter what is happening in that moment, that he loves me unconditionally."

Favorite Part

Casey: I know that this is someone who 100% has my best interest in mind. There's nothing self-fulfilling about what he suggests or wants to do. I know other business people and mentors and they have the best business interests in mind, but Harvey has MY best. I don't know that anyone else cares about that. And to be able to travel for business with my husband, it's strengthened our relationship so much. Its being able to bring our relationship to another level that I didn't even know we had. I knew my husband prayed for me but now he prays WITH me.

Harvey: I think the best part is that my highlights are OUR highlights. When we win, we win together. So it's like we're there in the moment as it's happening and we're able to share that because we're both a part of that.

"The best part is that my highlights are OUR highlights. When we win, we win together."

Featured image courtesy of Casey and Harvey

Want more Our First Year love stories? Check them out here.

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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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