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LeVar & Reanne Harris On How Travel Keeps The Love Alive In Their First Year

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.

A couple that travels together, stays together.


The sentiment couldn't ring truer for newlyweds LeVar Harris and Reanne Swafford-Harris. The couple are fresh off of commemorating their second-year wedding anniversary with a trip to Santorini, Greece. Among bleach white houses and bright blue roofs synonomous with Santorini, the two indulged in a private tour and access to some remote areas of the island and the village of Oia.

Photo Credit: @miltoskaraiskakis_photography

“It was a beautiful experience and we couldn't be happier with the photos we have to commemorate our time there," Reanne said. “In fact, Santorini is the first island we unanimously decided we would come back to with our future babies."

When LeVar, 28, met Reanne, 27, it was nearly a decade ago and deeply fated. The setting was a holiday social LeVar's fraternity was hosting for their annual Miss Black & Gold scholarship pageant. On that particular night, Reanne was a woman on a mission, having laid eyes on LeVar before then and letting his best friend know that of all the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha, she wished to be paired up with him. Little did they know, in that moment, they were walking into the rest of their lives together.

From afar, LeVar had known Reanne as the cute track girl, but as they grew closer, he quickly became captivated by her drive, her focus, and her discipline. For Reanne, she always felt secure in his presence. The couple quickly found love through each other, a shared love of Christ, and adventure. And after five beautiful years together, the two exchanged vows and solidified their union on September 5, 2015.

Photo Credit: @miltoskaraiskakis_photography

This is their journey.

The One

LeVar Harris: I knew she was the one when I saw how she treated her friends and family, and how they interacted with her. Goals and ambitions are cool, but how your loved ones view you will eventually pour into your future family. After I saw how she cooked for, housed, and took care of her friends and track teammates in college, I knew she was the total package. I knew that my next girlfriend was going to be my future wife - which is why I was so selective - so marriage was definitely imminent.

I love my wife's tenacity, drive, and ambition.

I've always admired how Reanne is someone who is very goal-oriented and how she stops at nothing to make sure she achieves those goals. In the same breath, she pushes those around her to do better. You can't help but want to run right next to her. That's also what makes our relationship so much fun.

Not only will she ride shotgun with me, but also, she isn't afraid to drive right next to me. She's a true teammate and partner.

Reanne Swafford-Harris: I knew he was the one when I realized how closely his relationship with Christ mirrored my own. He was the first boyfriend I had to ever make me question if I was doing enough to seek out God. Was I in my word daily? Was I holding myself accountable for unforgiveness in my heart? Did people look at me and see Christ the same way I saw the Lord's favor over LeVar's life? I instantly realized he challenged me in the only way that mattered, and what truly sealed the deal for me was when he broached the topic of celibacy before I did. That gave me the upmost security in knowing I had been matched with someone equally yoked, someone who desired to live for God in word and deed for their own righteousness, and not in order to impress or win me over.

I instantly realized he challenged me in the only way that mattered.

I love his wisdom, how he seeks God first, and how even-tempered he is. LeVar is my peace. I can definitely be a storm (laughs), but when I enter our home, it's always a peaceful environment awaiting me and that's because my husband is consistent about thinking of ways to make life easy for me, and that's really something we try to do for each other.

The Best Part

LeVar: I think the concept of experiencing new things together is something we've shared from our first international trip together for my wife's 23rd birthday. I just remember how fun it was to embark on this new side of the world we had never seen before. The trip really opened our eyes to not only how amazing all-inclusive resorts are (laughs), but more importantly, it showed how far we can go with each other.

Reanne: My husband and I value uninterrupted time together in general, and traveling is an activity that really lends itself to that, be it a road trip to Vegas for my 21st, or our recent getaway to Greece to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. But I would say I am the more adventurous one, and I am definitely the creator of our travel itineraries. Luckily, my husband is really a go with the flow kind of guy, and always appreciates the effort I put into researching new countries and planning activities for us upon arrival. I see my time spent planning as an act of service to him, and because he enjoys indulging me, I typically don't get too much push back budget-wise (laughs).

Love Conquers All

Photo Credit: @miltoskaraiskakis_photography

LeVar: When Reanne graduated from law school, she got an offer from a law firm in San Francisco. We had been dating for a while, but I knew I wasn't interested in a long-distance relationship. I was very comfortable in Southern California with my own house and stable job, but knew if Reanne was going to be my future spouse, some sort of official commitment had to be made. I took it up with God, and prayed hard for a good two months, and then He gave me the confirmation I needed.

Reanne: Like my husband said, when I accepted a job offer in a city seven hours away, I knew this would either break us or make us. My husband had truly offered all the support I could have asked for in helping me make this decision. At the time, I, of course, wanted him to come with me, but I didn't feel I had the right to ask him to give up his home, career, and proximity to his family as his girlfriend. Although women are expected to uproot themselves in any stage of their relationship for a man, that same expectation is oftentimes unmet. I am still so grateful that I met and married a man who treats me as his equal.

Baggage Claim

LeVar: I personally didn't have any major baggage, maybe just a little carry on (laughs), but Reanne had some stemming from her past relationships we had to overcome. I personally never took it to heart because I understood the cause and she acknowledged it, but instead of complaining about it and making her feel bad, I just made the decision to stick my chest out and push through it. I literally made it a goal of mine to be the guy she didn't think existed. It worked.

I literally made it a goal of mine to be the guy she didn't think existed.

In terms of bad behaviors, I definitely had to unlearn being single and everything that came with it because I was single for so long prior. The going out without telling anyone, and being flirty unintentionally was something I didn't even realize I did until Reanne brought it to my attention.

Reanne: I had a lot of control issues, and I never realized how selfish I was until I was challenged with putting someone first. Prior to meeting my husband, I was a serial dater in the sense that as soon as I got out of one long-term relationship, I was quick to jump into another without every analyzing myself or the type of men I was allowing to date me. Although I never had a prolonged season of “singleness," I was still a newly 20-year-old with no concept of what a healthy relationship looked like, so for me checking your significant other's text messages before bed was as routine as me removing my makeup and brushing my teeth …so yeah, I had a lot to unlearn with respect to boundaries and trust.

The fortunate thing about meeting so young was that we had a little over 4 ½ years of dating to navigate these behaviors, and we attended premarital counseling through our church prior to getting married, so we did not bring any baggage into our marriage. A lot of me unlearning bad behavior simply came with aging and the maturity that followed, and of course my husband being consistent with how he demonstrated his love for me, even at such a young age, was pivotal.

Conflict Resolutions

LeVar: As with any relationship, there will be friction, but we always addressed it head on by communicating with one another. We always took the time to understand what each of our intentions was, and then figured out a happy medium.

Reanne: Overall, our first year was surprisingly smooth, and we definitely saw more highs than lows. But 2016 did present some difficult emotional challenges with a family death and my husband's career transition. I am not an outwardly emotional person when it comes to expressing sadness, so it was a challenge for me to comfort him in a way that communicated my empathy when my inner being wanted to shut down into a reclusive state. I am very fortunate though that my husband has always been adamant about us extending the benefit of the doubt to one another.

For more, keep up with the Harrises on Instagram @ladyharris_esq and @lv14degrees.

Know of any couples that epitomize black love goals to you? Whether married or unmarried, send us a note at submissions@xonecole.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming Our First Year or How We Met feature.

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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