The Creators of OWN's 'Black Love' Series Have A Magical Love Story Of Their Own

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.

The real life love story of Tommy and Codie Oliver is just as precious as the ones seen on their OWN series Black Love.

When it comes to love, we've all heard the saying "When you know, you just know" and while some may have their doubts about the validity of that saying, the Olivers' journey to love and marriage proves it to be 100 percent accurate.

The two producers met on September 9, 2013 at The Toronto Film Festival. By March 15, 2014, they were engaged and on February 9, 2015, they were married. All under a span of a year and half, these two strangers met, fell in love, and made their commitment to forever. "It was pretty clear early on that there was no doing better than her, so there was no reason to keep looking," Tommy recalled the beginning stages of life with his now-wife.

As their love grew, their family did too, and a year later, they welcomed their first child in 2016.

The Olivers Plus OnePhoto: Robert Christopher Riley

What some may not know about the co-creators and the husband and wife team is that Black Love was actually conceptualized amid the beginning stages of their own black love story four years ago. Within the first six months of dating, Codie shared an idea she had about creating a project focused on black love and showing that it wasn't only possible, but thriving genuine black love out there. "Back in 2007, there was this media portrayal of the black marriage crisis, and me being a single woman at the time, it was particularly damaging to me to hear that black people weren't staying married as long as other ethnicities, and weren't getting married as often," she said. "So, it just made me feel like I wanted to show something else, regardless of the what the data and statistics were. I decided at that time I wanted to create a place where black love stories lived, so we never again had to question whether it were possible."

The two began working on the idea in 2014 and fully completed the project by 2016. Once complete, they teamed up with Oprah and the OWN Network and the rest is history, with the Black Love docuseries making its debut in 2017 on OWN.

When asked what they wanted people to learn from watching the show, the answer was simple: "It's really just about pulling back the curtain on marriage and what it takes to make a marriage last. We wanted to be able to share transparent, honest, highs and lows and how to get through them, specifically how to get through them," Codie shared. "You see the fights on reality TV, you see the highs on social media, trips around the world, you know all the amazing moments, but you don't really see what it takes to get through the lows and to get to those highs. We wanted to capture as much as that as possible so that people can learn from it, apply it to their own lives and normalize some of the hard times that happen in a marriage."

"It's about pulling back the curtain on marriage and what it takes to make a marriage last."

Tommy and Codie represent black love in all its many facets. The highs, the lows but most importantly, the authenticity of black love.

Here's their story:

The One

Photo: Katie Stinnett

Codie: When we met in Toronto, we stayed up until 3 am talking and then 5 am the next night and the following week, we went out Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tommy called five friends and said, "Unless something goes terribly wrong, I'm marrying this woman." I always approached dating very seriously and when I met Tommy, between the talking all night plus knowing his background (filmmaker with a business degree), I knew this was the type of person I could marry. We also discussed very quickly that having a family was a priority. We were engaged six months after we met, so I'd definitely say we approached our courtship as if marriage was next up.

"Tommy called five friends and said, 'Unless something goes terribly wrong, I'm marrying this woman.'"

Deepest Fears

Photo: Elton Anderson

Tommy: No big fears but the one thing that comes to mind is the old adage of: women go into a marriage expecting men to change and men go into a marriage hoping women don't change. I was afraid there was truth in that. I had to accept that both people changing is inevitable and part of marriage.

Codie: My fear was just the unknown. But three years in (and plenty of arguments) and 100 couples interviewed, I feel so secure in us being able to tackle anything, however difficult or challenging.

Building Together

Photo: Elton Anderson

Tommy: [An early challenge would be] the seeming lack of discretion in picking battles.

Codie: THIS is an ongoing thing. What is an issue to me may not be an issue to him and vice versa and each of us needs to respect that something we may not understand is bothering our partner. We never had issues living together (until like two years in when he says I leave stuff out in the kitchen) and finances aren't stressful though we have different views on savings. It's really just those times when we don't see eye to eye on personal stressors.

Mentors In Love

Tommy: We are pretty fortunate to have created a series featuring married couples who all have one thing in common - they are committed to making it work. So what that has created for us is a village of marriage mentors and people who will not allow us to neglect our marriage. It's pretty great!

Common Goals

Photo: Chika Chukudebelu

Codie: Our common goal is the success of our family. When we met, we both knew we wanted to be married and have children and be active in their lives. So, we're able to prioritize whatever will keep our relationship strong because we know it's what is best for our family.

"When we met, we both knew we wanted to be married and have children and be active in their lives."

Lessons In Love

Tommy and Codie: If you don't have the ability to send and receive honest, well thought out information, you're in trouble. You need to be willing to actually listen and refrain from being defensive. We didn't necessarily grasp this right away, but it stuck with us, and we are getting better at it!

For more on Tommy and Codie follow them at: @Codieco and @Producertommy, or on their joint account @Blacklovedoc. And catch season 2 of Black Love airing on Saturdays at 10pm, only on OWN.

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.


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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