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These 4 White Women Discuss Racism. And You're Going To Want To Read What They Have To Say.

Because as the great queen muva, Rihanna, says: "This is their problem too...so pull up."

Human Interest


Like so many of us, I've experienced my fair share of racism as a black woman in America. Growing up in the south, it was a normal day to pass hundreds of Confederate flags and a number of white supremacist's statues on my way to school (blatant racism). And in Chicago, it's completely normal to drive past a corrupt police department on an ignored and under-resourced south side, and pull up to a multi-billion dollar invested, highly-protected and resourced downtown/northside, on the way to work (systemic racism).

My first actual experience with racism, a white lady called my sister a “nigger" at a swimming pool for accidentally splashing her son. We told our mother what happened, and her natural mother bear mode instantly activated, as she jumped up to confront the lady. Instead, her husband jumped in my mother's face and said these words that still sting to this day: “Get the fck out of here or we're going to be hanging some heads tonight." I was 6.

My mother did something I have never seen her do before, she backed down. I remember being confused. My mother never backs down.

Far too many of us have the same experiences, but outside of anger, we're never sure where to start to end it. We've made some progress, but how can we continue making waves within the uprising that is happening today?

One way: talk about it. Mostly importantly, talk about it with white people (and by that I mean actually have the conversation and not some Facebook debate).

So, we took the time to ask a group of white women (from varying ages and backgrounds) their thoughts on the current state of the country. We also asked them to discuss the racism that they've witnessed in the past, and what they plan to do to help fix it. Each woman respectfully and honestly shared their very real experiences with us, which may be triggering to some. But again, it's real. So, let's have this very real conversation together.

Because as the great queen muva, Rihanna, says: "This is their problem too...so pull up."

(some responses may be cut or edited for clarity, but never to change their narrative).

De'Shae | 34 | Little Rock, AR

Photo Courtesy of De'Shae Bumgardner

The first time that I can remember even realizing that race existed was when I was about four years old. One of my parents told me that they would disown me if I were to ever date a "n***er". I was extremely confused because, sadly, that was also the name of my pet cat. I thought, Why in the world would they think I would want to date a cat?!

When they told me that the word stood for black people, I was even more confused...

My Thoughts On The Current State Of The Country

I have a lot of mixed emotions about the current state of the country. On one hand, I feel extremely proud of the people who are standing up against racial injustice, but on the other, I hate that in 2020, racial injustice is still happening. And it doesn't help that we have a president whose words and actions fuel white supremacy, which is a direct threat to my son's life and the lives of all people of color. His fuel has also ignited the racism within so many friends and family members, who I've had to cut ties with. Before the Trump presidency, my son had never been the subject of direct racism. Since then, I have gotten several racist death threats from supposed strangers.

I try to be optimistic about the future and I hope it will get better with time, but I also have my doubts and I wonder if I want to wait around to see if it ever happens.

My Inspirations To Denounce Racism

My biggest inspiration is my son. Before having him, I thought I was doing enough by just loving black people and hating the N-word. After having him, something ignited inside of me that has made it one of my life goals to do everything in my power to help make this country a safer and more equal place for him and all black people.

I wish I could be with my son on the battle grounds at all times, but I can only help equip him with the tools to win. Tools I had to gain first; tools I have never, as a white person, been required to use before.

One of these tools is my voice and I use it by speaking out as much as possible.

An Experience Witnessing Black Women's Racial Journeys

I was in second grade when my best friend joined my mom and I to go see a movie. The place was packed, so my friend who is black sat in my mom's lap. Several white people behind us voiced their opinion about how disgusting they thought it was to let a black person sit in her lap. They called her a "n***er". She didn't shed a tear, but I did. I had never witnessed that type of situation. When we got back home and discussed it further, and she basically told me that she had been called that name so much, that she was numb to it.

She was nine years old and already had a racial journey. From there on out, I realized how incredibly brave black people are forced to be.

Supporting Black People In My Daily Life

I support black people by always speaking out. I try to listen and learn from those in my life. I use my white privileges to intervene when my black friends are mistreated. I intentionally shop with black businesses and donate to various causes that help the black community.

I have also tried my best to support my black son. When I realized that his public school was only teaching him a watered-down version of black history for one month a year, I pulled him from school and began homeschooling him. I currently work full-time, and have been homeschooling my son for the past two years. Instead of once a year, he now learns about black history and black excellence almost daily.

What I Wish Black People Knew About Me

I honestly feel extremely understood and accepted by all of the black women that I have encountered. If anything, I would hope they understand that I am on their side, I see them, I hear them, I highly respect them, and I strive to learn more about how I can help them.

Bridging The Gap

I think that both sides having an open and honest dialogue helps tremendously. I learned so much from just comparing how police have treated me versus how my friends of color have been treated in the same situations. I have gone to a gas station before and the clerk told me that my $50 bill was counterfeit (exactly the same as George Floyd). But I was THANKED for my "help." I was not reprimanded in any way.

So, I think the biggest thing that white people can do is listen to learn, instead of listening to respond. Also, learning history that was not white-washed opened my eyes about a lot of things that I had previously misunderstood.

Kim | 33 | Metairie, LA

As a child, I was used to being one of the only white girls around.

I noticed that when I went into the stores with my friends, that I wasn't followed around the same way they were. That's what made me realize that me being white made people around me feel a different way towards me...

My Thoughts On The Current State Of The Country

I'm excited/scared about the current state of this country. I'm excited to see that people have become fed up with the current system of oppression. I wish there was a better way to convey our disgust with the current system, but since the powers that be have yet to listen to peaceful protests, this is where we are.

My Inspirations To Denounce Racism

I want to say that I've always been receptive to my black friends' issues. I certainly know that I get extremely upset when they are upset but I try to refrain and just listen.

An Experience Witnessing Black Women's Racial Journeys

I grew up in South Georgia where I was raised southern baptist. I would go to my black friends' church and would always feel welcome. When I brought my black friends to my mama's church, the energy was not comparable in the least. I KNEW something was off.

Supporting Black People In My Daily Life

I try to closely observe and read up on issues, rather than ask my friends to educate me because why should I ask them take on more emotional labor than they need to?

What I Wish Black People Knew About Me

There's not really much that I expect for black women to understand about me. It's not their job. I get frustrated when white people expect black people to explain to them their fucking humanity because IT'S NOT THEIR JOB! And if white people expect them do it, pay them for the emotional labor.

I guess I'm saying that I want black women to know that they don't owe me anything and I will always be here to listen. I've learned that I'm way better at getting my point across in person, so I try to not explain anything on social media. I tend to be curt and sarcastic when speaking with an "all lives matter" audience, and that doesn't help anyone.

Bridging The Gap

I don't think that black people really need to do much to bridge the gap. This is a responsibility that solely rests on our souls. I mean, historically, it was white people who started this mess, so why is it so hard for them to put in the emotional labor and see things in a different light (as you can see I am big on "emotional labor").

Listen, I know that as a white woman that I have privileges. And I will try my best to exercise those privileges in a way that protects my black friends and amplifies their voices. Always.

Antonia | 57 |  Prince George’s County, Maryland

I think I was four or five years old, I lived in an area where schools were integrated—and back in my day, this was a big deal. I was paired with a black girl to practice reading, and my mother explained to me that I was probably going to be a white N-word (she said the word, obviously). I didn't understand what that meant, but I knew it was bad...

My Inspirations To Denounce Racism

I have a big mouth sometimes, which is great for helping me show my ass on this subject. But ultimately, I'm inspired by the life of Kenyan Nobel [Peace Prize recipient] Laureate Wangari Maathai, who helped bring about political change and environmental restoration by having thousands of small conversations with women. She talked a lot about taking small steps and doing little actions—hers was planting trees.

I try to stay in the background and put black women forward to speak, and I think a lot about how Maathai did her work over 30 years and ended up changing so much for her country.

An Experience Witnessing Black Women's Racial Journeys

A couple years ago, I was working with a group of black teenagers in a summer program, and we were discussing how when doing sustainability outreach, we needed to consider the cultural context of our audience. I made recommendations for best practices but a colleague of mine interrupted to say she didn't feel that black customers being accused of shoplifting was necessarily a “race thing" because similar things happened to her elderly mother.

But one of the young girls in the program was incredible. She talked about how white women could dress up or down and shift how people see us, but that she could never ever take off her skin, so being black was right at the foreground of how people perceived her every time she walked into a business. She was fabulous, but angry. Determined and focused, and she spoke very clearly about how race and the history of violence against black people and communities creates burdens for her that white people can avoid if they want to. It was hard for my skeptical colleague to take in at the moment, but I think it has stayed with her as it has with me and it let me know that even skeptical people are open to letting in the pain of really seeing how racism affects black people.

Supporting Black People In My Daily Life

This is a new realization over the last few weeks: I've always been the kind of person who has casual conversations with, oh, the guys in line at Home Depot or wherever, and when there is huge public grief and anger about yet another death in police custody, yet another racist policy enacted whatever, I mention it. I sympathize with them and wish that we could do better, and I listen to them talking about their sadness and anger. I don't know if it helps, but I've had some conversations that left me feeling like perhaps we could someday become one people, a unified community. Of course, then I go right back out into the world, so it's an ongoing thing.

It's not much, and I'm always worried that I'm doing it for cookies, so I don't usually talk about it elsewhere. But discussion is one of the things I can do with black and white friends, or colleagues, or even with strangers at Home Depot. Hopefully it helps to carry some of the weight and responsibility for all the events that create traumatic stress for black people in America.

What I Wish Black People Knew About Me

I think black women have no obligation to try to understand me whatsoever, because the weight of history is just crushing. I would hope that my black friends understand that that that weight is on me to fix, especially with the ways in which my mother taught me about race, and to see, in a non-cookie-giving way, how hard I have worked to bear those lessons without passing them on to my children or reenacting them in my daily life. I also think that the legacy of slavery and racist violence has left scars on white Americans, and that most white people don't see how that legacy festers and holds them back. I guess I wish black women could understand that, but frankly it's irrational and cruel to expect black women dealing with our current climate of racism to any work into understanding me, or white people generally, so that'll have to wait.

Bridging The Gap

Keep talking. Keep doing the little actions that make your community a bit better, and that improves the lives of children and families. Keep recognizing that white women are often not aware of how race plays into their actions, and finding time for small conversations (including angry ones) that help us get that. And all women need to take care of themselves. The womanist writer, bell hooks, has a great book – Sisters of the Yam – that is all about self-care and has been really helpful for me. We need to take care of ourselves first to be healthy enough to fight on.

Jessica | 27 | Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of @lynx.imagery

Hindsight is 20/20 when you're looking back on 20 years and your mindset has changed so many times. I remember going to a black classmate's house for a group project around third grade. For whatever reason, it confused me that her family lived in a townhome. It was very odd to me as a child, since every other friend's house I'd been to was an independently-standing house. I don't know if I understood race or saw her race and correlated the difference in homes to her skin color, but somehow I connected those dots. I say this from a tiny Chicago apartment now, too.

But this was one of my first realizations that people can be different...

My Thoughts On The Current State Of The Country

Our country in in shambles right now. Never in our history have we been in the midst of a pandemic when a revolution has started and I know a ton of people are confused about what's going on. Hell, our government doesn't even know what's happening. The Mayor of Chicago has been handling everything fairly professionally though and I feel like she's doing a good job at balancing our quarantine phases with the protests and looting that have been happening this past week.

My Inspirations To Denounce Racism

I'm usually a quiet observer, as my friends can clearly testify. I usually prefer to listen instead of debate with someone. But I was also a part of the Occupy movement back in 2011/2012 and it gave me a voice and reminded me that there is power in numbers, and the numbers are angry this time around. The majority of my activism this time, has been from home, however. I'm so proud of the peaceful protests my city has organized, but there's so much work that can be done on our computers and phones. Petitions need to be signed, emails need to be sent to our representatives, and time and money need to be donated to those on the front line of this movement.

An Experience Witnessing Black Women's Racial Journeys

My best friend is black, and she grew up in Topeka, KS, home of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Topeka is a predominantly white city, with only about 10% of the population being black. I know things are much different in Kansas from the suburbs of Chicago where I was raised and every time she tells me about something drastic that happened while she was growing up, it shocks me because I was so sheltered in my hometown.

I currently live in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood and she lives about 10 minutes south in an Asian/Lithuanian neighborhood. This week in Chicago we've had looters coming in from out of town, so the gangs in my neighborhood were actually protecting the businesses and homes to prevent damage. Of course the neighbors quickly became a protective barrier against the gangs to the black people who live in the community when I found out that the gangs were attacking people of color for just trying to return to their homes. These are our neighbors and they were being attacked for their skin color by another minority. When I mentioned this to my best friend, she casually said, "Mexicans hate blacks and they tried to burn down my house when I was little."

Clearly, I was shocked at her casually bringing this up and it made me realize that this country isn't just segregated by hatred between white and black, but the hatred can sometimes come from other minorities too.

Supporting Black People In My Daily Life

I don't think I've ever treated any black person in my life differently (except for my best friend whom I smother with love and guinea pig pictures) and I think treating everyone with the same amount of respect and compassion and sense of human decency is a great way to support black people in our lives. When people around us see these open displays of companionship and camaraderie (especially working in the restaurant industry where we are literally united as a family), I hope it makes them feel less threatened by the differences between and around us.

What I Wish Black People Knew About Me

I feel like I'm not even in a position to preach about myself right now, so I'll keep this short: I grew up (unknowingly back then) surrounded by white privilege and attending mostly white schools. But now, black women, I empathize with you and your stories. Please tell them to me. I want to hear them. I am still a woman and I know we've all been treated differently just because of that. But I'm on your side and I stand with you.

Bridging The Gap

I recently read an article by Cynthia Schmidt, a UCF columnist, about bridging the gap. She says "it's virtually inconceivable for white folks to have police called on them for merely existing, and because white people are able to surround themselves in white bubbles, it's like we white people are reading the book of racial history and racial current events, while our black countrymen are watching the film, or harder yet, starring in the film."

So in order for white people to put the "book" down and participate in the history that's acting out in front of us, we need to do research. Our school system has done nothing for our education on Black America.

There are so many books and films and articles to read and watch, and once we have a better grasp on what happened outside of our history textbooks, we can further integrate ourselves into predominantly black communities, but as guests. We can visit their churches and support their restaurants and other businesses. I also agree with Cynthia when she says, "Black folks do not bear the burden of creating the bridge. They cannot, as it is already hard enough to be black in America without having to educate white folks along the way. Merely existing as a black person here is enough work."

Featured image by Shutterstock

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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As a Black woman slaying in business, you're more than likely focused on the bottom line: Serving your customers and making sure the bag doesn't stop coming in. Well, there's obviously more to running a business than just making boss moves, but as the CEO or founder, you might not have the time, energy, or resources to fill in the blanks.

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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.

It was a cold winter night in Chicago, more than a year ago. Your girl was scrolling through the fifty-eleven million options on Netflix to find something interesting to watch. I spotted this new show, The Circle, and have not looked away since. Produced by Studio Lambert and Motion Content Group, it premiered in January 2020 and has become my new favorite type of game show. Hosted by Michelle Buteau, The Circle is about contestants who are isolated in their own apartments and can only communicate with others via an online social media platform.

On season 2 of The Circle, the world fell in love with DeLeesa, the contestant who would eventually be crowned winner of the cash prize. She won the game by playing as a single dad named Trevor, who is actually her husband. As a true fan of the series, I figured it was only right to sit down with DeLeesa and Trevor to get the deets on how marriage has been for them IRL. So, let me take y'all back into time real quick, to the beginning of their love story.

It was 2007, and DeLeesa was starting her first day of school as a college freshman. She was getting adjusted to her new dorm and was introduced to her new resident assistant, *drum roll please* Trevor St. Agathe. They quickly became friends and Trevor helped DeLeesa find different activities around campus. After a year, they decided to take things to the next level.

Now, 14 years and two beautiful children later, the married couple have been focusing on doing whatever it takes to create the best life for their children. Since college, the power of commitment and open communication is what has kept DeLeesa and Trevor by each other's side.

One thing that we can all learn from The Circle and social media in general is that everything is not what it seems. When I connected with the couple, DeLeesa wanted to get the story straight about her and Trevor's love story. "I feel like people look at couples on social media and they think that things are perfect when that's not true. We went through stuff, too. We just figured out how to overcome it and move together as a unit."

In this installment of xoNecole's Our First Year, Deleesa and Trevor share how marriage is about work, navigating through the ups and downs, and prioritizing family. Here's their story:

How We Met

DeLeesa: I got to school early because I was starting [college] a semester late. I met him, we became friends, and I developed a little crush on him. One day, we were hanging out in his room and he just didn't want me to leave (laughs). So we were messing around for about a year. Exactly one year later, I told Trevor that I am not going to keep doing this unless he becomes my man. If he didn't make me his girl, then we were done. (Laughs)

Trevor: I tried to ride it out as long as I could (laughs). At the time, I was thinking, since I'm still in college, I shouldn't be tied down. But I knew that if I didn't make it official, she was going to leave. So, she was right, and we took it to the next level.

First Impressions

Trevor: I thought she was absolutely beautiful. She was pretty and the new girl on campus. So I knew she was going to get lots of attention. But I didn't want to be on that with her, so I continued to just be a stand-up guy. At first, it was the normal student-and-RA relationship. She would ask me what activities she could do on campus and I gave her a few suggestions. For a few days, we continued to hang out and I started to realize the chemistry we had between us.

DeLeesa: When I first met Trevor, I wasn't even thinking about going that [relationship] route with him. I was new to the school and I just wanted to be his friend. But because we shared bathrooms in the dorm, this man would just walk around in his towel sometimes. I couldn't help but notice him more after that. I just thought 'He is fine!' (Laughs) He was so nice and he never pressured me into anything, but, he knew what he was doing.

Favorite Things

DeLeesa: I love that he has unconditional love for me. I feel like that no matter what I do or no matter how mad he gets, he is still always going to be by my side for anything that I need. We have been together for a long time. Even though we had breaks in between, he has always been there for me.

Trevor: It's not just one thing for me, but I can sum it up: DeLeesa is everything that I wish I was. She is very much not afraid of what other people think and she is very determined to go after what she wants. She has that go-getter mentality and it is so attractive to me.

"DeLeesa is everything that I wish I was. She is very much not afraid of what other people think and she is very determined to go after what she wants. She has that go-getter mentality and it is so attractive to me."

Wedding Day

Trevor: On our wedding day, I was crying like a baby when I finally saw her. That is my fondest memory of that day: seeing my wife-to-be from a distance and instant water works. (Laughs)

DeLeesa: I really enjoyed our first dance. Our wedding was pretty big, and I planned the whole thing. I was very hands-on and it was hard for me to just have a moment and be present. But when we had our first dance, that was our time to just be with each other and not worry about anything else. It really hit me that we were married at that point.

The One

DeLeesa: Well, the thing with Trevor and I is that we broke up a lot. We reached nine years of being on and off. By that time, we said to each other that this would be the last time we were going to break up. We were going to try our best to do everything that we could to stay together. And if we didn't work out, we were going to go our separate ways. For me, I really wanted us to work because I did see him as my future husband and my children's father. So it was the conversation we had to not break up that was my "you are the one for me" moment.

Trevor: It was something that I always knew. Young Trevor would say, "If I had to get married, this is who I want to marry." When I knew it was time to take things more seriously with her, it was after we had that conversation. Another confirmation that DeLeesa was the one was when we had to move to Canada from New York. I thought to myself that this woman must really love me to pack up and move to another country for me. This woman trusts me so much and she is my forever.

"The thing with Trevor and I is that we broke up a lot. We reached 9 years of being on and off. By that time, we said to each other that this would be the last time we were going to break up. We were going to try our best to do everything that we could to stay together."

Biggest Fears

Trevor: The questions that popped into my head were, "Can I do it?"; "Can I be a good husband to her?"; or "Was I truly husband material?" You can't take a test for that or study to get those answers. You have to just do it, apply your morals and values, and do the best you can. What has helped me with this is continuing to reaffirm how we feel about one another—affirmations that let me know that she is happy and I am doing a good job. Marriage isn't that much different from what we have already been doing this entire time. We just wear rings.

DeLeesa: My biggest fear [is related to the fact that] I am a very independent person, [so] if I do not like something, I can be out, quick! So with me, I questioned if I could stay put and fight through the bad times within a marriage. I would question if it is worth sticking it out since this is a lifelong commitment. What has helped me get through that is reminding myself that I can still be independent within my own marriage. I can still do things on my own and still share my life with someone I really care about.

Early Challenges

DeLeesa: I feel like I have been really good at keeping my relationship with my friends balanced with my partnership with Trevor. So when we first got married, my personal challenge was me trying to juggle between being a good wife and still making time for my girls. I really didn't want to lose sight of who I was in the process of marriage.

Trevor: My work at the time forced me to travel a lot. So when you are in that honeymoon phase, it's important to have quality time together. It was hard with my job to enjoy life together as a married couple in the beginning. Yes, we have been together for a long time. But this was different. Not being around my wife as much as I wanted to was really hard for me and the both of us. Our communication started slacking and we definitely struggled during that time.

Love Lessons

Trevor: There's two lessons that I have. One lesson is that I am a husband first. I have spent a lot of time not being a husband so it can be easy for me or anyone to continue to behave that way. But my wife always has to come first, no matter what is going on in life. When you're married, you have to reinforce that. My second lesson that has helped in our marriage is making sure I do things in order to make her life easier. It can be the simplest thing, but for me, it is a huge priority.

DeLeesa: My biggest lesson is being able to learn from each other. For example, if he is doing simple things to make life easier for me, I am learning from him how to show up for him to make him happy. It can be easy to just receive everything he is putting forth, but it has to be give and take for us.

"I am a husband first. I have spent a lot of time not being a husband so it can be easy for me or anyone to continue to behave that way. But my wife always has to come first, no matter what is going on in life. When you're married, you have to reinforce that."

Common Goal

Trevor: To do everything in our power to ensure that our girls have the best possible life. Everything that we do at this point is for them. Before children, I may have moved slower working toward certain things, but there is definitely an added fire on how we approach things because of them.

DeLeesa: I agree. The number one goal is to be the best parents we can be. We want to set up generational wealth and we want them to be culturally aware. We want them to grow up and be proud of everything we have done for them.

Best Advice

DeLeesa: My advice would be don't go looking for advice, honestly. A lot of people are going to have an opinion about your life and sometimes that may not be the best for you. People can have different intentions and may give you the wrong advice. So I feel that if you need to vent, then yes, have someone to confide in. But don't take their word as facts. Try to figure out your marriage for yourself. Stick to your intuition and what you want to do, no matter if you are being judged for it.

Trevor: The things that matter are to be patient, listen close, choose to be happy, and love hard. I also think when people come to terms with the fact that marriage is work, then it is more possible for people. There are honestly more things to be happy about with the person that you marry. You have to keep all the things that you love about that person at the forefront to get you through. Once you do that, you will be fine.

Follow Deleesa and Trevor on Instagram @leesaunique and @trev_saint and their family page @itsthesaints.

Featured image via Instagram/Leesaunique

Since 2000, Black buying power has increased a whopping 114 percent. According to Business of Fashion, we brandish $1.3 trillion in annual spending power. It's also no secret that Black women move culture like no other, making us one of the largest assets to the U.S. economy. However, for some odd but obvious reason, society tends to question Black women when they level up and revel in luxury.

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