#xoProposals: Ashley and Chea Prove Love Has No Color With This Beautiful Engagement

Ashley and Chea didn’t have marriage in mind when they began dating six years ago, but for the couple, being happy and committed to one

Love & Relationships

There's something special about a man that's willing to share his birthday with you.

When your boyfriend decides to propose on his day, you know he's the one.

Ashley and Chea didn't have marriage in mind when they began dating six years ago, but for the couple, being happy and committed to one another was their end goal. Ashley tells xoNecole her story of planning a birthday/going away party with her girlfriends for Chea, as the two planned to move across the country from Columbus, Ohio to Orange County, California.

In the midst of giving details to her loved ones, Ashley had no clue what was going on behind the scenes as Chea was planning to pop the big question on his own birthday. The couple let us in on one special someone who knew about the engagement all along–their six-year-old daughter, Amirah Lee, who was able to build a daddy-daughter bond over the big secret. Ashley also opens up about who she had envisioned marrying, but why she's more than content with who she's planning on spending the rest of her life with.

“I was set on marrying a black man that burned incense and listened to Lauryn Hill and Dwele in the late hours of the night like myself. Instead, Chea came into my life with every topical difference possible. Our souls have always been aligned and that is what spoke to our hearts when we met."

Grab a tissue, delve into Ashley and Chea's engagement story, and see just why she said yes.

Coming from two totally different lifestyles growing up, what did you see in Ashley six years ago?

Chea: I saw a number of strengths in our differences. She is unmatched in her willingness to love and give. Her love and loyalty is so strong and honest. She gives all of herself to me and the people she loves. Seeing how she treats others is such a telling story of a person's nature. There is nobody more honest with their feelings than her.

This is an ability I learned in my youth. My parents are different; different ethnicity, nationality, personality, and age. My parents divorced when I was three-years-old, so there were two different parenting styles and lifestyles I was exposed to during my childhood. I picked the qualities that I agreed with from each parent like a la carte at the cafeteria. This is the culture that the younger generations exhibit–Generation A La Carte. Take what you want and make the best out of it.

In your story you said you had envisioned being with someone who was the opposite of who Chea is. When did you throw all of that out of the window and fall in love with him?

Ashley: Luckily for me, Chea and I were friends for about four years before we ever dated. I was able to get to know him on an honest and authentic level. I didn't even realize he liked me until one of my friends told me. He is one of those people who is nice to everyone so I never second guessed his gestures or advances. My mom is actually the person who told me to date him. She told me to, “forget about what I thought I wanted and to allow what God wanted for me to come into my life."

On a day where people came to celebrate you, you flipped the script and now share an engagement date on your birthday. Why did you decide to do it then?

Chea: In hindsight, there are so many reasons why it makes perfect sense. For starters, I'll never forget our engagement date and anniversary! But more importantly, the date was a great setting to share our news with everyone important to our family. People attended to celebrate my birthday and our going away party as we were moving the next week from Ohio to SoCal and after about six years, it was due time for me to ask Ashley to marry me. Basically everyone that needed to be there was in attendance, and I was able to surprise everybody with the engagement, and most importantly, Ashley with her ring.

You were definitely surprised at the proposal. How were you feeling when he asked you to marry him?

Ashley: Well initially, I hid behind my six-year-old daughter because I was overwhelmed [laughs]. I honestly wasn't expecting him to ask me to marry him, especially because we were about to move across country for his new job. However, when I finally looked up and looked him in the eyes, I just felt loved. A very honest feeling of being honored by the man I dedicated myself to years ago.

How many people were in on the secret, and what did you say to your daughter to keep her quiet for so long?

Chea: Jerreau is one of our close friends that I brought in on the arrangements to make sure I addressed all of the fine details. Aside from the usual suspects being our parents, Amirah our daughter was the only other person that knew about the engagement ring. She was the first person to see the ring when I purchased it about two months before the engagement party. It was a risk telling her, but she is smart and mature enough that I saw it as a challenge for her. We talked about the importance of everything and it being a surprise. She loves being challenged and luckily she kept the secret well.

Give us a peek into your wedding day. What's it looking like? Are you going big or small?

Ashley: A peek into our wedding day would be a peek into our personalities and love. There will be 150 guests, bigger than I initially wanted but smaller than the 350-guest list it could have been. The best way to describe it would be an urban, industrial, vegan, earth friendly day. The reception and ceremony are both being held at Strongwater Food and Spirits in Columbus, Ohio our hometown. It has cement floors, exposed bricks and beams, bistro lighting and large windows. I'm doing a simplistic decoration of succulents and vintage books. A dessert table with all of Chea's favorite candy and Rum Mule as our signature drink. It will be laid back with lots of love, variations of tacos and really good music. I know our guest will leave feeling like they just left a party at our home–a very intimate wedding experience.

What do want your daughter to know about love?

Chea: Love is a byproduct of the positives you give in life to people, nature, the universe, etc. Love is the positives of living. So don't focus on finding love, focus on living your life with love. The rest will come.

Ashley: I want my daughter to always know that love is healing. Love is something that inspires you to be better and do better. An energy that holds you accountable and responsible for yourself and others. It can be challenging but never demeaning or destructive to your spirit or body. I want my daughter to know that as long she loves herself and from that comes respect, she will receive what she projects.

[Tweet "Don't focus on finding love, focus on living your life with love. The rest will come."]

Check out Ashley's big moment on Chea's big day below.

Do you have a tear jerking proposal story that you would like to share? Contact us at editor@xonecole.com, Subject 'Proposal Story.' Include photos and video (if possible)!

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
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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