Anji and Dera built a strong friendship before anything more; Anji wasn’t out at the time and was still dating men. However, their love would eventually become undeniable. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Without postive role models in their lives they’ve needed to navigate what a healthy relationship looks like together. They celebrated their love with a quarantine Facetime photoshoot.
How did you meet?
A: We met in college 8 years ago at an NAACP Meeting – that was the how & where. We had no LGBTQ+ organizations then, and everything was completely different.
I was dating men, and I wasn’t out.
The initial spark with Dera was an immediate friendship. How we navigated out of that will be the basis of a script we are writing, focusing on black queer love.
Tell us your favorite memory together.
A: There’s really too many to claim one as a favorite.
One that radiates the brightest in my mind was last summer. Dera & I took time off to be camp counselors at Hole In The Wall Gang Camp during their Sickle Cell week. One particular day, our unit was finally able to have a pool day before lunch. I remember being surrounded with free black children, watching them play and laugh, pretending to be mermaids. Dera was right there with me having her own full circle moment since once being a camper herself. I took a few seconds to float and imprint that moment in my memory. It was such an amazing feeling that always gives me goosebumps.
D: Definitely the surprise engagement I planned in Italy. For Anji, it was just our first international trip together.
We stepped off the train and started “exploring,” but in actuality, I was trying to find Kinga, our engagement photographer. We were working with just a Google Earth picture for the meet-up location and my Nigerian-Italian cousin as our guide/translator.
The specific meet-up time was sunset (not even exact) and time was flying as we were actually getting lost. Anji, on the other hand, was trying to find a place to eat a sandwich we packed. She thought we should have a picnic – the audacity!
Finally, we find the location just in time. I tried having a meaningless conversation with Anji to kill time while my cousin found our photographer. I get the go-ahead from Kinga just as Anji was going in on her sandwich.
The photos are my favorite as well – you see the tears, the backdrop, and the sandwich.
But, your love hasn’t come without learnings. What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome together?
A: Starting in reverse. Our beginning as friends was the honeymoon stage, soon after, feelings started to develop, and chaos ensued.
Piece by piece, we pulled each other out of that chaos and made a serious commitment to being each other’s life partner years before we decided to get married. We’ve had to teach ourselves what healthy looks like since we didn’t have straight examples, let alone queer ones.
We’ve made it up as the journey progressed.
D: Even the idea of speaking longevity into our relationship was foreign. It was early into our relationship when frustrations would lead to walkouts since we didn’t know what else to do.
We had to learn how to replace that habit with taking the time to sit in the uncomfortable space of talking through our emotions.
What is your favorite thing about one another?
A: Favorite?! The picking of one thing makes me anxious!
I’d say her ability to walk into a room and make a friend. I’ve been obsessed with this since the beginning, going as far as to introduce her to people just so I can watch it happen. Every time – “wow, LOVE HER.” She has this subtle talent for listening and highlighting the existence of the people she’s talking to. It’s humble and friendly, not expecting anything in return and it happens time and time again. It’s her magic.
D: Have you seen her?!? Just kidding!
My favorite Anji is right when she wakes up every morning. Her hair is a mess, her face is just a little swollen from sleep, and her eyes cracked open just a tad. She really mimics her name in that she looks like a literal angel while she sleeps and just as she wakes.
I look forward to waking up right before her, so I don’t miss it.
Photography by Kinga Leftska