The Coolest Black Family in America, No. 20: The Marcelin-McCallas

The Coolest Black Family in America, No. 20: The Marcelin-McCallas

Poet Michèle Voltaire Marcelin and Haitian activist Jocelyn McCalla prove love springs eternal in the golden years

Alexandra Phanor-Faury

by Alexandra Phanor-Faury, July 08, 2013

The Coolest Black Family in America, No. 20: The Marcelin-McCallas

with someone about politics. I never heard the man talk about anything else.”

Politics may have been Jocelyn’s world, but it was Michèle’s blog that would draw them together. “I checked out her blog to find a poem, not written by Michèle. My friend suggested I read about child slavery in Haiti. It struck me then that she may need a little assistance with the format of her blog,” Jocelyn points out. “So we started talking about it, and she welcomed my suggestions and comments.”

“My husband would not make a very good diplomat because he speaks his mind,” Michèle says. “That’s one of the things I love and relish about him.” Tips on web formatting turned into endless conversations over dinner getting to know one another (“She is a great cook,” declares Jocelyn). “He was far from the one-dimensional person I perceived him to be. We talked about everything… and yes, including politics.”

“We share similar views and concerns about Haiti,” Jocelyn says. “I’m lucky to be able to communicate with her in ways that are non-confrontational and loving. I thought Michèle was a fascinating woman in every sense of the word.”

“It’s nice  to have someone next to you whose water flows as gently as mine. Our interactions are not of the heightened dramatic kind,” adds Michèle.

On their first date, he invited her to an avant-garde French play that spoke to the couple’s circumstances. Well, at least for Michèle. As for Jocelyn, he wanted to walk out of the theater due the deafening noise. “There was this giant fan that made a tremendous amount of noise,” he remembers.

“It was a conceptual piece about letting go of baggage,” Michèle says. “I thought he was sending me this emotionally rich message. The premise was very interesting considering we came to this new relationship with baggage from past relationships,” she says, who at 20 married her late jazz pianist husband. (He was killed in 1990 following a performance.) She was left a widow and single mother to their only son.

Jocelyn, previously married twice, had three children of his own.

“It’s important to fight your own battles and wrestle your own shadows first. You are not gonna make someone suffer and change because of the baggage you bring from past relationships,” Michèle says.

The couple dated for a year before he proposed that the two of them move in together in 2009. “I knew a good thing when I saw one,” reveals Jocelyn. “I wasn’t anxious about taking this next step. I knew there would be adjustments as there are in any relationship.” Changing their dynamic took some getting used to for Michèle, who admits to having been nervous about sharing her space. “I relished his presence in my heart, but had not lived with anyone in so long. I enjoy his company so much that within our love there is so much space; I do not feel confined. The space didn’t get smaller when he came in it, it just became larger.”

Michèle’s art also expanded when she fell for Jocelyn. She’d already published a book, but turned her attention to poetry when they got together. “I think I started writing poetry more seriously when I fell in love with him. I always cite Plato: ‘at the touch of love, every man becomes a poet.’ That certainly was the truth in my case.”

In Michèle’s critically acclaimed first book of poetry, 2009’s Lost and Found, love was the running thread. She touched on Haiti, but mostly on her muse, Jocelyn. “I love her writing,” he says. “I never had anyone write poems for me, let alone a whole book. One of our earliest conversations was about being able to be open and share our fears and happiness. This was extremely important to us to be able to survive and establish a meaningful relationship.”

“It’s easy to celebrate the happy moments with people, but it’s during those moments of fear and doubt that you choose specific people to share those with,” says Michèle. “If you can’t trust the person in your life with these moments, then there is something missing. For me, this is the amazing thing about us. I get to open up and say, ‘this is who I am’ and the person says, ‘yeah, me too.’ ”

They never considered marriage until it became a practical matter. “It was all about health insurance and deductions,” Jocelyn admits. “Marriage is something you comply with in respect to society, but it really does not dictate what your relationship is going to be. We had a loving relationship before we obtained the legal papers.”

They got married in a Queens courthouse in 2010.

“We are constantly evolving, and I’m looking forward to knowing her even more,” Jocelyn continues. “I’m much more in love with her today than five years ago.” Michèle says, “Young friends write

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