The Johnsons, LC and Sheldon, possess a joie de vivre—joy of life, that is contagious. Perhaps, it’s the concentration on what they love most—family, black people, the act of progression and each other. “Marriage is a holding space for your partner to live in their truth at all times,” says LC, wife of the duo. “You have to always hold that space for that person, which means listening to what they have to say and making them feel safe enough to be honest. Then you have to be courageous enough to be honest in return. Communication is key because everything else changes.”
Graduating from Duke University with a degree in Women Studies, LC says, “I had no idea what I was going to do with that degree.” But, in fact, the driven 28-year old is doing plenty. While working in the nonprofit sector she created a blog. “There was a lot going on as far as navigating the intersection work and life, race and gender. It made me decide to start writing about some of my experiences.” Other women of color started following her blog who were in transition or on a mission to show up audaciously for their lives. The blog eventually became the book, Colored Girl Confidential. “I decided to self-publish. My brands represent this idea that we don’t have to wait for gatekeepers anymore. We have everything we need as far as the work we are being called to do.”
Sheldon was hosting a recruiting event in Boston, Massachusetts in search of potential hires when he met LC. “The first thing I thought was, who is this black girl walking into my event, very late?” Introducing himself to her, he was met with passion and intelligence. Noting that he was going to get his masters in Divinity, she mentioned that she was looking for a church to attend in Boston. Sheldon imparts, “I actually served as the young adult minister at a church close to where she lived. I suggested we go to church and then, brunch. I wanted to talk about hiring her for the job. ” LC coolly utters, “Whatever, I thought it was a date.”
“He was really trying to friend-zone me!” LC recalls. However, she understood his plight. Sheldon explains, “I wanted to hire her and I was a minister. So I wasn’t trying to have folks thinking I was trying to poach the women in the church nor as a recruiter. I was hesitant to move into dating.”
Dating— the great relationship-defining process, not for the faint of heart— tested their endurance as a couple. “LC felt like I wasn’t serious and that I was still trying to figure out what I wanted, which was true.” But after a time, she was ready to connect further or like Iyanla Vanzant says, “call a thing a thing.” LC gave him The Lovers choice, “Either we are in a relationship or we need to be friends and act like friends.”
On Christmas break in his native of Columbus, Ohio, the grad student called a friend to go hang out with some girls. A mix of good sense and divine intervention brought him to a profound analysis of himself. “That whole night I was thinking, if I’m honest with myself, what’s holding me back is fear. I knew early on she was the one, but it took time for me recognize, and respect the feeling.”
Laid off from her job, LC found herself at a crossroads.The “passionpreneur” decided not to take another job. She asked her then-boyfriend, Sheldon, to be clear, if she could sleep on his couch for a few months. Neither one of them wanted a long distance relationship and without income, her only other option was to move in with her parents in Arizona. What was confidential to the “colored girl”; he’d already purchased an engagement ring. Before she moved in, he asked for her to be his wife.
Sheldon appreciated that he was marrying a woman with wild and fertile ideas. But he had no idea what the wedding part entailed. Particularly, the cost. LC reveals, “I wasn’t one of those girls who grew up thinking about my wedding, but I’m on Pinterest! I know what’s going on out there.” Knowing full well that most weddings cost more, she gave him their budget. Sheldon lost it: “$10,000?? Are you insane? We have to feed the guests?? They don’t eat somewhere before the wedding?” Sheldon, admittedly, knew nothing about wedding expenses, but he knew this, “I had never had that much in my account at once at that point and she wanted to spend it on a wedding?” Meanwhile, LC’s friends were trying to figure out how they were going to have a wedding on such a small budget. Back and forth on the details, they were having a hard time agreeing on things.
“One morning I had this sharp pain in my shoulder. I didn’t know what it was about. I didn’t have health insurance. I googled ‘sharp pain in shoulder when breathing’.” Google informed LC to go directly to the hospital.
The doctors found a blood clot in her lung due to her birth control. This was Thanksgiving, a holiday LC always spends in New York with her grandmother. “Had I gotten on the plane, due to the air pressure, I would have died.” All quite sobering to the couple.
Sheldon went to a work event that day, and “by the grace of God it had been canceled”, he says. When he walked into the hospital, his then-fiancé remembers, “We just looked at each other and said let’s just get married. We don’t care about the stupid wedding anymore. We just want to be together.” LC continues, “It was scary, but it put everything into perspective. It was a powerful reminder of the gift of this relationship and what a blessing love really is.”
On February 22, 2013, Sheldon and LC were married with their family as their exclusive guests. Mr. Johnson states, “I tell everyone that I became a better son, a better brother, a better uncle when I got married. She’s really taught me how to love in a way I’ve never understood before.”
Health in tact, LC continues to achieve her life of black girl expression. “When Sheldon met me, I was a blogger and working for a non-profit.” Now, she is a business woman creating viable, cohesive brands. Zora’s House, a co-working space for women of color is an incubator where promising creatives and entrepreneurs come to grow their ideas. Black, Married and Hustling is her podcast. Another brainchild, broadcasting her journey as a newly married entrepreneur. “Entrepreneurship and marriage; I feel both are glamorized. We only hear the highlights and the high moments. That made me want to document the experience in a very honest way.”
LC admits, “I was super nervous talking to Sheldon about Zora’s House. I’ve wanted to do a lot of things in the time that we’ve been married; he is always supportive. Sheldon,” who currently works for the Greater Ohio Policy Center, “has sacrificed for my career and never complains about it. When we got married, he said that he was going to do everything he could to make sure I was happy and fulfilled. I definitely feel like I have a partner. He’s allowed me the space and the security to help me soar.”
How challenging is it to be married to a multifaceted, hustling, creative, goddess- type? Sheldon answers with no hesitation, “It’s not that hard. I’m lucky to be with a woman who expands my mind every day. Sometimes, when she talks, I’m in awe.”
Insightfully, Sheldon continues, “So many people go through life and lose that spark. As her husband, I feel like it’s my job to nourish and protect that spark. I feel blessed to have the responsibility to be her husband. I want do it even better.”
While LC conveys her luck to have such a husband, Sheldon says he’s the lucky one. “I do think I’m a good husband, I work every day to show her how much I love her.” Stimulated by a higher level of communication and similar ideals, he concludes, “I think it’s cool that we are very grounded in who we are. I am super unapologetically black. I love blackness! My wife is the same and a feminist. Some people want to put being black into a box but everything we touch, we do it with our own flavor. LC and I live our lives like that.”
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 1990s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @editorialgenius.