Aaron Agenbroad, a lawyer who resides with his family in Marin County, California, describes his wife as the go-getter of the Agenbroad family. It’s safe to say, Randi Bryant-Agenbroad is a power-booster.
Owner of Bryant Consulting Firm, Randi possesses that je ne sais quoi one gets from HBCU (historically Black college and university) culture. Randi was bred this way. Her grandparents both graduated from Hampton University (Hampton Institute at the time); her parents graduated from Hampton; and her mother was a French professor there. Randi’s elementary education took place on Hampton’s campus at the Hampton Institute Lab School, known for being ahead of its time—historically as well as socially empowering.
“We sang the Negro national anthem [‘Life Every Voice and Sing’] every morning. There is something to that,” Randi remarks.
In 1990, Randi was an undergrad at Tuskegee University in Alabama participating in a college pastime: looking through a girlfriend’s photo album, laughing and asking questions whilst enjoying a cocktail. “We were sitting around drinking wine coolers, because that’s what was happening back then,” she remembers. “I saw a picture of [Aaron] with his frat brothers—he’s [a member of] Kappa Alpha Psi—and I was like, ‘who is that?’ ”
Inspired by the moment, the 19-year old decided to write Aaron a letter. She says, “The letter read: ‘Hi, my name is Randi. I like to travel and I want to be a lawyer one day.’ ”
Several years before email was in effect, Aaron, who attended Washington University in Seattle, received the letter in his mailbox. Flattered by Randi’s handwritten flirtation, he wrote back, but she never received his letter. In retrospect, Aaron thinks it was for the best.
“She would not have liked 22-year-old me,” he admits. “I was young, in college running around with my frat brothers and throwing parties. So it was good for me to mature before really meeting her.” Aaron kept the letter. (He still has it.) Although they’d never met, “Her letter came at a really tough time in my life, so it meant something to me,” he says.
Randi went about her life and Aaron went about his. Randi recalls, “A few years later, I was in grad school and taking care of my mother, who was struggling with breast cancer.” She needed to get away, “to a place that was quiet. I went to visit the same friend who lived in the same apartment in Tuskegee where I’d written that letter to Aaron.”
Cupid, aiming intuitively, arranged it so that Aaron happened to be visiting their friend from Seattle the same day Randi went to visit, four years after the letter was written. When they met, Aaron thought she was, “hot, bangin’. But she wasn’t paying me any attention.”
He’s right, she wasn’t.
“I actually thought he was quite boring,” Randi says. “And honestly, at that time, I did not want to get married nor be in a serious relationship.” However, Randi honored the arrow. “But it was like the universe was saying, ‘This is the guy! This is your husband.’ Down to the fact that our birthdays are the exact same day!”
Separated by 2,000 miles, they kept in touch. Their correspondence connected them in a unique way. “I learned how smart he is and I love the fact that he—I’m going to use my grandmother’s word—courted me. He wrote me a letter every single day. So just feeling that attention, it was nice.” Over a period of three months, they wrote over 300 letters to each other. “I was actually in love with him before we ever even kissed.”
“My mom loved him,” Randi says. “First of all, when he first met her he came bearing gifts.” Never hurts to bring a gift. But Mrs. Bryant had even more insight. Randi confides, “I let her read his letters, too.”
Aaron made moves to put a ring on it; he found Randi fascinating. “I knew immediately that this is the person I wanted to be with,” he says. “One of my dating history difficulties is that I never thought anyone was interesting enough after a couple of months. Everything would be good, and then they would get on my nerves. Randi and I, even though we were thousands of miles apart, would talk on the phone several nights a week for three or four hours. She really held my interest.”
Considering their relationship, Aaron went to law school on the east coast at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Randi attended grad school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. “We lived together but we had no money,” Randi says. “My mom wanted us to be together but she was like, ‘if you’re going to live in sin, you’re going to do it with your own money.’ Suddenly, there was no money.”
Aaron popped the question. Randi responded with a question. “Where the hell did you get this money for a ring?? We can’t even afford McDonald’s!”
However, Aaron is a man with a mission and a plan. “I took two years off between undergraduate and law school.” In that time, Aaron acquired a skill. “A couple of my frat brothers had an investment firm, and they explained the idea of investing,” he says. “By the time I started law school, I had a handful of stocks and silver coins. I was a broke law student. I sold my stocks and my silver. And I got the ring.” Within a year, they wed in Seattle, Washington. This December 30, they will be married 18 years.
“Marriage made me less selfish,” Aaron says. “I was used to doing whatever I wanted. So when we were moving furniture, I was deciding where things would go. My dad was like, ‘Hey man, you might want to check in with Randi.’ Now I think in terms of our joint interest, not just imposing what I want.”
The Agenbroads have two sons. Randi says, “When I tried to be a stay-at-home mom, I was bored out of my mind. You love your kids, but when they’re little, they don’t talk or anything. I wanted to go back to work.” Instead, Randi started her own business.
“Being a mother has changed me completely,” Randi says about motherhood. “I think I’m more patient. I’m real clear about what’s important and what’s not. It’s given me more joy. It’s made me gray and I drink more. I definitely think I consume more red wine since having children. True story.”
About fatherhood, Aaron says: “It’s made me introspective. Being a father provides a mirror for reflecting on your self. It’s heightened my patience. This may sound crazy, but it has softened me. For instance, I never used to a see a movie that would get to me. But now, if I see something that involves kids in jeopardy or separation, I feel it. And I have less hair.”
On their children, Aaron says, “Zachary  is among the smartest people I know, a beautiful mind and a hard worker. Evan  is probably a gypsy. Evan lives for experience and has a zest for life, like his mom.”
Randi feels her oldest is more similar to her, “strong-willed, persistent and challenging. Evan is like Sunday morning—sweet, goes with the flow.” She illustrates, “Zachary is rock music and Evan is easy listening.”
As echoed in Randi’s original letter to Aaron, the Agenbroads travel extensively. “A few times a year, we like to explore,” Randi says. “I would love to live out of the country, truly. We go to Jamaica with friends once a year, we like Costa Rica and Spain. I’m planning a trip to South Africa and Mexico.” Every Saturday night, the couple goes out on a date. A ritual since their oldest child was 3 months old.
Mrs. Agenbroad says that the coolest thing about Aaron as a husband is, “He loves me completely for everything I am. Flaws and all.” Aaron thinks the coolest thing about his family is Randi. “She is the center point for everything we do. We got the kids traveling at an early age. They like seeing different parts of the world. There’s hiking, sports and the catalyst is Randi—the energy.”
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, The Coolest Black Family is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider: family doesn't always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at email@example.com (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
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.
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