The Bennus, Jamyla, 35 and Pierre, 37, live in Baltimore, Maryland, and are an original construct. Literally.
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Married in 1999 (both are Aquarians and they married at the dawn of the age of Aquarius), the two took their surnames Brewton and Bonnett, respectively, and cleverly mashed them together to form their married name “Bennu.” (Talk about marriage equality.) The name also happens to be a bird in Egyptian mythology symbolizing rebirth or “to rise in brilliance.” SInce the birth of their kids, they are now a family of four, but Jamyla makes it very clear that she and Pierre were a family before their sons—Sadat, 1 and Osei, 3—came into the picture. “We waited eight or nine years before we decided to have children,” she says. Pierre adds, “We didn’t go into this relationship with goals. It was like, ‘This is fun! This is hilarious! Let’s hang out for a decade!’”
Lucky for Sadat and Osei, their folks decided to share the wealth of talent, joy and accomplishment that permeates the Bennu home. Jamyla and Pierre are artists and entrepreneurs, but even those terms feel too clichéd for their brand of uniqueness. Together they own Oyin Handmade, a natural line of skin and haircare products. “I’ve loved the word ‘oyin’ since I was a little girl (it means ‘honey’ in Yoruba), and when I began making my own products and learned what a powerhouse ingredient honey is, it was a no-brainer,” she says. “I also love the fact that behind the name and the ingredient is the principle of sweetness!”
Most weekdays, at least one of them starts out early in the Oyin production kitchen. But like most families with small children, there is juggling to do. Thing is: the hectic hustle makes them stronger. “Pierre and I pass the baby between us as we each try to get our morning situation together; taking turns showering, eating, dressing, playing with the boys,” she explains. “We also juggle our morning work obligations – checking email, making calls to our morning manager and staff, going over our schedules for the day. It’s kind of hectic, but also kind of leisurely, since we don’t have a hard time deadline for getting into the office – we can start our workday at home, and attend to the needs of our family, each other, and our business all at the same time.”
That’s not it. Their other company, Exittheapple.com (They were once New Yorkers. Get it? Exit The Apple.), is shop and website—hosting an exciting tapestry of Pierre’s insanely brilliant musings, books, T-shirts, art and remarkably moving short films that include the “Black Moses Barbie” series, a comedic and profound tribute to abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Also on the site, Jamyla and Pierre hilariously document Osei’s attraction to music via “Baby DJ” segments.
A conversation with the Bennus is loaded with tons of raucous laughter. Jamyla describes the character of her family as “loving and also kind of goofy,” apparently resonating factors, as this is a family that gets a fair share of attention. Ultimately, the Bennus have a certain kind of magic hard to capture in words; one that is fortified by their deep connection. “We try to meditate and/or exercise every day—sometimes these things happen in the morning and sometimes after the boys’ bedtimes,” reveals Jamyla. “Sometimes have to remind one another to eat, and even though we are usually together, we often miss each other.”
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 that family does not always mean mother + father + kids. What we know is that what defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we criss-cross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love.
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 90’s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her @editorialgenius