Carl Walker, born in Washington, DC, romanticized the idea of marriage when he was in his teens—a testimony to his parents, married for 56 years. “That’s a commitment right there!” he affirms. However, as he matured into a successful musical artist, his notes changed. “I don’t believe that people should have to marry for kids or because of how we’re socialized,” Carl says. Also, observing the marriages around he thought, “No, I don’t want to be married! Not me!”
Enter Seshat (pronounced se-hot). Seshat grew up with both her parents and brother (they share the same birthday) in the fishing and farming town of Chestertown on the Eastern Shore. She recalls, “I was on the poetry scene. Carl was in the music scene in the ’90s, when those cultures were merging.”
Hired by his partner in his former band as the publicist, the new girl on the scene sparked his interest. Both in quasi-relationships with other people, he went away on tour, and couldn’t stop thinking about her and their mild flirtations. Upon his return, Seshat saw him listening to music at State of the Union, a live music venue in DC. Caught off-guard, she walked up to Carl, immediately kissed him on the lips and walked off. (She is the mack.)
But the defining moment for Carl was when he went back on tour and longed to hear Seshat’s voice. “I might call my mama when I’m on tour, but generally I don’t call nobody!” Carl says. He realized he always wanted to be in her life because he always wanted her in his. “I thought, could I live the rest of my life without talking to this girl?” He responded to himself, “I don’t think so, I really don’t.”
Eight months into that train of thought, he said, “Do you want to… get married or something?” He was all in.
Carl’s family—three sisters and one brother—liked Sehsat when they met her, but one of his sisters (an attorney) pulled him to the side and asked, “How is old this girl? You know I don’t do criminal law!” He answered, “She is of age; she just looks young.”
Seshat’s mother, apparently not believing in long engagements, wanted to know the date he would marry her daughter. Carl came up with a date and they were married in August of the same year.
The Walkers have two children: Phina (12) and Dahvi (9). “Everybody thinks their kid is genius. But I learned from my parents that you have to treat each of your kids differently based on their personalities. So I never assumed that my kids were going to be super smart… I’m just happy that they are!”
Phina and Dhavi have a show on YouTube where they review kid’s books (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Abadazad: The Dream Thief) called Young Youf’s Book Juice, produced by Mom, edited by Dad. “My kids are big readers,” says Seshat.
Carl calls his daughter a true Aquarius. “Phina has the whole artsy thing—into fashion but not ruled by it.” Like her birth-sign sister Alice Walker, and perhaps Oprah Winfrey, her favorite color is purple. “She loves purple!” her Daddy exclaims. “Dahvi is a great kid. A true Taurus,” he laughs, “Hardheaded.”
Important to both Seshat and Carl, they bought a house in a Black neighborhood—Deanwood, in northeast DC. “Living in the city, we wanted our kids not to be afraid of their own folks. We wanted to make sure they could function among their people without being all nervous,” Carl says. “Too many times that happens with us.”
Carl went to the University of Maryland for electrical engineering. Halfway through that, he realized he wanted to be a musician. “I’m a super dreamer. From the time, I was a kid, my father told me I could be anything I wanted. I’m a Sagittarius, so whatever seems possible is possible to me.”
Following his dream, he swiftly became a professional musician working with saxophonist Steve Coleman and Black Thought of The Roots, among others. Carl’s music was nominated for Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance with an artist named Wayna, a remake of the Minnie Riperton classic, “Lovin’ You.” Kokayi, Carl’s current band, recorded Robots & Dinosaurs (a name his son came up with) and Pro Deo et Patria.
Seshat balances Carl in that she supports his super dreams by listening and then taking the steps to make them happen. “When your dreams become reality, it’s really hard for you to believe people who say you can’t achieve your dream. She helps me get the details right,” Carl says.
“I want my kids to say I’m fair, funny, lovable but stern,” Carl says, and he means it. When Dahvi was 6, he learned the hard way. “I found a new ChapStick on the floor at the house. I went to my daughter and my wife they said it wasn’t theirs. Went to my son, he said, ‘Uh, I took it from the store.’ ” Carl said, “OK, I’m taking you jail.” Dahvi said, “No, you’re not!”
Carl drove his son to the precinct. He walked up to the cop in charge and said, “I told my son that since he had stolen, you may have to lock him up tonight. That as his father, you can’t steal in my house.” One officer had to walk away because she couldn’t control her laughter. The second officer really got after him: “Little man, come on, you can’t be stealing.” He started playing with handcuffs. “My son started crying, saying ‘Daddy don’t leave me!’
“I took him back to the store. He had to take the merchandise to the security guard, apologize and promise to never do it again. My dad would have done the same thing. My wife put it on Facebook!” Carl says, “I’d rather do that now than to get a call when he’s 15 years old.”
Seshat says, “Carl and I have the same sick sense of humor. We go to live music shows, we like to dance and jone on people… we really need to stop that!” A litmus test for a good team is when you can travel together. “I want to travel more with the kids.” The couple has already journeyed to Argentina, Brazil and France.
“I appreciate that I can tell him anything.” Early in the relationship, the couple played a game where they divulged secrets. Often a recipe for disaster, their game of secrets built trust. “We didn’t want surprises, nobody coming out the woodwork. That’s what I appreciate about Carl: he’s a very open person.”
Seshat, the architect of multitasking, is pursuing her masters from the Savannah College of Art and Design online program. “I’m happy I went to back to school, [and chose to] focus on my dreams. I’m not just a mother.” Playwright, publicist and producer, she says, “New mothers get the postpartum thing. It comes back here and there as you go along. I had to learn it’s natural and okay.”
Seshat received a grant to produce a play she co-wrote and co-directed, Black Gurl. “Sold out for the first two nights. It was five women, real stories about growing up as a Black girl. I had just had my daughter, so I had to schedule rehearsals around her,” she recalls. “It was great and a challenging experience.”
“Motherhood has made me more aware and extremely protective,” Seshat says. “I do have the mom guilt, so when my friends ask me to go out and I go, I feel like I should be at home. But I know there are times I need to do me. If I keep in touch with who I am, my kids will be happier that way. Even as a mother, I have to remember to enjoy my self.” Seshat believes that “each person needs their own time to themselves. You can get on each other’s nerves, so it’s fair to get time to yourself and then come together as a family.”
Carl says, “I don’t believe in going to bed angry.” And he clearly communicates to his kids, “Look, I’m not here to be your friend; I am your Dad. We can be friendly, but I am your father. And you are going to treat your mother with the utmost respect.”
The Walker home is a creative powerhouse that thrives on communication, adoration and laughter. If they had a family motto, it would be: We Accomplish While We’re Cool.
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 protected] (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.