As far as first dates go, photographers Bee and Rog Walker’s rendezvous was unassuming. It kicked off with a screening of Bill Cunningham New York—a documentary on the iconic street photojournalist —then dinner. What Kenyan-born Bee and Jamaican-born Rog’s date lacked in extravagance it made up for in visceral intimacy. “It was unreal. I never connected with anyone like that before,” recalls Rog. “After dinner, we just talked, hung out all over the city, and even went to Brooklyn. It felt like a movie.”
Their date was an amorous cinéma vérité which lasted ’til sunrise.
“Even though we had an amazing time, we had no clue what to do next,” Bee discloses. Neither of them planned on dating at that moment. Rog was fresh off a bad breakup, while Bee was getting ready to move to Michigan to start her Ph.D in higher education. “So we decided in a very dramatic fashion to meet in a year to the day of our date and find out if we were meant to be together,” Bee explains.
“Would this deep connection lead to a great heartache?” Rog asked himself at the end of their date. “I wanted to play it safe and miss out on a great thing rather than end up in a troubled place in the future,” he says. So they proceeded with their lives like they’d never met, and relied on faith to bring them back together.
“It’s so funny because the next morning after our date, I called him and was like, ‘Let’s have brunch!’,” Bee remembers. “We really didn’t have to make it so dramatic.” Rog didn’t hesitate to accept her invitation. “Some part of us knew we should be together. We couldn’t wait a year,” he says.
Bee was so convinced that what she and Rog shared would continue to blossom, she chose to stay in New York. “It wasn’t a tough decision. I knew I wanted to be with Rog,” she says.
But the promise of love wasn’t the only motive behind her change of plans. Photography had always been a passion of Bee’s since she was a little girl moving around the world (Zimbabwe, the U.K., Canada) before settling in Southern New Jersey with her parents, who worked in medicine. “I love the whole process of seeing something beautiful, capturing it and having a representation of it that is so close to reality,” she says. Since Rog came into her life, she recognized it could become more than a hobby. “Watching Rog work as a photographer helped me see I could really live a creative life in New York.”
It all started when Bee first met Rog in 2011 at an event. She was already familiar with his burgeoning online portfolio. She approached him to share how much his (aptly titled) project A Love Story touched her. “It was very well shot and it spoke to me. I understood what it was saying,” says Bee. “When she came up to me and told me she enjoyed my work, I was blown away by how beautiful she was,” recalls Rog, who once studied computers before transitioning into photography. “After she walked away, I told my friend, ‘I have to go find that girl and ask her out,’ but she was already gone.”
However, it wasn’t hard for Rog to track Bee down before he took off to London for a month. “She told me she had a blog, so I sent her a message,” Rog says. He invited her to his going away party but she turned him down. “At the time, I was working in Philadelphia. When he invited me, it was a weekday, and there was no way I would be able to go after work.” She stayed on his mind while he was overseas, and he promptly reached out to her when he got back. They went on their “dramatic” first date… and thus their love story began.
“With Bee, I enjoyed the freedom to communicate without all that creative baggage that New York artsy scenesters carry,” points out Rog. At that time, Bee (who now works as a photographer) was working as a counselor for troubled girls. “I’ve dated in that world, and to me everyone’s about their brand and image. Bree seemed very genuine and down to earth.” While Bee’s outsider status back then was attractive to Rog, she reveals that “sharing a passion for the arts plays a huge part in how [we] connect, express and understand each other.”
For Rog, finding a partner that grasped and appreciated his passion for his work hadn’t always been easy until Bee. In fact, A Love Story’s theme touched on how his dedication to his art had often times put a strain on his past relationships. “Rog was up front about his work the first day we hung out. I’m attracted and amazed by his commitment to his work, identity and lifestyle,” says Bee. “I live my life through the lens of photography. It’s not just a career but a calling in my life, so I was worried Bee couldn’t understand that,” clarifies Rog, who’s as equally impressed by Bee’s technique. (“She pushes me to be excellent in my work,” he says.)
Rog never experienced love like he knew it with Bee, and after a year of dating, on February 24, 2012 (yes, a year to the day of their first date), Rog proposed. That day, they went to the movies and walked down to the Apple Store in Soho, where they met for their date a year prior.
“I sent Bee a message on Tumblr right before we got to the store that said, ‘I saw you for the first time last year, but now I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ ” “As I’m reading the words on my phone, I look and I see him down on one knee! I just froze. It was surreal and so lovely,” says Bee.
Thirty-year-old Bee and 28-year-old Rog were the first couple from their circle of friends to get married. “It never felt like we were too young. It felt so natural, like everything else in our relationship,” says Bee. There was a time when she thought marriage wouldn’t become a reality until much later in life. “I never met someone I thought I would marry, so I thought it would happen in my 40s. I figured I would focus on work, and then we met.”
The big day was an intimate affair shared with family and close friends at Randall’s Island Park in New York, and the reception was held at their loft in the Bronx. “Marriage is an ultimate measure of selflessness,” says Rog, who credits his parents with teaching him the importance of being honest and committed to your partner. “The first year, we spent time adapting to one another, and now we are really living our vows.” They believe marriage has forced them to deal with their personal shortcomings in a mature manner and perfect their problem-solving tactics.
Bee will be sharing their newlywed journey in a new column for the Huffington Post. “It’s a constant growth experience,” she points out. “Marriage is beautiful. We are going to create more good together than either of us can do individually.”
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 digitalpi[email protected] (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
Alexandra Phanor-Faury is a Haitian-American writer living in Brooklyn, New York with a slight (OK, major) addiction to fashion and pop culture. When she’s not up in the middle of the night filling her online shopping carts and catching up on style blogs, she’s writing about fashion and entertainment for a number of websites and her blog, Fringueuse.