Charla Harlow, 32, and Angela Harlow-Rothschild, 34, got hitched at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn’s historic Weeksville neighborhood, one of the first free black communities in the U.S. They were married on May 28, 2016 on the grounds where some of the original homes built by the free black residents of Weeksville still remain.
It was a fitting location for a duo whose passions and life’s work are about challenging oppression and practices that harm our community. Angela, who was born and raised in Oakland, California, works in digital marketing and is committed to finding ways to build environmentally sustainable practices. Charla, a Syracuse, NY native, recently quit her job as a freelance associate producer to create a black women-led coop website and app of shared ideas, resources, and support that is accessible to all people. With other coop members, she’s learning how to “divest from oppressive systems and live a life full of peace, love, and purpose.”
Their union is no exception. ELIXHER recently caught up with the NYC-based pair about their nuptials.
ELIXHER: How did you two meet?
CHARLA: We met at AFROPUNK [music festival] in 2012 through our mutual friends. I was fresh off of a breakup and she was engaged; neither one of us were looking for someone else. But I liked her from the moment we met. She was sweet, pretty, mature and had good energy. She was nice to me.
ELIXHER: When did you know this was going to be your wife?
ANGELA: We went on a weekend getaway to a bed and breakfast in upstate New York and, in our conversations and interactions, I finally felt safe and whole in my own person. She had provided a safe space for me to fully be myself. I had realized that I had never fully had that in my romantic relationships, and to some degree, in my platonic ones. That’s when I knew.
CHARLA: It was around the time we were celebrating our first anniversary in January 2014 when I knew that I wanted to build a life with her. She allowed me to be open, honest and vulnerable in a way that I wasn’t before. She was open, honest and vulnerable with me, too. I felt protective of our love in a way I hadn’t before. I realized that my life was much better with her than without her and I believe that she felt the same. We were good together and good to one another.
ELIXHER: Who popped the question and how?
ANGELA: Charla was the brave soul who popped the question. And the moment was full of so much symbolism and intention. We got engaged on 12.13.14 in our home surrounded by some of our closest friends. We had planned a holiday gathering for our friends before everyone parted ways for Christmas and the New Year. Charla only included one friend in her plans; our friend, Rebecca. She’s a photographer and Charla wanted to make sure the night was well documented. And it wouldn’t be suspicious that Becca was taking pictures because she usually has a camera in her hand at events. 2014 had been a tough year in so many ways and we wanted to have a gratitude circle, so we gathered our friends and everyone was able to say one thing they were grateful for. Charla and I were the last two in the circle and when it came to Charla’s turn, that’s when she popped the question. I was so excited and overjoyed but I also had absolutely no idea! And for posterity, it’s all on video.
ELIXHER: How would you describe your special day?
CHARLA: The day was special because I had someone who said they would like to go through this life journey with me and I with them. It was special for all of the love, excitement and joy that we experienced together as a couple and with everyone who was there. That day we were surrounded by many of our closest friends and family (including our dog, Lola). It was nice to share that moment and make that commitment to Angela with all of them present. I don’t know that I’ll ever have all those amazing people in one place again. At least in this lifetime.
ANGELA: A day of community — bringing two tribes together. We were very intentional about trying to make “our” special day a moment that included all of our family, both blood and chosen. We know that they all contributed to the people that we have become and the reason we were able to commit to each other.
ELIXHER: What does your union mean to you?
ANGELA: It means community, love, honesty and safe space.
CHARLA: My union to Angela means doing whatever is necessary to make this union stronger and more loving everyday. It means not just saying “I love you” but showing that I love you. It means waking up everyday and deciding to be fully present and mindful. It means having a practice of continual love, forgiveness, patience, openness, non-judgement, honesty and vulnerability. It means admitting when I’m wrong. It means finding a balance.
ELIXHER: What’s been the best part of being married so far?
CHARLA: We’ve been married for a little over 8 months now and we have both grown so much. We’re both making choices that can make this marriage last. I see things differently now. I’m starting to see how the choices I make can weaken or strengthen our union.
ANGELA: It has allowed me to be so connected to someone with no fear.