Bakari Jones, 29, and LaShay Harvey Jones, 32, recently got hitched at Baltimore’s scenic St. Mary’s Park, a space close to the couple’s house — and also where they got engaged. The two settled on July 26, 2014 for the ceremony date because they wanted their “future summers to be filled with celebrations” (LaShay’s birthday is in June and Bakari’s is in August). Since Bakari is into astrology, it was important that the newlyweds picked a day that fell on a new moon (they wanted as much magic as possible). Their wedding inspiration? Coming to America. And serve up queer royalty they did.
After playing the extended version of Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?” they jumped the broom then headed to Baltimore’s Penn Station for formal photos. Inspiration: Love Jones. The intimate reception, inspired by The Lion King on Broadway, took place in their home. “We learned so much about one another crafting decorations, deciding on food, drinks, music, and asking for the support of our village,” the wife-and-wife duo shares. ELIXHER caught up with LaShay and Bakari about their recent nuptials.
ELIXHER: How did you two meet?
LASHAY: Let me tell it, it went like this: I met this cat named Danny at a conference in Baltimore. He told me he was starting a work group with his friend Bizzy (Bakari) and I should come to their next meeting. He said alcohol and food would be present. Naturally, I said so would I! The date was May 21st, 2011 and the place was Teavolve Cafe.
I arrived and y’all know I was fly. Bizzy arrived late. The introductions and the meeting began… Can I just tell y’all that Bakari never looked my way the entire two hours we were there?! And she was sitting right next to me! It was so obvious that she was completely blinded by my beauty…
But she wasn’t too blinded to invite me on a date two weeks later! I accepted and the rest was, as they say, history.
BAKARI: Let me tell it, it went like this: Ok, yes — the first part of the story is true. Danny and I scheduled a meeting and he’d invited “this chick he met at a conference” to join us at Teavolve Cafe. Oh, and I was late, but I had a good reason.
Anyway, I sat in the chair to LaShay’s left and faced forward like most people do when they sit at a table. However, I immediately began feeling her trying to beam a hole into the right side of my face so, I refused to look at her! I’ll admit I was completely taken by her, period. What she’s not sharing is that she was angry that I wouldn’t look her in the face! [Laughs.]
I did, in fact, ask her out on a date two weeks later and, of course, she said yes.
ELIXHER: When did you know Bakari was going to be your wife?
LASHAY: Wow. What a powerful question. I recently reread some words from a diary entry. I wrote these words in my journal July 4th, 2011 about Bakari:
“…she just showed up and almost immediately made me like her. I was drawn to her in our first meeting… I just wrote a few days ago that I am taking it really slow with her and am unsure of the reason for that. And then it was made plain with these pages of random note taking… Slow and steady. The race is not given to the swift. God moves slow out of kindness… The intentionality of commitment, marriage, children…”
All that to say, my spirit clearly knew well before my mind did.
ELIXHER: Who popped the question and how?
LASHAY: Bakari did! After a last-minute meeting cancellation we decided to go to St. Mary’s Park, which is only a few blocks from our house. It was Easter Sunday and I thought we were just going to soak up some sun. We asked two of our close friends who were nearby to join us. We were in the park for about an hour when Bakari said she had to use the bathroom. She went behind our usual tree. [Laughs.] (Sorry for the TMI, but it is important to the story.) She was really calling my mother to ask for her blessing. When she finally came back and sat down she pulled me to her, and said, “I knew I loved you the day I met you…”
I am so glad our friends were there because they ended up recording the entire thing!
ELIXHER: How would you describe your special day?
BAKARI: I decided that I wanted to feel like a prince the entire day so I’d describe it as “princely.” [Laughs.] Seriously, the day was completely covered in Black Magic; it unfolded like a flower. Plus, it rained that morning (good luck in our culture) so it was as if our ancestors had given us the “cherry on top” before the sundae.
Honestly, the ceremony was my favorite part of the day. More specifically, Shay walking down the aisle to meet me! [Laughs.] Our ceremony included an ancestral procession, a community vow, and a traditional Yoruba tasting. Zuri, our two-year-old niece, sprinkled the aisle with gold-dipped feathers just before three dancers twirled across the grass. All I remember after that is finally locking eyes with LaShay (whom I hadn’t seen in over 16 plus hours after spending virtually every minute with over the course of the previous three weeks!) while “Circle of Life” from The Lion King played. It felt incredible to pledge my best self to my best friend in front of our families and have our little Black village co-sign.
ELIXHER: What does your union mean to you?
BAKARI: This union means the world to me. I’ve had so many people in my life describe folks as having “drank the Kool-Aid” after getting married and I kind of understand what they mean now. To me, our marriage puts any culture that honors the symbol of a wedding band on notice that I have a top priority. Although it’s not a green light for me to act a donkey in the street, it should be pretty clear to folks that I am fully prepared to go to the ends of the earth for this woman, Mrs. Jones. [Swoons.] Lawd have mercy.
ELIXHER: What’s been the best part of being married so far?
LASHAY: There is something so magical about looking at your best friend every morning, and knowing that you are about to build a wonderful life together. Bakari and I started building something in our past lives so it feels amazing to start manifesting our dreams together now. Hearing folks call us “The Joneses” doesn’t hurt either!