In a time where it’s so easy to express our feelings and emotions through various social media and digital platforms, we tend to succumb to building likes for pockets of validation. Sometimes these “likes” are not always made from a source of positive reflection and genuine affirmation, but often negative backlash from a current or previous relationship.
In the past two decades, we’ve watched certain images in television depicting less-than suitable examples by people of color rise through the popularity of reality shows. The more fights and “b-words” hurled around with a dose of weave-pulling can guarantee another renewal from the networks.
As entertaining as it may seem to discuss the latest episode around the water cooler, it doesn’t reflect the real stories of building a solid relationship built on love, respect, loyalty and faith. For married couples or those in a committed relationship, there are challenges, but the power of love is a common denominator to maintaining their strength.
Quintin and Diane
Quintin and Diane Primo are considered one of Chicago’s dynamic power couples. Their background is beyond impressive, and the couple’s philanthropic commitment is relentless. Quintin Primo III is the chairman and CEO of Capri Capital Partners, a global real estate management firm that manages $3.8 billion in assets. Diane Primo is the CEO of IntraLink Global, a marketing and content firm that specializes in strategy, technology and social media.
The two have been married for nearly 35 years and have three children — two young sons and one daughter in college.
“We made the decision to not have kids too early in our lives. I was 51 when we had our last child. At the age of 62, I have an 11-year old which is wonderful. Both of us young, that’s a sacrifice just the time that it takes to fully build a business — dedicate yourself to bring in the clients, having to executive the work. It’s all consuming. It’s a labor of love but it’s one that there’s very little time for anything else.”
Diane says they decided to take one of their long walks. “We had a conversation about it. When he first wanted to start his own business, he came home and said, ‘I want to quit my job etc.’ We talked about it, I was on board. The second one, we lived in Lincoln Park. We walked around the neighborhood, talking about it. The one thing that he did do — you need this communication with your spouse to look them in the eye. What your intentions are, what do you want to do to make sure there’s understanding of the dream. I think it’s important to have a supportive spouse.”
She adds, “What an entrepreneur goes through is extremely difficult and they simply don’t need a lot of torrential rain around them — that can happen in a relationship or a marriage if you are not careful.”
A smart and business-savvy executive herself, Diane grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended Kenwood Academy High School. She went on to attend Smith College and later Harvard Business School.
Having a background in business, Diane understood her husband’s decision to start his own business and being supportive in this decision together.
“I was probably even more so understanding because I think every business person’s dream is to have your own business. I think that is important for African-American families. It’s a matter of us controlling our own wealth stream and creating wealth streams for people who are in our ecosphere. It’s true to say the facts — minority businesses employ more minorities. When one stands up and takes a risk, others are very likely able to benefit from that.”
Also a Harvard graduate, after Quintin’s first attempt, he had to shut down, starting over with Capri Capital Partners. With the success of building the company’s growth and overseeing key projects such as the Baldwin Hills Mall in Crenshaw, the Primos believe in extending opportunities to create a diverse environment, but understand not every company provides the same level of opportunities for people of color.
Diane explains. “We as a group — given our background, we tend to be ‘colorless’. It doesn’t matter what shade you are, so you find more diversity in our organizations. We’re not looking at that anymore, we’re looking more so at your confidence level. There tends to be a greater openness to us hiring of different colors. For us, everything is clear because that’s the background we come from.”
Growing up, Quintin’s father was the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal church in Chicago. Diane says, “In that role, he had a ministry on the West Side of Chicago through a church there. The church pulled back from the community, so he spoke to Quintin about continuing the ministry. We got involved with the center because the church had left from a board position. At that time, they were focused on community outreach including feeding people, and helping people in the community.”
She said with help from friends along the way, the Primo Center for Women and Children, they kept the center running. “We’re one of the earlier organizations to focus on that.” About 10 years ago, the group looked at how they would take it to the next level and got real serious about expanding.
J. Ivy and Tarrey
Spoken-word artist, J. Ivy and wife, R&B singer and songwriter Tarrey Torae, have been together for 18 years and married for 11 years. Both are successful in their careers, with several recording albums between them. Some of their songwriting collaborations have included working with John Legend and Kanye West, earning a Grammy on the following performance credit for The College Dropout. His recent collaboration on Ali: The People’s Champ earned him an NAACP Image award.
In a unique form of storytelling, the couple wrote a play about their on and off again relationship at their wedding. It was such a hit, many friends and loved ones demanded the play should be made into an actual onstage production.
Eleven years later, they admit it’s been interesting turns and twists to their marriage. “It’s a challenge but it’s not a huge challenge. You can have respect for what the other person has. What I see in J. is that he has a gift — his talent and the things he gives back to the artistic community. This deserves to have as much light as possible. As a wife, I try to shine that light on it as often as possible,” says Tarrey.
“I know he does the same for me. It’s just two human beings trying to make it work. It seems like the easiest part of the relationship on most occasions because we give each other a lot of respect on the artistic side.”
J. Ivy agrees with his wife. “I’m her number one fan. We want to see each other shine. We’ve been gifted with something special so we push each other, we work on hearing each other out, which takes time and practice. It’s not going to be perfect, but the foundation of the love and respect that we have for each other continues to guide us through.”
An author of books, HERE I AM, HERE I AM,: Then and Now and his latest, Dear Father — a biographical reflection on the void of not having his biological father in his life and reuniting with him in adulthood — influenced his outlook on the importance of relationships. He turns to other couples for guidance that wasn’t a permanent place in his life growing up.
“We sometimes live vicariously through others. The mistakes that other people make as well as the accomplishments and what they do well. We’re two human beings co-existing,” he said.
Sharing a commonplace for music and the performing arts, they often travel a great deal together — whether Tarrey is singing background for Slick Rick or J. Ivy knocking out voiceovers for commercials and films — every day is a new experience.
Both South Side natives, Tarrey adds, “People tell us they like us to speak at their conferences, community centers and for their classrooms because they want to show the example of a couple that is working together and doing things together to make a marriage work.”
John and Anna
Pastor John Hannah and Anna Hannah married on Feb. 13, 24 years ago. Both lead busy lives, as the senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church Southeast and on-air radio personality on Gospel 1390 AM, Pastor Hannah and his wife Anna, a registered nurse, make time for each other.
Hannah shares that the formula of their long-standing marriage was the commitment early on in their friendship.
He explains. “I did a process that would lead into marriage. It was from friendship to fellowship and from fellowship to relationship. Sometimes we jump straight to relationship but we never get to know them as an individual. So, the friendship is getting to know her and only being friends. The fellowship was getting to know her spiritually. There’s a Scripture in the Bible that says, ‘How can two walk together except they agree?’ From fellowship to relationship, now I get to know you on a relationship level and there’s nobody else in the picture,” Hannah said.
He jokingly admits, that when he first met his wife, it was a natural attraction to her outer beauty and later “from the looks to the inner person — to the heart.”
As the head of one of Chicago’s largest congregations, worship services are held at the UIC Forum every Sunday and his program is streamed, reaching thousands of followers weekly.
Last November, the church recently opened an early child development center in the Grand Crossing community. The 40,000-square-foot Grand Crossing Kid Care facility accommodates an on-site library, theater and dance studio along with teaching Mandarin and Spanish.
As he prepares to build out the $26 million new church home directly across from the childcare facility, both he and his wife, Anna, find their “we” time.
“One of the things that we do is we have one part of our house that we call the ”common area.” Whenever she comes in and I’m home, I’m in that area waiting on her and vice versa. For years, we went with one television in the house to make sure that was our common area,” he said. “Now we make it our business that every November for the past 18 years, we leave Chicago and go somewhere — alone. That is written in stone — that is our time together. We used to go with friends, now we choose to go alone.”
Jimilita and Magnus
Married for less than two years, Jimilita Tillman-Hunter and husband, Magnus Hunter, can relate to cherishing managed “alone” time. Both have children from previous relationships. and leading hectic schedules, the couple enjoy the pace of remaining productive.
Jimilita is the Executive Director of the Harold Washington Cultural Performing Arts Center in the Bronzeville community.
Magnus works as an Operations Manager for an upscale South Loop dining establishment, but also runs a job-training program for young adults created by him and his wife in 2015.
Dress the Part is a program the couple started to educate youth on the essential tools needed when they are out in the world.
Magnus says, “Many of our youth didn’t understand fundamental things — when you wake up, wash your face, take a shower, brush your teeth, know how to dress. Not knowing what their measurements are — shirt size, pants size or waistline. We started with those things and then we incorporated the role-playing tactics at the theater to help the youth learn how to interview, to communicate, to talk with potential employees. Learning how to have a firm handshake, looking people in the eye, having correct verbiage. ‘Yes sir, yes ma’am.’,” he said.
Growing up as the daughter of former 3rd Ward Ald. Dorothy Tillman, a notable Civil Rights advocate, Jimilita spent her entire life committed to community service. She says it was one of the things that attracted her to Magnus. It is also one of the main common threads that strengthen their bond.
She says, “Being united with each other through service, we’re very active in our church. Surprisingly, he came to my church from New Life Covenant and we do a lot of ‘hands-on’ things in Roseland.” The two grew up a few blocks from each other. “The fact that he was a part of programs that he could benefit in a positive way ensured that he give back. I think that is the greatest part of us being able to do things together.”
But Magnus admits the lessons learned from his first marriage had a great deal to do with how to be more patient and transparent in this one.
“That element of openness and transparency was not there in the previous marriage. Wasn’t saying I wasn’t trying to make it there, it just didn’t happen. It taught me a lot of things about communication, about being open, the things I’m willing to accept and not willing to accept. To communicate effectively on the things that I may not like.”
Jimlita agrees. “It’s easier for me when you have somebody that has already been there. Some of the stigmas that young women have as the basis for a marriage is not always real.”
Like most of the couples, the Hunters are building their marriage on “likability” as well as ”lovability.” “You want to hang out and want them to succeed, you want to see them be happy. It’s the best friend aspect of it that I enjoy the most,” said Jimilita.
Sharing and Growing
Couples such as Quintin and Diane Primo, powerhouses in business and philanthropy, share in their love of giving and growing. Their example is a “call to action” for many aspiring business owners and married couples searching for balance.
Other couples have influenced newly married ones such as Jimilita and Magnus such as jewelry family magnates, Ed and Doris Ford and of course the Primos.
“The Primos are able to succeed together and they’re able to succeed independent of one another. The big things that they are doing with the Primo Center are extraordinary for the community. They set a very healthy example of being able to be global with an international brand but making sure that your local presence exists–making time for love,” said Jimilita.
Diane advises. “The key thing is that you can’t do it alone — you can’t do anything alone. That’s the lesson in the entrepreneurial community, it’s about more than anything else in business or charity — it’s about ‘access.’ People being able to connect with people to make things happen. We’ve utilized our position to encourage donations for a good cause. It’s the same thing for business. One of the first things that you need to do is get to the door and have someone open it.”
The various examples of what love feels like and looks like are often missing. Many times, we overlook what is in our face because the images that we’re exposed to in the media can blind us with the material possessions. What kind of car, how big the house, how many carats in the double-setting to how often one vacations? A power couple is one who understands the real power of love.
Songwriter and singer Tarrey Torae sums it up. “When you look at some relationships and why it doesn’t work, it’s because sometimes we forget to love. We don’t remember how we got there in the first place.”