Bishop J. Richard Evans Sr. and his wife, Pastor Tenisia Evans, [left] believe that Black love has an undeniable spark to it that helps them keep going with God’s help. Also, Jennifer Onwenu and her fiancé, Dan Green, [right] celebrate Black love through good times and unexpected ones.
Photos provided by Tenisia Evans and Jennifer Onwenu
Think Michelle and Barack. Darius and Nina. Gina and Martin. Queen and Slim — if you know, you know. And so many others.
The celebrated sometimes complicated, kinda elegant love that wraps you up in a deep, soulful embrace and holds you down through it all. It’s that classy (and if the mood strikes ratchet) love where home is wherever your lady or man is at when the world becomes too much. Since 2020 it’s been just that: too much.
So, what happens when that melanin-dripping otherworldly love is at a crossroads with the monotony and restrictions of quarantine and COVID-19 that’s got some side-eyeing their partners and wondering who they really are behind the mask?
Don’t worry. A local love expert and two couples (one millennial and one seasoned) have your back and delve into what’s really good with Black love (at least from their perspective) and how to keep love alive quarantined and all.
Pastor Tenisia Evans and her husband Bishop J. Richard Evans Sr. of Macomb County, (pastors at Divine Restoration Ministries in Detroit) are celebrating nearly 30 years of Black love after meeting in music history class at Kettering High School when 14 years old.
The duo has five children and they are grandparents to seven.
In a phone interview, Evans recalls how her classmate and would-be future husband wore an Adidas velour tracksuit, white Air Force ones, and carried a brown briefcase to school, and don’t forget the jheri curl. He told her back then that another boy was interested in her — the new girl.
“Me being who I am I said, ‘I don’t want your boy’s number I want your number,’” she said to him.
Nearly three decades later, Bishop Evans said that his better half makes things worth it all and his definition of Black love is: understanding, compromise and commitment.
He successfully navigates ups and downs with her by first knowing that they can’t be divided even if they disagree on certain issues.
“Second, we communicate clearly concerning the issue. Third, we work together to resolve the issue,” Bishop Evans said.
Evans said that she and her husband are known for their marriage YouTube channel, Restoration Today, where they discuss restoration tips for people including restoring their mind, relationships, wealth and health.
“We love to empower entrepreneurs: we believe in empowering people in their marriage and helping them. My motto has always been, ‘A good marriage is something you work hard at,'” Evans said. “Even in the pandemic it’s been so awesome that we’ve been able to communicate more — learn more about each other.”
Through ups and downs, health issues, (she overcame an autoimmune disease) and growing financially (they are savvy entrepreneurs with stores in Detroit and at Partridge Creek Mall, Macomb Mall and Lakeside Mall) the couple keep God and their family first — even a pandemic can’t stop love like that.
“What we learned about each other was that we were determined to survive COVID-19 in every way possible,” Bishop Evans said. “We were going to strengthen our friendship and our marriage. We realized that we enjoyed each other’s company. Our family is stronger and our commitment to God and community is greater. Adversity brought us closer together in every way possible. Love makes the sacrifice.”
“Black love is kind of magical,” Evans said.
She also quoted parts of the Bible and said to be “the one who endures to the end.”
“Have some enduring power,” she said. “You don’t just want to finish; you want to finish to win.”
The couple also has an interactive relationship counseling-based ministry on Facebook. Find them at Heart 2 Heart Global Ministries.
Robert Warmack, Detroit-based counselor at L.E.C. Counseling (Love, Empathy & Compassion) said that the Black family has been bearing the brunt of COVID-19 from all sides.
“Even prior to the pandemics there were some of our families and in our community having challenges with housing, employment and healthcare … going into the pandemic those things were exacerbated,” Warmack said, adding that some economic challenges leading to job loss and other aspects could impact relationships.
Warmack also said that children being at home learning remotely could add strains too.
“All those things contribute to marriage and relationships,” he said.
He added that Black couples also encounter separately, or together, systemic racism on and off the job — another hurdle they get through and handle by encouraging each other.
“When you come home with all of the things you are dealing with, I am here to support you and love you because I know what you are dealing with,” he said. That is what Black couples want to hear from their partners, adding that being open with each other and vulnerable is important, too.
For more information go to www.leccounseling.org.
Jennifer Onwenu and her fiancé, Dan Green, both 28-year-old Detroit natives are currently living in Ann Arbor with their 2-year-old daughter. They have been in a relationship for five years and met through mutual friends while following each other on social media.
They became engaged in 2019 and experienced their first year engaged in 2020 primarily quarantined.
Green said that they had so many goals and plans for dates and travel last year that they had to cancel because of the pandemic.
“Jennifer planned a trip to Mexico that had to be canceled. Also, we knew when we were engaged, we were getting married in 2021, but now that the pandemic is still ongoing that’s uncertain as well. Just no correct response in sight,” he said.
Green, who contracted COVID-19 last year, said that Onwenu was there through it all with him. “I am happy to have Jennifer because it was very tough to deal with amongst feeling strapped by work, moving and caring for our daughter Claire. That moment put a lot on her. It helped me realize the other ways in which I can step up mentally in supporting our family,” he said.
Green added that he was pretty burnt out from work during that time.
“Contracting COVID really took a lot out of me. It caused us to be truly vulnerable and understand how we can move forward to best support one another,” he said.
They both said that they are grateful today to be healthy and working.
Raising their daughter during a pandemic put the three of them at home together after she was pulled out of daycare in March.
“We have a very busy girl on our hands,” they said. “It was her mommy and daddy all day. So, we had to readjust and create fun and meaningful activities for her.”
Before the pandemic, the couple liked to host guests and have parties ranging from game night to national margarita day.
“You could count on us for fun — COVID stopped all of that,” they said, adding that reimagined date night and get-togethers now involve lots of movie nights and fancy dinners in the home. “We both enjoy cooking and are decent cooks. So, switching things up and making a fancy meal on a Tuesday is a fun way to break up the monotony during the week. We also start and complete new TV series together which is a nice way to connect with one another that’s less of a fuss.”
They said that spending so much time together at home has been fine overall.
“We know how to be alone together which we think is very important when living together. We also enjoy similar movies and TV shows so that helps when it comes to figure out what we want to binge next,” the couple said. “It is important to be friends with your partner and that has made it a bit easier to spend so much time together.”
They make each other a priority despite circumstances and make dating and learning more about one another a key part of their relationship.
“Doing something you both can interact with and learn new things about each other is a great way to provide a new spark,” Onwenu said.
They both added that regardless of the circumstances that have been handed to us generationally, Black love wins, and that is why they celebrate it in their own relationship.
“We have been able to find ways to amplify and celebrate the love we have for one another. When all else fails, or even a pandemic occurs, love prevails. It gives us promise, provides hope and fulfills dreams,” they said.