Authors of a recent study declared the Obamas the official replacements for Cliff and Clair Huxtable. Bizarre as the idea is that we’re allocated one-high profile black couple per generation, it’s true that the openly affectionate — and by all indications, mutually supportive — partnership is fast becoming a national reference point for what happens when love and success combine.
Insights into their bond are all the more treasured by African Americans, who, in the age of Love and Hip-Hop and alarmist stories about black marriage rates, have to look a little harder for positive portrayals of love.
But are the Obamas really all that unique? We think not. And based on the up-and-coming black power couples on our radar, there are plenty more where Barack and Michelle came from. This Valentine’s Day, check out just a few lesser-known young marriages in which both spouses are making their marks on leadership, law, politics and, of course, love.
Andrew and R. Jai Gillum
These two Florida A&M University grads were married in 2009, but Andrew‘s political career took off years earlier when, as a college student, he addressed the 2001 Democratic National Convention on election violations in the state of Florida. Not long after, at age 23, he became the youngest person ever elected to the Tallahassee City Commission, where he was re-elected to a four-year term in 2008. R. Jai shares the passion for service and propensity for leadership, as executive director of the financial empowerment initiative The BEST Project at United Way of the Big Bend.
Chris and Adwoa Ansah Rey
Lawyer and Army Captain Chris Rey is the mayor of Spring Lake, N.C. Elected when he was just 34, he met wife Adwoa at a 2007 Democratic Retreat Issue Party and says, “I knew the moment I saw her I would marry her.” She’s the president and CEO of Faith Link, Inc., an organization designed to provide resources and support to the faith community, and a consultant to the Faith and Politics Institute.
Steven and Sonya Douglass Horsford
After serving as Nevada’s first African-American state Senate majority leader, Steven went on to become the first person of color to represent his state in Congress. Sonya, who has a Ph.D. in education, is a senior resident scholar of education with the Lincy Institute at the University of Las Vegas, where she focuses on the history of education in the U.S., politics of education and the role of schools in society.
Quentin and Stefanie Brown James
These two Howard grads, who married in 2012, took their alma mater’s “leadership for America and a global community” motto to heart. Formerly the national vote director for Obama for America, Stefanie is the CEO of Vestige Strategies LLC and the founder and CEO of Brown Girls Lead, Inc., a leadership development organization. Quentin, who was Ohio’s deputy youth vote director for President Obama’s 2008 campaign, is now the director of the Sierra Club’s Student Coalition and sits on the national board of the NAACP.
Donald Calloway and Sarah Jane Forman
In 2008, Don won a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives, becoming one of the three youngest members of the General Assembly, and the only African-American attorney to serve in the legislature. After narrowly losing in his bid for the Democratic primary for the Missouri Senate, 14th District, in 2010, he became director of state government affairs at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Sarah Jane is an assistant professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, where she teaches the Youth Justice Clinic, supervising law students who represent youth in delinquency, special education and school disciplinary proceedings, as well as teaching a juvenile justice course. The two attorneys, who met when they were law students in Boston, were married in 2007.
Taj and Tonika Cheek Clayton
Taj and Tonika met as high school seniors visiting Harvard College, and three weeks into their freshman year, they were a couple. She went on to the Business School, and he to the Law School, and they married in January 2000. Tonika is a Regional Vice President at the technology company Wireless Generation. Taj is an attorney at the international law firm of Fish & Richardson, and he’s been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Texas Super Lawyers magazine.
His 2012 run against Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson for her seat in the House of Representatives was unsuccessful, but he told supporters, “Our work is not done. You have not seen the last of me.”
Anton Gunn and Tiffany Johnson-Gunn
Anton is the director of external affairs in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs (IEA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Before his federal service, Anton served in the South Carolina House of Representatives — the first African American in his district to be elected. Tiffany is a health and wellness consultant and distributor for Ardyss International, where, she says, “I work, interact and effectively communicate with diverse populations to provide wealth and health principles that deliver results.”
William and Michele Jawando
Named one of the 40 under 40 most influential people on Capitol Hill, Michele is general counsel and senior adviser in the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). William, who previously served as the director of congressional relations for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the director of strategic partnerships at the U.S Department of Education and the associate director of the White House office of public engagement, is now director of Corporate & Government Affairs at Discovery Communications.
Aisha and Danielle Moodie-Mills
Together, Danielle and Aisha co-host the Politini politics and pop culture radio show and pen the lifestyle blog Living, Loving, and Laboring OUT Loud, or threeLOL. In their 9-to-5 lives, Danielle is the director of education advocacy at the National Wildlife Foundation, and Aisha is the adviser for LGBT Policy & Racial Justice at the Center for American Progress, where she directs the Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality, or FIRE, initiative that the couple launched together in 2010. If they look familiar, it might be because Essence featured their 2011 wedding.