This piece is part of a 28-day series celebrating modern black love among millennials. It was created by Chuck Marcus and Michelle Nance, exclusively distributed by Blavity.

Her: Maya Carr | 29 | Digital Content Marketer, Community & Image Activist

Him: Rashan Pralow | 30| Finance, Community Activism, and Politics

Relationship Status: Dating | 5.5 years

Like a unique case of a missed connection, Maya and Rashan grew up in the same community in Camden, New Jersey and while Maya was familiar with a lot of Rashan’s family and friends, the two never met until their early twenties when they were both just out of college.

They were both out with friends from high school when they first met and registered that there was something there, a spark. She asked a mutual friend about him and that’s when she learned they were from the same neighborhood. Soon after they were put in touch by a friend who helped them connect the dots and it was clear from the first date that it was meant to be.

Now, the couple resides in Washington, DC where they work full time jobs and spend their free time passionately giving back to their community through political and activist based work. Maya’s non-profit organization, Around The Way Girl, works to reclaim the narrative of girls born and raised in the projects. The couple agrees that the best part of their love is knowing that they have roots stemming from the exact same place, a place they endearingly refer to as “the hood” all while striving for greater achievements, together.  

Who do you look to for advice in your relationship?

Rashan: I have a lot of women in my family so I talk to my mother the most in terms of trying to understand women. In terms of seeking out advice, it’s pretty hard because most of my friends aren’t in serious relationships. I’m the only one that’s in the space I’m in. Plus, I want to learn from trial and error. I think it’s dangerous when you start opening up to too many people even though they have love for you and the best intentions for you, their advice may not always be sound. I think we’ve been doing a good job and learning as we go. I’m just trying to become a better man and she’s been helping me with that.

Maya: That question seems so profound because I’ve never thought about it like that before, asking for advice. I come from a generation of broken families and broken relationships due to trauma, like the trauma that you experience in the hood. I’ve never seen a healthy relationship or marriage. But, I’m very spiritual so I learned about love and forgiveness and patience through my spiritual journey and that has truly helped me love him. Understanding human condition, understanding human flaw, understanding the power of patience and loving through the hard times. I would say that my spiritual relationship with God is where I go to for wise counsel in this relationship, other than that I don’t have many things to look at.

No shade to growing up in an urban environment but one thing I did learn from that is fighting for love. A lot of people don’t give up they just keep fighting if things get hard.

Rashan: To build upon that, I think the spiritual component is very key. I remember when we were first starting out I used to say I wanted someone with a deep faith in God and believed in God more than they believed in me. I think that sometimes people look to people to fulfill them and you can do that to a certain level, but I think that spiritual connection, believing in God and believing that I can be the person that you need me to be is important.

Who do you look to to determine what you are aspiring to in your relationship?

Maya: This question is opening up my eyes to what I don’t have. All that I’ve ever aspired to be is what I did not want. As I’ve gotten older and wiser I’ve evaluated my upbringing, the relationships I’ve seen and I know what I don’t want. So, staying away from what I don’t want has organically taken me into this direction of what I do want which is genuine happiness.

In terms of social media and entertainment, I don’t really have a couple. I don’t really see healthy relationships on social media. I’m trying to think, is there anybody we aspire to?

Rashan: I think that on a surface level you may aspire to be like Jay-Z and Beyonce. He’s a former street dude and he’s been with her for 17 years or something like that. He’s normalized the urban, hip, ghetto dude having one girl. How I grew up, in the inner city, you were the man if you had more than one girl. That’s something I aspired to when I saw Jay-Z be a rapper to get married in his prime.

Social media does play a role but a lot of times I think it’s more toxic. I tried hard to not let our relationship be on social media in the beginning because I wanted to be in love for real. I see some people and they’ve already been in three relationships publicly, I just didn’t want to go down that path, I think it’s unhealthy. Forget what’s going on when we’re in pictures on social media. What's really going on? When I come home and I gotta lay next to you am I really happy? Happy being in your presence. Social media helps me see what I don’t want to be. Some people are super open, I think we have a happy medium. There’s some things that I’m not comfortable putting out there.

Maya: I’ve learned over time. I was so public in the beginning. We’re the same age and come from the same place but he has been like a mentor to me, a role model. A lot of things that I used to be into he has taught me how important is is not to do those things, the benefits.

What is the hardest part about being a millennial in a relationship today?

Rashan: Going back to about 2013 that’s when Instagram was really kicking off, I would say that being a millennial in a relationship, the biggest challenge is social media. There’s so many ways for people to be conniving or sneaky if that’s the route they choose to take. I respect any man who’s loyal to his girl now because it’s really easy to be tempted. It’s just a button away. You may see someone from High School or she may slide in your DMs. I think that if you’re committed now it should be celebrated more.

Maya: Millennials face a challenge with our elders, they put a lot of pressure on us to marry now. Life is different for a lot of us, especially as entrepreneurs, our success doesn’t come as fast as their success may have when they started work in a very young age in traditional jobs.

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Chuck Marcus

How did you know you were ready to commit to each other?

Maya: I knew when I first met Rash that it was love at first sight. We were born and raised in the same community  in a small city. All of his friends and homies I went to college with but never knew him. The fact that I met him years later in my life was a sign from God. Him coming from the hood, from the trenches wanting to rise above the plight of kids from the ghetto. Having that unique similarity and bond was amazing. Seeing somebody from the bottom grind so hard without complaining was a blessing. I was always overwhelmed by my experience, but he was just pushing and never talked about where he came from.

Rashan: As a guy, I was super focused when I first met Maya. I knew I was super attracted to her and that she had the potential to be my future wife and everything I wanted in a woman. I wanted to date a woman particularly from my neighborhood but if not from Camden, somewhere like Camden, someone who knew what it was like to struggle and overcome that. Someone who wanted to explore the world and be the best version of themselves. I think she was really good for me because she would remind me, never forget where you come from.

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