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: Geminelle Rolllins | 30 | Singer, Songwriter, Composer

Him: James Malone | 31 | Art Dealer 

Relationship Status: Life Partners

Geminelle and James first met at an age when relationships are often relegated to the trivial title of “puppy love”. In 8th grade, a friend of James’ invited him to come run track with him and that’s where he first spotted Geminelle performing long-jumps. Intrigued by what he saw, he too attempted the athletic move in an effort to get closer to her. The two dated as early teens but parted ways romantically until they rekindled what had started in middle school as mid-20s adults.

The two pride themselves on giving one another space for self reflection and growth, the lynchpin to getting it right this time. The couple now partners together on multiple creative and business endeavors while maintaining a love that glows with the spirit of a real friendship.

Q: What does black love mean to the black community?

Geminelle: I feel like the black community is love. Whenever I think about black folks there’s always some kind of feeling of “hey baby, how you doin’ you hungry, you need some food?” I think that comes very natural to us as black folks. As far as our partnership, I think that our union has in many ways served the community around us.

James: I feel like it’s an example of possibility. I think that black love shows the possibility of family, the possibility of combined economics, focused friendship, a friendship that is used to build something.

Q: How did you know that you were ready to commit?

James: It’s been a journey.

Geminelle: We’ve tried this a couple times, but this time around it just felt right.

James: Also when we came back this time around we intentionally put space for each other to grow. So even though we had known each other for years I didn’t approach it as if I knew her.

Geminelle: We had to get to know each other again, we took that time, we took a year to do that.

James: I think I knew I was ready when I reached a certain personal point to commit to myself to give this person all I have. Once I knew I could do that then I was ready.

Q: What would you say is the hardest part about being a millennial in a relationship today?

James: We legit have our own lives. Both have multiple projects, multiple business opportunities, different friends. As millennials I think we have a drive to complete things outside of our general 9 – 5 as a generation. So it’s like how do you balance career goals with relationship goals, with interpersonal goals, with spiritual goals. I also feel like there’s a lot more distractions sitting in your pocket. The internet, Netflix, any distraction you wanna have. It’s really about how do you reduce things so that the things that are supposed to fit in your life really fit? We both do a lot of purging and fasting, saying do we need this, do we need this person, this opportunity, this connect?

Geminelle: We do take a lot of time to do a lot of inward reflection. For instance we’re fasting right now for clarity. That has been something beautiful for us because we’re having all these dope epiphanies that we get to share with each other.

I was the one who brought it up, I was trying to figure out the things that I may be dependent on that I don’t necessarily need. It was a quest for codependency, sometimes for me that’s food, or connectivity. For the first week we fasted from sunup to sundown, no food just water and fresh juice in the morning. That showed me a lot about what I run to when I’m having cravings and how I negotiate with myself. We’re doing it in preparation for the Winter Solstice, the season for planting seeds and manifesting things.

James: My fast is to align my spirit. I believe sometimes we try to conquer our minds and we can align it with our spirit which is always in line with our highest self. I find myself fighting myself often. I feel like there is a sweet spot in the human existence where your spirit and mind are aligned but it takes clarity to determine which script you are telling yourself internally.

Geminelle: We often talk about the mind and the spirit but neglect the body. Leading up to this fast I had been getting all these affirmations that you need to eat from the earth to gain the messages. Then he went to Miami and someone told him God left messages in the grass. I can tell the difference when I eat something from the earth in how my mind is fueled and how my spirit is active.

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Chuck Marcus

Q: Do you feel that your relationship inspires others? If so, how?

Geminelle: Over the last few months I’ve been getting a lot of affirmation that our relationship inspires others.

James: We do the self work to be great and being great means peeling back your layers. If you think about it, babies come out in full greatness and overtime you add on layers to help you navigate the world and after a while you have to peel back those layers and get to your essence. When people look at us and say we’re inspiring they’re just seeing two individuals who’ve decided to be in union and in partnership, both individually whole.

Geminelle: People see the actual product that we create. The things that we do together with Tunnel Vision or how we put an album together and he shot the album cover. We corralled a team around these certain things. We push each other. My album wouldn’t have come out if it wasn’t for him encouraging me and that was before we were even together. I honestly think that people look at us and they see genuine friendship. We don’t have to be boo’d up in a space and we’ll still interact with each other as friends. I that matters because it’s not a control thing, we’re both very free in our spaces.

Q: Who do you look to for advice on your relationship?

Geminelle: We don’t really do that.

James: I saw my pops fuck up the relationship with my moms. I learned a lot about how to treat a woman in the positive and in the negative. I learned a lot about how to raise a family; to raise a family you need to raise yourself first. I realized that my parents made some of the mistakes they made in their relationship because they didn’t have the time to experience self growth. With Gem, I’m always like “figure you out” I’m going to take my time to figure me out. I’m always big on self work.

Geminelle: My parents were, on the outside, the picture perfect couple. People compared us to the Cosbys. My dad was a principal and my mom a stay at home mom and they were married for 35 years before my father passed away. Always a loving environment, but the relationship that I desired to model came from seeing my brother and his wife together. They are the epitome of two friends who are working it out as partners. They are so resilient, all the things they’ve gone through they always approached it with so much grace and forgiveness and partnership.

Q: If you could describe love in one word what would it be and why?

James: Present. I was evaluating trust with Gem and I was like if you have to tell yourself to trust somebody that means you aren’t trusting them. If you can be completely present with somebody, admiring their beauty, understanding your connection to them listening, observing and showing appreciation in the moment. That is a true sign of trust and deep love. If you can stand in somebody’s presence and be present with them there’s some connecting point that you’re understanding. And to love somebody is to connect.

Geminelle: I think of love as unconditional. I think that once you make a choice to love someone and truly engage with someone it becomes unconditional and no one can break that bond. I do think it is a choice and you have to choose for it to be that. You can like a lot of people but once you love someone it’s a different type of bond.

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