If the black gay community has ever come close to having a celebrity- married couple then Jamil Smith Cole and Michael K. Cole are it. At first glance you probably might not recognize this couple without the backdrop of the lavish wedding ceremony that's been seen all over the internet in recent weeks. The couple's wedding photos were stolen from their Facebook profile and posted on numerous blogs and they immediately became the targets of praise and unwarranted controversy.
But here on loldarian.com we will focus on the courage Jamil & Michael have shown by sharing their love publicly without apology, while teaching us a thing or two about true love as our latest couple to be featured in our popular "Couple Up" series.
Michael & Jamil on how they met:
Michael: We met two years ago at Atlanta Black Gay Pride in Piedmont Park. We saw each other from a distance and we were both moved by each other. I was in awe of him…and I guess he was too. Apparently we’d met at Detroit’s Gay Pride earlier that year. He claims he approached me and tried to talk to me and I blew him off, but I don’t recall any of that.
Jamil: Michael’s version of how we met is different but mine is true. We initially met briefly in Detroit in July of 2007, but our paths crossed again during Atlanta Black Gay Pride on September 1, 2007 in Piedmont Park. I saw him walking towards me and I remembered him from Detroit. We were staying at the same hotel and we ended up talking the entire night.
Michael reflects on his initial thoughts on the potential for longevity in their relationship:
Michael: When I met Jamil I was 47 years old, so realistically speaking, I didn’t think it would be something long term. But I knew after our first night together wherever the relationship was going to take me I was willing to go. If it was just that night, a week, or a month or the rest of my life I was gearing up for it. In the back of my mind I was hoping that this was it.
Michael & Jamil on their courtship:
Jamil: We literally jumped right in. From the day we met we never spent more than four days apart. I lived in Detroit and he lived in Minneapolis. We met on a Sunday and the very next Saturday I was in Minneapolis to see him. The first month I came to Minneapolis every weekend and he would travel to Detroit to see me. By October I’d moved to Minneapolis.
Michael: After a couple of hours of sitting and talking with Jamil I knew this was it and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. And I’m glad I didn’t because the more intimate we became the more apparent it was that this was it for me…for us. We jumped right into it.
Michael & Jamil on coming out individually & as a couple and the reaction of family and friends:
Jamil: My mom’s reaction was very supportive. She told me she always knew and was just waiting for me to tell her. She didn’t want to pressure me to come out until I was ready. I didn’t get a bad reaction. I didn’t expect her to stand up and shout it from the rooftop, but I wanted her to understand and continue to love me and that’s exactly what she’s done. She was in our wedding. My family loves us as a couple. As long as I’m happy they’re happy.
Michael: Well I’m almost fifty and when I came out it was in the 70’s and we were not accepted in the community, which made it harder for us to be accepted by our families. But fortunately enough for me my family knew before I did, so they were just waiting for me to accept myself. I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones that never had any problems from my family once I decided to come out.
Michael on the myth that committed relationships between black gay men are non-existent:
I’m relationship oriented and it’s been hard in the past for me to find other black gay men who grasp the concept of being in a relationship and what that entails. It’s almost as if they don’t believe it’s available to them. Sex has become the primary focus. Jamil and I are one of few couples in our area.
Michael & Jamil on whose idea it was to get married and who proposed to whom:
Jamil: I think it was more of a conversation than a formal proposal. I always knew that I’d marry a man. We just wanted to have a wedding because to us we were already married.
Michael: After a few bad experiences in previous relationships I told myself that I would never marry a man. And then there was also the religious piece. I was heavy into church and they were constantly beating the idea in my head that homosexuality was a sin, so I was being pulled in different directions. But when I met Jamil he helped me come to grips with my sexuality and my spirituality- so marriage then became an option for me.
Within the first year I asked him one day if he’d ever thought about marrying a man and he said “yeah, I’m gonna have me a wedding”. And I said okay and afterwards we just let it die down. Until one day I was driving and “You Complete Me” by Keyshia Cole came on the radio and that song moved me...and I said to him “let’s have a wedding”, and he said okay.
Michael on the reputation their wedding has been given as the "wedding of the century":
Michael: Believe it or not our wedding started out small. I envisioned it on our back lawn with a few friends and family. Well all of our family wanted to come and once the community found out that we were having a ceremony it got crazy…simply bananas! Our concept was to have a small ceremony with people who got it…who truly understood what Jamil and I stand for.
Michael & Jamil on their marriage not being recognized in Minnesota where they reside:
Jamil: We have insurance polices, living wills, deeds…etc with both of our names on it. I personally don’t need a piece of paper from the state to prove my love for him; we’re married nonetheless and have been from day one in our eyes.
Michael: We’ve been living as a married couple for two years even before the ceremony. We’ve done all of the homework we’ve needed to do to solidify our union as far as documentation is concerned. There are straight marriages in the state of Minnesota that can’t hold a candle to what Jamil and I have. If we waited on society to tell us when we’re able to do what we want as a people and as a couple we'll be waiting forever.
Michael on the negative press they've received after the photos were released:
I knew we were riding the cusp of being ridiculed for some of the things I did like my hair. I’m a hairdresser and people are always wondering what kind of look I’m going to show up in next. But the train, (on my suit) was riding a thin line between hot ghetto mess and fabulosity. But it was my wedding day and my dream for me on my day and nobody was going to deter me.
Michael & Jamil on the criticism from black women regarding their union & the perceived lack of available black men:
Everybody is in charge of his or her own destiny. If a husband is what you want then you need to put yourself in the position to get a husband. First you have to be wife material to get a husband, anybody can hook up with a man. They need to start putting out what they expect to receive in return and stop pointing fingers.
Michael & Jamil on the role of religion/spirituality in their relationship:
Jamil: We’re very spiritually grounded. We haven’t chosen a spiritual house to worship in but we acknowledge God and we pray together. I personally don’t believe you have to worship in a structured building to have a relationship with God.
Michael: Jamil and I are very spiritual. It’s because of his favor and grace that we’re as blessed as we are. We’re definitely grounded spiritually.
During my interview with the happy couple I was reminded me why this series is so important as they explained to me the feedback they've received in person and via e-mail from young black gay men whose outlook on life has changed after witnessing their marriage.
"We had a bachelor party at one of the local gay clubs the night before the wedding and the gay kids came out and quite a few came up to us with tears in their eyes to say that we were living out their dreams. And I couldn’t help but think to myself that the possibility of them getting married probably never entered their mind. I’m hoping that by them seeing us they’ll know that commitment & marriage is attainable for them too.
Many young black gay men have told us that they were going to begin to live their lives differently because they want what we have."
Many thanks to Michael & Jamil for sharing their union with us. Watch a special clip from the ceremony in the video below:
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