The greenery that surrounds the Arnold Arboretum, in Boston, MA, was the perfect place for Shayna and Christian to document their love and shared love for nature. Shayna and Christian met at a grad school backyard party. It was a fall evening, by a campfire, in October of 2015. Christian was in the middle of a conversation and he looked over at a group of people, and there was Shayna. He was so struck by her beauty and just wanted to know more about her. He noticed that she started to talk to a mutual friend of theirs, so that was his reason and chance to walk up to her. Their friend introduced them and their first conversation was funny, awkward and magical (very similar to how they are now). At the end of a night of lots of laughs and dancing, Christian walked Shayna and her roommates home. They then realized that they lived two houses down from each other.
It actually took them a while to go on their first date since at this point in Shayna’s life, she was in the process of healing and focusing on becoming her own person. After a couple of turn downs, Shayna finally agreed, and they had their first date! Since they are both community organizers, their date ended up being a planning meeting for what would turned into a 13-day sit in, in protest, to center Black lives and in increase anti-racism work on campus at Brandeis University. Before their first date, they really got to know each other in a high stress, crucial and impactful direct action. Eventually they planned a new date, not realizing at the time that they’d hold close to it for years to come.
The whole date was a surprise to Shayna since Christian planned everything perfectly! They went for drinks at bar in downtown Boston named, Drink, and then they headed to a funky tapas spot called Wink & Nod for some yummy food. They rode the subway together and Christian ended up dancing on the train, making Shayna laugh uncontrollably. By the time they left their first date, they already felt like good friends and still were excited, full of giddy nerves from “the date.” They ended up heading out after they ate a few small plates of food, and Christian turned to Shayna and asked “are you still hungry?” She responded “yes!” so they settled on ShakeShack and threw down some burgers and fries before heading home. Their bellies and hearts were so full after this date they’d never forget!
They officially started dating in January of 2016. They both love music for everything it is, so Christian’s favorite date was in 2017, when they went to a Lizz Wright concert at the historic Howard Theater in Washington, DC. They also enjoy going to the theater and spending days in Portland, Maine. They love to cuddle, sleep, read, take long walks in nature, go the movies, and eat yummy food. Cooking, grilling, and gardening bring them joy too! They love to dance and sing randomly throughout the day, so they dance a lot (just not at clubs ever lol), but mostly anywhere else; bedroom, living room, on the train, walking down the street, ANYWHERE. They have a favorite bed time story and love growing food, making medicine, and tonics. They really just love to flourish together.
They had been dating for some time and knew that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. So Christian had some plans up his sleeve for a special weekend. Shayna was so excited for this weekend that was planned ahead. They celebrated her Dad’s birthday on a Thursday by taking him out for breakfast. Shayna had no idea that her trip to the bathroom was a planned moment for Christian to let her Dad know he was going to propose to her that upcoming Saturday. Two of Christian’s sisters were coming into town and Christian planned a full New England Fall Saturday with them all. So they started the day with an incredible breakfast, and then they hopped in a Zipcar and were on the lookout for the perfect spot to take pictures in the Fall foliage, and maybe pick up some apples along the way. They headed towards The Bridge of 500 Flowers and stopped for snacks, apple cider donuts, popcorn, caramel apples, and apple cider. All of those treats are Shayna’s favorite! About 30 minutes from reaching the bridge they hit some slow moving traffic, that they had to sit in for a half hour before being directed off the highway by a detour. They ended up dredging through traffic in a small town in western Mass for over 2 hours, then attempted getting back on the highway, but it was entirely closed unexpectedly.
Shayna tried to keep up the energy, with good music and plenty to talk about, but she could tell Christian was irritated by the traffic. She had no idea what was actually going on in his head. They started to make their way back home, finding a back route towards the house that skipped the traffic. They hit some open road and came up on a picture perfect spot. There was a beautiful lake that reflected the orange and yellows leaves of the beautiful tall trees that surrounded it. They pulled the car over and hopped out to explore! Christian walked off into a small wooded area and Shayna pulled out her phone to catch a few selfies with the foliage in the background. She ended up noticing a small Red Clover on the grass beneath her and began to walk towards it. She looked behind her as Christian walked out from the trees and showed him the flower on the ground. Christian bent down to pick it up and handed her the small flower, but then he bent down again, only this time with the ring box in hand! She was completely in shock, as he expressed his love for her, and remembered him saying, “I love who I am when I’m with you.” Then he asked her to marry him and, of course, she said, “yes!”
The most unique and special thing about their relationship is that they’ve always worked together, particularly in organizing and facilitation work. Their commitment to Black liberation is at the center of their relationship, which means; odd schedules, high stress, and exhaustion. They’ve always learned about themselves and each other through the things they put their time into. Things like farming, supporting young people, working to vision and facilitate alternative systems like blackyard, a learning community with Black young folx at the center. Also, their commitment to healing justice, community accountability, and caring deeply for their movement facilitation, community, and chosen family. They’ve grown in their capacities to hold this work both separately and collectively. Their commitment to a life affirming future for all Black people has been a guidepost in their relationship since they met.
Shayna and Christian are so excited to marry one another this coming September! They’re very eager to see one another for the first time in their attire. They’ve made life long commitments to each other in their hearts and minds, looking forward to continuing deeper into the journey that they are in together. They’re so excited to being in love and pleasure with each other, and working to live into their purpose as a home for rest and retreat for Black people. They look forward to continuing to practice into the visions and dreams they have for Black futures and cultivating joy and care in their community and relationship.
Their smiles are contagious!
Shayna, you are STUNNING.
So sweet together.
That smile says everything!
That dress on her!!! 😍😍😍
I just love the way they look at one another.
They’re too adorable.
Always dancing and I’m here for it!!!
YES. YES. YES!
The perfect little spot to capture them in their love for trees.
Finished the session with of course, lots of dancing!
In COVID-19 honor, they had to.
Shayna and Christian,
Thank you so much for letting me in on your sweet love! It was SO MUCH FUN spending the evening with you two. Y’all are so cute together and I cannot wait to see all the unfolds out of your beautiful union. September will be here before we know it and I cannot wait!!! I know your special day isn’t going to be as planned for the safety of your loved ones, but I am without a doubt of how it still will be filled with so many special moments and precious exchanges. Thank you again for trusting me to document this special time in your lives. I am so grateful for my life crossing with yours, Shayna, years ago, and feel so honored to be apart of this season in your life now! Praying so many blessings over your soon marriage!!!