Uniquely enough, though our love was cultivated within HBCU culture, our love story did not start at Hampton University. It began in South Sacramento, an essential element to our story because growing up black in South Sac is nothing like Hampton University. Karega grew up in Meadowview, on the same street that Stephon Clark was gunned down by the police in his grandmother’s backyard. Felicia grew up about three miles up the road in a community called Valley High.
Within these confines and with our own college dreams, we both understood that our academic pursuits and achievements did not have to equal the whiteness we experienced in high school. We both knew we wanted to go to an HBCU, but the fact we both ended up at Hampton was nothing short of God.
Felicia and I met on December 11, 2003, at her high school winter concert. I was invited by my best friend, who at the time was dating another young lady in the choir. When I walked in, I remember laying on eyes on Felicia, and instantly I was drawn to her beauty and her focus for her music endeavors. At the end of the night, I introduced myself, and we began dating January of 2004. I was a senior in high school, and Felicia was a junior. We had no clue the road ahead of us.
We’d seen many couples break up when it was time to go to college, but to our surprise, that wasn’t the case for us. Although, I was a year younger than my husband Karega, I was sure that I would be attending Hampton University. It was because of a pipeline designed by my piano teacher in Sacramento, to Hampton’s music program. Karega, on the other hand, ended up at HU on hope and a prayer.
The same friend who I was with the night I met Felicia, was also going to Hampton University, and I lived with him and his family during my senior year when my family experienced homelessness. After high school graduation, I wasn’t sure where I’d be going because of finances, but my friend Marcus’ parents offered to help pay for my education if Marcus and I went to the same school. So, when August came, I was headed to Virginia on a one-way plane ticket.
Attending Hampton together was a total surprise to both of us and one of the best things to happen to our relationship. Karega majored in Sociology, and I majored in Music Education. Although in different disciplines, Hampton gave us a socialization experience that helped inform our commitment to our community. It also gave us a set of tools that would help us alleviate some of the conditions that impacted Black life across America and gave us our first-ever collaboration. Karega participated in the Mr. Pirate Pageant (2007-2008), where I played piano for him as he spit his poetry. Not only did Karega win the title, but we also won the best talent!
Following our undergraduate experiences, I relocated to Washington, D.C., in 2008 for grad school and a teaching assignment with Teach For America. Felicia relocated to D.C. a year after to pursue her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at Howard University (the other HU). In 2010 I asked for her hand in marriage, and on July 1, 2012, we made it official.
After seven years (2015) of living, serving, creating, and loving in D.C., an opportunity presented itself to relocate back to California. We helped launch a performing arts, social justice academy in East Oakland, affectionately named Roses in Concrete Community School. Following this, Felicia officially earned her Ph.D., and we started a project with our friends to create healing spaces for mothers who have lost their children to gun violence. This project was also designed with my older brother, Kareem, in mind, after losing him to gun violence in 2014. To date, we’ve been able to create healing spaces in more than seven cities in California, as well as in New York and D.C.
On September 30, 2019, after 41 beautiful weeks of pregnancy, shortly after birth, we experienced the loss of our firstborn, our beautiful daughter, Kamaiu Sol Bailey (Our Baby Bailey Girl). She weighed 7lbs 4 ounces and was 19.5 inches long. Although she is not physically with us in our arms, she is our daughter, and we are her parents. We are taking the necessary steps to learn what this means by loving one another and gently tending to our grief during this journey of healing. Now, in a time more than ever, just as we have done for others.
Our bond is a multilayered love story deeply rooted in our unconditional love for Black people, our love for each other, and our love for God. Yet, it was actually our love for Black people that led us both to attend Hampton University and our love for God that helped us learn how to love one another throughout the seasons of life, especially during difficult times. We’ve found comfort in each other and the solid martial foundation we’ve built since crossing paths as teenagers nearly two decades ago.
Reflections by @karegabailey and @fefemonique