“To Thine Own Self

Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham   

June 2021 was certainly a big month in this household. Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. Father’s Day has special meaning for me. My husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. And on a local level, I and another LGBT congregant had the honor of speaking at our church’s first Pride Month presentation during service, spotlighting the contributions of Marsha P. Johnson, Bayard Rustin, Jason Collins, and the founders of Black Lives Matter (FYI: two of the three founders, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors, are LGBT). Even with our respective challenges, it’s important to acknowledge our successes, big and small, and that African Americans have been part of every movement of social change.

Now, July, my favorite month, is here. As I write this column, I am grooving to the Isley Brothers and the 1973 classic, “Summer Breeze.” Writing is never done, but I do take the opportunities to spend some time outdoors; in Minnesota, we enjoy this weather while we can. Thank God for all the lakes around here! As for writing, I hope you have the opportunity to kick back with my latest novel and summer read from my Christopher Family Novel series, The Right to Be.

As author Wyatt O’Brian Evans would say, “It’s hawt!” While you’re doing that, trust and believe, my next romance novel is in the works. That being said, it is my pleasure, Wyatt, to give you this exclusive preview of To Thine Own Self: A Christopher Family Novel.

Prologue

July 24, 2011

“By the power vested in me by God and the state of New York, I now pronounce you married. Allan, Ramsey, Michael, Roslyn, you may kiss your spouses.”

It was truly one of the events of the season, and Reverend Darrell Edwards was pleased with the results. Officiating the double wedding of his twin cousins, Michael Davis, Jr. and Allan Arrington-Davis, was a great honor, as 700 VIP guests witnessed their union with their twin spouses, Roslyn Arrington Davis and Ramsey Arrington-Davis at the Plaza Hotel in New York. The day was already a cause for celebration in the state, marking the first day of marriage equality. With the Davis twins being the sons of music royalty, their wedding was a media sensation.

Darrell had no doubt about the number of weddings taking place around the city, each of them bolstered by the sheer joy and gratitude that this day, once only a dream, had finally come to pass here. When Allan and Ramsey exchanged their vows, it filled him with an extra boost of positivity. Allan had already made a showstopping entrance when he processed down the aisle with his father, Michael Sr., composer and arranger for Sunrise. Decked out in an exquisite, blinged-out, white tux accessorized with an African print kufi adorning his waist-length dreadlocks and a matching cummerbund followed by a flowing white mantle with a train and more bling, he commanded attention, as did Roslyn on the arm of her father in a fabulous Pnina Tornai princess wedding gown.

Standing at the altar, Ramsey and Mickey made a most handsome and striking presence; no one could miss their lovestruck expressions while their respective spouses processed down the aisle. Photography and videography were limited to a select few, who respectfully remained as unobtrusive as possible during the ceremony; the same went for the security team.

As the associate pastor at Light of the World Tabernacle, Darrell had performed many wedding ceremonies for its predominately LGBT congregation of color, as well as some for his relatives. This one, however, was well beyond the scope of anything he had done previously, certainly his most high-profile wedding. The press had played up the angle of twins marrying twins, but all he saw were two couples deeply in love. When Cousin Wayne sang a song written by Allan just for Ramsey, they simply couldn’t keep their eyes off each other. Being a supportive brother, Allan had also written one for Mickey to Roslyn, declaring emphatically that she was his queen

Dressed in his ministerial robes, Darrell’s brawny, 6’7” build made for a commanding yet loving presence. His 39 years tweaked his charismatic Edwards looks and healthy brown skin in the best possible way, and though the focus of the wedding was the couples, the camera loved him. Small wonder—love was in abundance in the ballroom.

With the marriage of the twins, the Sunrise ensemble had a place of honor in the seating arrangements. Sol Harvey, Medford Gladstone, their wives, and Ronnell and Jalani Austin-Hayes cheered them on as the couples kissed and later jumped the broom. Darrell couldn’t help noticing with amusement the way his oldest son, Adam, checked them out, particularly Ronnell and Jalani and Allan and Ramsey. That came as no surprise; at 15, Adam and his male friends at church were prone to dish about this boy and that boy, and where they rated on the cuteness/hotness register.

While the wedding party retired to another area of the hotel for the formal photographs, the guests headed for the dining area, mixing and mingling.

“Beautiful, beautiful wedding,” his wife Kenisha gushed, locking arms with his. “You made us proud, Darrell.”

 Darrell bent down to give her an affectionate kiss. “Thanks. They deserved the best.”

“And they got it. Now, we need to get in there for the photos before the newlyweds send out a search party.”

“They wouldn’t.”

 Kenisha shot him an incredulous look. “Oh, really? Have you forgotten that Madear and your mother are in there?”

“On second thought, let’s move it on,” he replied with a grin while they strolled out of the ballroom. “Besides, I have to sign the marriage certificates.”

During the lavish reception, Darrell and Kenisha took time out to dance to the slow ballads, bowing out of the line dances and contemporary music the newlyweds wholeheartedly enjoyed. The easy familiarity of their years of marriage lent itself to the effortless grace of their dance. The older couples on the floor nodded their approval. Auntie Aurelia, of course, could always be counted upon for commentary: “It’s about time you got on the dance floor and kept up with everybody else.” At 91, she wasn’t as over-the-top dramatic as when she was a young woman, but the mischievous, feisty glint in her eye prevailed. Even today, it amazed him how different she and Madear were and yet still sisters. One common thread, however, was in their love for their husbands; Grandpa Eli and Uncle Rufus considered themselves the lucky ones.

Having grown up in the Edwards family, schmoozing with celebrities was familiar territory, given the number of them he’d met through the fall parties hosted by his great-grandmother, Lillian Christopher Edwards, and later Madear. Now, the torch had been passed on to his mother, Sandra Harrison Edwards. As the new society queen of the Twin Cities, she had her heart set on having Aretha Franklin as her special guest for the upcoming party in September. Having observed her predecessors, Darrell had no doubt that Mom would get her wish, with plenty of urging from his cousin Ronnell King, ever since he learned that he and Aretha shared the same birthday.

“Naomi’s getting tired,” Kenisha said, indicating their eight-year-old daughter. “I’m going to take her upstairs.”

“All right. You coming back down?”

“I’ll be back. Micah can babysit.”

 Darrell sipped sparkling water while he watched his wife making her way through the crowd with a mildly protesting Naomi in tow, followed by 11-year-old Micah. Though they would protest, his children knew when parents meant business. Now he could take a moment for himself before he continued to socialize.

If only she could do it all for me, Darrell thought as he checked out a Blair Underwood lookalike and his boyfriend seemingly dancing together in stardust. But she can’t…

W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

W.D.’s tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits, and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris and Toni Morrison, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

W.D. is a book review editor for Insight News, a Black community newspaper in the Twin Cities. His column is titled, “Sharing Our Stories.”

His Christopher Family Novel series can be found on the shelves of 12 public library system collections in Minnesota and the Des Moines Public Library system in Iowa. Current works in development are a continuation of his series: two M/M romance novels, “The Right to Be” (coming of age) and “To Thine Own Self” (a 30-plus couple), and “The Rise of Sherry Payson,” a story seasoned with humor, romance, mystery, and a story within.

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.com; on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1; and Facebook. And email W. D. at wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.