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‘There are three people in your marriage… you, your partner and God’

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — I was a freshman and Shamar was a junior…as the night went on I was at the bar fixing my food and he came over and introduced himself. We conversed all night, we had amazing conversation and that night God literally told me that he was my husband and that kind of freaked me out because at the time I wasn’t hearing from God audibly. We ended up exchanging numbers but he never called.

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NADIA AND SHAMAR GRAMBY

By Je’Don Holloway-Talley, Special to The Birmingham Times

“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Erica Wright ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

NADIA AND SHAMAR GRAMBY

Live: Chelsea

Married: July 14, 2012

Met: In Huntsville in the fall of 2003 at a fellow Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University [A&M] student’s apartment. Nadia’s friend and Shamar’s frat brother were throwing a social gathering and Shamar was one of the hosts.

“I was a freshman and Shamar was a junior…as the night went on I was at the bar fixing my food and he came over and introduced himself,” Nadia recalled. “We conversed all night, we had amazing conversation and that night God literally told me that he was my husband and that kind of freaked me out because at the time I wasn’t hearing from God audibly. … We ended up exchanging numbers but he never called.”

Shamar recalled that Nadia stood out. “I saw this beautiful young lady sitting there… I saw her communicating with everybody and she seemed fun and outgoing and it’s like God was telling me there was something about her that I needed to find out . . . we ended up having a real deep conversation which is odd for those kinds of parties. We talked about our goals, and faith…we had a lot in common and had a lot of the same things that we wanted out of life.”

First date: The pair went to see a movie that they cannot recall and afterward had a candlelit dinner at Shamar’s apartment. They ate steak, potatoes and green beans. Nadia recalled being very impressed. Shamar said he couldn’t recall the movie but did remember he cooked a full course meal and had some candles flickering. “I wanted to make sure she knew that I thought she was unique and special and that she deserved a certain level of effort and care.

Nadia said she couldn’t focus on the movie because “I was jittery and nervous the whole time. When Shamar picked me up from my dorm room he had flowers for me…he was playing R&B in the car, he was such a gentleman and opened all the doors for me… when we got done with the movie he said, ‘I’m going to cook you dinner and I got to watch him make it.”

Nadia said they shared a kiss at the end of the night. “I really wanted to kiss him and I knew he wanted to kiss me, but he was so respectful that I knew he would have never made the move to kiss me first, so I gave him the three-second start, I leaned in [first].

“I took it from there,” Shamar said.

The turn: Nadia and Shamar dated throughout their collegiate careers and had a son in September 2007. They didn’t want to get married early on “just for the look of it,” Nadia said. “We didn’t want to get married just because we had a baby, we wanted to be ready and marry because we were still in love.”

After dating for seven years they began talking in 2010 about marriage.

The proposal: On a couple’s trip in 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Venetian Hotel on a gondola ride.

“I chose the Venetian [hotel] because I had previously been to Italy and I wanted to take her one day so I thought it would be the perfect place…I chose a special song for the guy [paddling the boat] to sing to her in the Italian language and when we got to [the arching bridge] I had the guy pause there and I told her how much she meant to me and how I could not live without her in my life and that I would be honored if she would be my wife. I took the ring out and she said ‘yes.’

“I was surprised because we had been [on many adventures] during the trip and we were so casual, I could not believe he was proposing to me while I had on jeans and a tee-shirt,” Nadia laughed, “…when the man started singing in Italian and he [Shamar] started going in his pocket I was like this is really happening today!…it brought me back to the day I heard the voice of God and His promise was really about to manifest.”

The wedding: At the Museum of Art in Huntsville, officiated by Pastor Windell Davis of Union Chapel Church in Huntsville. Their colors were tiffany-blue, mocha and white.

Most memorable for the groom was Nadia’s walk down the aisle. “The band ‘Remedy’ (A&M students) was playing live and my cousin Sheena was singing [the band’s song] ‘You’ as she came down the aisle… Her essence and her beauty, and all of our memories came to a head, our child, I just broke down right then and there. Somebody had to pass me a handkerchief,” Shamar laughed.

Most memorable for the bride was “when we did the unity sand together after we did communion as a family,” Nadia said. “Instead of union candles, we did sand, so Shamar and I, and our son Khalil all had our own sand that we poured in a glass together and for me, that was really special for our family to be under the covenant of God in our relationship.”

Words of wisdom: “Always put God first, put Him as the head of your life,” Shamar said. Next, be loyal to each other and have each other’s back. It may not always be 50-50, but be willing to pick up where the other left off. Always encourage each other. Always keep in mind the reasons why you married that person and be willing to talk and look at their perspective in life because people change. Be an open book, whether it’s good or bad.

Nadia said, “you must remember that there are three people in your marriage: you, your partner and God. If you remember that and keep Him in the middle of your marriage, you’re more likely to have a successful [union]. Also] knowing that I can trust my husband… I can trust him with my heart and I can trust him with who I am at the core of who I am, and because I can trust him I can communicate… I can be honest, I can tell him how I really feel because I know that he will honor me and take care of me as his wife….

Happily ever after: The Gramby’s have one child, son Khalil, 12, and enjoy helping to build other couples as board members of the marriage ministry at their church More than Conquerors in West End.

Nadia, 34, is a Daphne, Ala. native and graduated from Daphne High School. She attended Alabama A&M where she studied psychology and earned a B.S. in Human Resource Management from Faulkner University (Hunstville campus). She is a birth and post partum doula and owns her own company ‘Crown of Glory Birth Services’ and is also an [online] student midwife at The National College of midwifery (in New Mexico).

Shamar, 37, is a Columbus, OH native, and graduated from Reynoldsburg High School. He attended Alabama A&M, where he earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He is an accounts service rep in sales and marketing for Viva Health.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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