ST. PETERSBURG — Twenty-Second Street South has been undergoing a reconstruction of sorts over the last few years. Restaurants and shops have worked their way into the area with hopes of breathing life back into the historic section of St. Petersburg. So on the 22nd day of the month of love, couples gathered at the Royal Theater in Midtown, located at 1011 22nd St. S., to pay tribute to 11 couples who have stayed together through thick and thin.
“We wanted to honor and promote lasting relationships,” said Antwaun Wells a master barber at Esquire Barbershop, who makes it his mission to support businesses in the Midtown section of the city and who hosted the event. “It’s a very rare thing, something that is not really found much in our community anymore.”
Five couples were spotlighted for their years of devotion and dedication to one another. Wells who also is known for his work as Project Manager for Wells Builders, a mentoring and tutoring organization, strives to teach others in the African-American community how to build those relationships that last. So we asked them.
What is your secret?
“I learned that God did not give me a perfect wife,” said Arch Bishop Clarence Davis of the Joy Tabernacle Cathedral in Tampa as he smiled and hastily admitted he wasn’t faultless either.
“Celebrate each other’s positive attributes and forget the negative.”
With 52 years of marriage under their belts, after only one date, both Clarence and Ava Davis have weathered many storms. With three sons, one now deceased, and a lifetime of living God’s will, the couple credits their attitude about relationships as being the glue that holds everything in place.
“We didn’t go into it thinking short-term,” said Arch Bishop Davis who recalls attending counseling for marriage before the holy ceremony. “The counselor said, ‘I will not marry you unless you plan to stay together 75 years”.”
But times today are different. Longevity, an aspect of culture, no matter the race, is arguably going by the wayside, and is disappearing among married couples. But don’t tell that to the Brayboy’s though.
Married for 35 years, both Elihu and Carolyn are widely recognized in the community for their work in the revitalization efforts throughout Midtown. With a consignment store, a pizza-and-ice cream shop, and a Cajun restaurant on the way, there is plenty to keep them both busy. They met in 7th grade and dated until they went their separate ways in college. They didn’t see each other for ten years. So when their paths crossed again the couple knew their attraction was still strong. And although Elihu credits his love and respect for his wife as their strongest asset, anyone who knows the husband and wife team would venture to speculate on their polar oppositeness when it comes to comparing personalities and skills as the key to their success.
“We recognize that I’m good at certain things, he’s good at certain things,” said wife Carolyn who is active in the family business alongside her husband. “We say stay in your lane. What he’s good at he does and what I’m good at I’ll do, so that way we don’t get into it.”
Good advice, and as the night went on Wells had a few surprises that would test that resolve. Before the food the five honorary couples representing longevity in relationships were subjected to a Newlywed game of sorts.
Perhaps it should have been renamed the Oldywed game.
To kick it off couples were separated and the women were asked to write down their answers to five questions geared at seeing which wife really knew her man. The men also recorded their answers and after comparing them were awarded points for matches. The game continued with the men having to come up with the correct answers to five questions about their wives.
Surprisingly after a total of years that surpasses a century of marriage amongst them, there were plenty of mixed signals, wrong answers, and at times misunderstandings of what makes a movie a movie and a TV show a TV show.
But with some questions asking for the percentage of housework their husbands will admit to and others inquiring exactly how many shoes each of the ladies had hidden in their closet, there were bound to be some wrong answers.
The couples took it all in stride and in good spirit. Even when the clear winners were the Davis’ who swept their competition, earning first place in both games, making the husband/wife duo a powerhouse of knowledge. When it comes to each other that is.
And after 52 years of marriage did you really expect anything different? Other couples being honored at the Royal Theater were Jessie and Martina Green, married for 25 years and Eddie and Sarah Lee Robinson who walked down the aisle just 22 years ago. They married just three weeks after they met.
Al and Cassandra Jackson were also honored, having been married for 25 years. Cassandra politely listened to her husband explain his revelation of what type of woman he realized he should be joined with, patiently waiting for her turn to talk.
“Okay, let me tell you the way it really happened,” she chimed in when it was her turn to reveal the secret of what keeps their marriage strong. She credits Jesus for a strong foundation for which they have built their house of love, and feels strongly that their determination to make their relationship a lasting one is the reason they’re still together. “You have your good days, your challenging days, however, our vows, raising a family, making sure that the family is bonded and kept together – that was our whole desire,” she said, “to represent marriage in a positive way. That’s why we’re still here today.”
After watching and listening to all five honorary couples, one thing is evident for a healthy and lasting relationship. The ability to poke fun at life’s situations and the determination to work through the times when humor isn’t enough.
All couples took a few moments to discuss their passions and what they hold dear in the community. Wells hopes to support each of them in their endeavors and show his patronage through his organization, ACT Right which promotes worthy businesses and organizations in the area of Midtown.