With Valentine’s Day here, it’s the perfect time to share stories of Black love. And in keeping with our “Finding The One” series, we couldn’t think of a better pair to profile than Nikki Bracy and Courtney Jenkins. Here, Nikki opens up about how she’s battled and beaten cancer multiple times and how her soulmate of more than a decade, Courtney, stood by her side each time.
MadameNoire (MN): Where did you first meet your fiancé?
Nikki Bracy (NB): I first met Courtney in the summer of 2006. My high school friend and I were getting ready to go off to college and decided to throw a going away dinner at TGIFriday’s (our go-to in high school). My friend invited Courtney, as they had been friends since elementary school, and, long story short, we couldn’t take our eyes off of each other. We developed a friendship soon after (dating on-and-off over the years), and then we finally got serious in 2013 once we were both more settled in our careers and life trajectory.
MN: How long did you date?
NB: Six years and nine months before getting engaged.
MN: Tell us your proposal story.
NB: Every year, Courtney’s parents have a big Christmas party for family and friends. Usually we celebrate Christmas in the morning with my mom and grandma and then in the evening with his family at the party. This year, when we got to the party my parents were there, which didn’t throw me off at all because my grandmother had been talking for days about how she didn’t feel like cooking Christmas dinner this year so I knew Courtney invited them to come. Let me tell you, my grandma was the real MVP of this whole proposal. She really had me fooled! After an hour or so, my sisters also showed up, so once both of our families were there he got everyone’s attention and proposed in front of both of our loved ones. It was perfect!
MN: How did you know he was the one? How did he know you were it for him?
NB: To be honest, having known each other for so long we always knew there was something special about each other. But when we got serious in 2013, we were in a long-distance relationship and he was taking 12-hour train rides every month to come visit me. When we saw the lengths we were willing to go to just to spend time with each other, we knew it was more than just a spark—we were actually committed to making the relationship work.
MN: What advice would you give other couples considering getting engaged/married?
NB: Take your time. There are a lot of people—parents, in-laws, friends—who will hound you about marriage after you’ve been together for like, two seconds. Ignore them. Only you two know if you are ready to spend an entire lifetime together—and that moment comes when you decide it should, not when society tells you it should. While you’re dating, your focus should be on developing a healthy relationship in which you two are able to communicate effectively, excite, and surprise each other, fight fair, and support each other through difficult times. Only then should you consider getting engaged.
Another element that’s important in choosing a lifelong partner is how they support you in hard times. As a three-time cancer survivor, I am constantly dealing with a variety of health issues but they seem a lot easier to tackle with Courtney by my side. He has been there for surgeries, doctor’s appointments, emergency department and urgent care visits, always putting my needs first and never allowing me to feel alone. You never know what challenges may arise throughout a lifetime together so knowing you have consistent unfailing support—even in scary, life-threatening situations—is immeasurable.
I am getting ready to participate in a bike fundraiser in support of the Ulman Foundation—a nonprofit dedicated to helping young adults battling cancer. I will be biking from Key Highway (in Baltimore) to Key West, Florida—and Courtney will be flying to Florida to meet me at the finish line! If you would like to learn more about my story and support this cause, check out my donation page Ulman Foundation.
MN: What’s the most challenging part about being in a relationship? What have you learned about yourself?
NB: The most challenging thing is merging two separate people’s lives—learning each other’s habits, respecting each other’s needs, knowing what makes each other tick—and creating one life together in which both people feel valued. Courtney and I are similar in some ways but very different in others. In a relationship you have to be willing to grow as a person and sometimes compromise. I learned I don’t love to compromise. But this relationship has helped me look at myself and evaluate the type of person and partner I want to be, and always strive to be the best version of myself in every aspect of my life.
MN: What excites you most about the next chapter of your life?
NB: We have a whole lifetime ahead of us to have fun, try new things, make mistakes, support each other, and create an experience that is uniquely ours.