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story.lead_photo.caption Karama Neal and Kwadjo Boaitey were married on Sept. 11, 2005. Karama’s dress was made by her mother. Kwadjo’s traditional kente cloth was a wedding gift from his parents. His parents had also encouraged the couple to have a knock, a ceremony that begins with the groom’s family knocking on the door of the bride- to-be’s family home.

Karama Neal wanted to learn Spanish, but it was a Ghanaian classmate who piqued her attention on the first day of class.

Karama had finished a doctorate in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University in Atlanta but still wanted to master a foreign language, so she registered for a Spanish class, set to start in February 2001, at Georgia State University, also in Atlanta. Before the class started, Karama discovered that the university had lost the record of her registration.

The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: “I remember smiling very broadly, I thought he was just really cute.”

He says: “She had shaved her head, and I remember looking at her when she said ‘Were you born on a Monday?’ I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, some style.’ You could see her presence, commanding. I hadn’t seen that from most of the individuals I was meeting and seeing in Atlanta at that time.”

On our wedding day:

She says: “I remember being just absolutely calm. I remember thinking, ‘Aren’t people supposed to be nervous? Isn’t that what you read about?’”

He says: “I felt the comfort of love. It just felt very right. And I just felt kind of embraced in that love.”

My advice for a long happy marriage is:

She says: “I think you’ve got to [be] committed and persistent in marriage and really loving, and working through the challenges with your partner is just critical.”

He says: “My dad quoted 1 John, and I’m paraphrasing but he said something like, ‘Your wife, your marriage is God, and so if you’re loving your wife, with everything you have, then you’re loving God.’”

"It was really weird like that. They had absolutely no record at all that I had registered. I was like, 'I'm looking at my canceled check,'" she says. "It was very strange, and they recognized it was very strange."

The Spanish class she wanted to take was full by then, but to make up for the snafu, the university gave her a free creative writing class that was to start when her Spanish class would have begun, and enrolled her in an April Spanish class instead.

Kwadjo Boaitey was also in that April Spanish class.

Kwadjo was a program associate for AmeriCorps VISTA and he and his colleagues decided it would be beneficial for one of them to learn some Spanish, thus his joining that class.

Karama had rewarded herself for completing a doctorate with a trip to Ghana in November 2000. When she heard Kwadjo say his name as part of class introductions on the first day, she recognized it as Ghanaian. The name Kwadjo, she says, was traditionally given to boys born on Monday. After class, wearing a Ghanaian-inspired vest that her seamstress mother had made, Karama approached Kwadjo.

"I said, 'Oh, so your name is Kwadjo -- were you born on a Monday?' And Kwadjo said, 'I don't think my mom would mess that up,'" she says. "I was kind of annoyed because I thought he could have responded a different way, but he was cute so we kept talking."

Karama and Kwadjo became friends, sometimes taking the train to and from the campus together, and riding around to various places in the 1983 Toyota Tercel wagon Kwadjo had dubbed "Penelope."

Kwadjo says now that he thinks Karama may have had "amorous intentions," and he thought she was nice, but he intentionally held her at arms' length.

"I had just come from New York, and it wasn't like I didn't want to be in a relationship, but I wanted to be serious, like, 'I need to know if this is the one for me' kind of thing," he says.

Time passed and they saw each other less. Karama invited Kwadjo to parties that he didn't attend and they mostly lost touch.

They hadn't seen each other in months when, in February 2004, Karama went to Spelman College in Atlanta to hear her favorite author, Octavia Butler.

On the way there she thought she should have made sure Kwadjo knew that Butler was speaking that day.

"I thought, 'Oh, he would enjoy this,'" she says.

Kwadjo was there that day, and he and Karama found each other during intermission.

"All of a sudden, I hear, 'Kwadjo?'" he says. "I turned around and it was Karama. When I looked at her, it was like one of those kind of 'booms' -- you can feel it from your inside out. I was like, 'Whoa.'"

Kwadjo emailed Karama a video Valentine's card, featuring Bob Marley's "Is This Love."

Their first date was to a Turkish restaurant, and over dinner Kwadjo told her about some messages he had gotten and interactions he had had with people lately that made him feel loved. Karama responded that she had prayed all year that God would instill in her the qualities she wanted in a mate.

"I felt like wow, we both were saying the same prayer, you know ..." Kwadjo says. "At that point, I was like, wow. I just was like, well, this is it."

Kwadjo visited Arkansas with Karama, meeting her family and seeing some of the state, before he proposed marriage. She had told him she did not want a diamond, so he chose a handcrafted wooden ring, which she adored.

They had a traditional knock ceremony, a Ghanaian tradition during which both the bride-to-be's family and the groom's family come together to show support.

Their wedding was on Sept. 11, 2005, at St. Andrew AME Church in Little Rock, followed by a reception at the Darragh Center.

Kwadjo and Karama moved from Atlanta to Little Rock in 2008. Kwadjo is a teacher at Henderson Middle School. Karama is president of Southern Bancorp Community Partners.

They have one daughter, Ayoka, 12.

Karama remembers a close friend in Atlanta asking her how she knew Kwadjo was the man she should marry.

"I remember what I said," Karama says. "I said, 'When I'm with Kwadjo, I'm a better child of God. I'm better able to do God's work.' I think that's why I was calm on the wedding day. This relationship does not make me just want to be a better person, it actually makes me a better person."

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Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Karama Neal and Kwadjo Boaitey met in Spanish class at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Karama asked Kwadjo an enthusiastic question, and his answer left something to be desired. “I was kind of annoyed because I thought he could have responded a different way, but he was cute so we kept talking.”

High Profile on 06/30/2019

Print Headline: Lost class enrollment record put couple together

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