That night, Keisha Lance Bottoms, former mayor of Atlanta, “gave a passionate speech — her ‘if you care about this city, go home’ speech,’” Mr. Smith said. “We watched it, and we didn’t really talk about it. In some ways, we didn’t need to, because there was this sense that we both were feeling something very similar.”
In November 2020, Mr. Long commissioned a painting of Brown’s Barber Shop, which was originally meant to be a birthday gift for Mr. Smith. But by the time it was completed in April 2021, Mr. Long said he “just had this feeling that this is no longer a birthday present,” adding, “It’s much deeper than that.”
That May Mr. Long proposed to Mr. Smith, presenting him with the painting in lieu of a ring.
The piece is meaningful to the couple for many reasons, Mr. Long said, which include a shared “love of and habit of collecting art.” Mr. Smith grew up in Athens, the location of the barbershop, and Mr. Long, who grew up in Philadelphia, called Athens “a formative place” in his life. The barbershop’s address on “Hot Corner,” a section in Athens bustling with Black businesses, is also historically significant.
“But most of all, the fact that we met each other at, of all places, a barbershop felt ironic,” added Mr. Long, who called the space “one of the Blackest, most masculine and most beloved institutions of the Black community.”
In March, they moved in together at Mr. Smith’s apartment in Midtown Atlanta. Mr. Long now works as a health marketing strategy director at the Atlanta office of the advertising agency Brunet-García. Mr. Smith is a professor at Emory Law School.