When Krystal Alyssia Ramseur asked Samiyyah Rasheedah Ali in August 2020 if she wanted to work together to create a virtual improv show about two queer Black women, Ms. Ali was convinced that Ms. Ramseur was coyly asking her out.
She and Ms. Ramseur were active members of the Washington Improv Theater in Washington, D.C. But the pandemic had caused the theater to shut down that March, and for months, Ms. Ramseur, a director, performer and board member there, had been organizing variety shows online to fill the void. Ms. Ali was a student at the theater with far less experience than Ms. Ramseur.
“I thought there’s no way she wants to perform with a low-level student,” Ms. Ali said. “This is a facade.”
It turned out she was wrong, sort of.
“I was not asking her out,” Ms. Ramseur said. At the time, she was looking for a different sort of connection. The pandemic had pushed Ms. Ramseur to reflect deeply on her life. “I was really starting to figure out who I am and what I want in my life,” she said.
By early fall 2020, she wanted to begin the process of coming out as queer to her friends and family and thought a show could be a good vehicle for it.
Ms. Ramseur had met Ms. Ali once in person, in February 2020, at an event Ms. Ramseur created with another producer at the theater, an all-Black improv festival called “The Cookout.” She noticed how naturally and confidently Ms. Ali spoke about her sexuality, and felt inspired by her. “She felt like a safe space for me,” Ms. Ramseur said.
In August 2020, they began meeting on Zoom once a week for an hour, with the intention of discussing ideas for the show. “Instead, we talked about ourselves and our families,” Ms. Ali said. “We learned a ton about each other.”
Ms. Ali, 34, a litigation lawyer at Williams & Connolly in Washington, grew up in Atlanta. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Duke, a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from the Ohio State University, and a law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School.
Ms. Ramseur, 35, is the chief operating officer of the National Council of Negro Women in Washington. She was born in Hampton, Va., and received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, as well as a master’s degree in public administration from Bowie State University in Maryland.
In October 2020, Ms. Ramseur and Ms. Ali premiered an improvised sketch show online, called “The Carmichaels,” in a nod to Susie Carmichael from Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats.”
“When we did our duos,” or two-person improv show, “people in the comments were asking, ‘Are you together? There’s chemistry,’” Ms. Ali said. (Since then, Ms. Ali and Ms. Ramseur have performed “The Carmichaels” live.)
Ms. Ali had sensed that chemistry with Ms. Ramseur since their first Zoom meeting. But she wasn’t sure if her feelings were reciprocated until that December, when Ms. Ramseur spent hours making Ms. Ali a list of her favorite 86 episodes of “The Office.”
“This is like a modern day mixtape,” Ms. Ali said. “I have no friend I would make this kind of list for.”
In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2021, Ms. Ali was texting with Ms. Ramseur, who was working on a grant application for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on behalf of the National Council of Negro Women. (They received $5 million of funding, and used it to create the Good Health Women’s Immunization Networks Program, or Good Health WINS, which works to reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccination rates around the country.)
Ms. Ali told Ms. Ramseur that “in the before times,” she would have asked her on a date by standing outside her window and holding Mexican food above her head like John Cusack with a boombox in the 1989 film “Say Anything.” But it was months into the pandemic, so instead they agreed to go on a walk along the waterfront in Alexandria, Va.
They met on Jan. 16, 2021 at 9 a.m. because Ms. Ali was starting orientation at noon for a new role as a deputy associate White House counsel — the job that preceded her current one. Though it was a high-pressure day, Ms. Ali decided to bake Biscoff chocolate chip cookies for Ms. Ramseur. “I was super nervous,” she said. “I cracked the eggshells into the bowl.”
Ms. Ramseur was also nervous, but not about the date specifically. “I knew that if this went well, it was going to be something big,” she said. “I kept thinking to myself, am I ready for that?”
The walk went well, and two weeks later, Ms. Ramseur came to Ms. Ali’s apartment for chimichangas, margaritas and a viewing of “The Office.”
“From then on, we were dating,” Ms. Ali said.
In April, they planned their first trip together, to Rehoboth Beach, Del. Ms. Ramseur decided that the mini-break would be a good opportunity to tell her parents, Pamela and Kevin Ramseur, with whom she was living at the time in Waldorf, Md., that she is queer and was dating Ms. Ali.
“It went really well,” she said. Afterward, on their way back from Rehoboth, Ms. Ramseur brought Ms. Ali to her parents’ house for Sunday dinner. “I’d never introduced anybody to my parents,” Ms. Ramseur said.
“I felt at home with her family immediately,” Ms. Ali said. Ms. Ramseur’s mother made her daughter’s favorite dish, turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes. “Her mom walked me through how to make it,” she said. “Like, this is the standard of what my baby lives by.”
Ms. Ali had been open about her sexuality with her mother, Aziza Ali, for some time. But she had never told other people in her family. That spring, not long after Ms. Ramseur came out to her parents, Ms. Ali said, “I texted pretty much everybody else in my family outside my mom that I’m queer, and I’m dating someone I’m really into.” Her father, Abu Ali, had died when she was in college so she never had the chance to tell him.
For her proposal in December 2021, Ms. Ramseur concocted a fictional work event that she asked Ms. Ali to attend with her at the Willard InterContinental hotel in Washington. To distract Ms. Ali, Ms. Ramseur even wrote a fake speech for her to edit.
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At 6 a.m. that day, Ms. Ramseur said she was going on her daily walk, but instead went to buy flowers, Ms. Ali’s favorite strawberry cake from the CakeRoom, balloons and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. She dropped everything off at her office, drove home and pretended to have just returned from her walk. Later, she, her mother, and her sister, Kourtney Ramseur, set up everything in a suite at the hotel.
That evening, Ms. Ramseur brought Ms. Ali to the hotel room and proposed. After saying yes, Ms. Ali was concerned. “I said, but we’re really late to the event,” she said. Only then did she realize the event was fake. Afterward, they ordered room service, and, Ms. Ali said, “ate cake for every meal and watched TV for the next two days.”
Ms. Ali decided to propose, too, in February 2022. “We’re a team, and we both get to get asked, and say yes, and make the decision,” she said.
She printed out 100 Polaroids of her and Ms. Ramseur and hung them around the apartment on Capitol Hill that they both lived in by then, along with green leaves and lights. She scattered rose petals across the floor and ordered the couple’s beloved chimichangas. When Ms. Ramseur walked in the door, Ms. Ali played “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, one of Ms. Ramseur’s favorite songs, on the violin.
After Ms. Ali proposed, she and Ms. Ramseur went to Washington Improv Theater to perform in a live show with their improv teams.
On April 29, Ms. Ali and Ms. Ramseur were married in front of 190 guests by Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court at the Piedmont Room and Piedmont Garden Tent in Atlanta. Ms. Ali grew close with Justice Sotomayor while working as her law clerk from 2018 to 2019. She introduced Ms. Ramseur to her in May 2021 during a virtual game night hosted by Justice Sotomayor. “She was like, ‘OK, well, when is the wedding?’” Ms. Ali said. “I said, we’re not engaged, we’re dating. And she said, ‘I’ll be offended if you don’t let me officiate.’”
When Ms. Ali and Ms. Ramseur became engaged, they asked her to officiate. “She was overjoyed,” Ms. Ali said.
They kicked off their wedding weekend with — what else? — an improv show at a local theater called Dad’s Garage. About 35 of their friends performed. “It was amazing,” Ms. Ramseur said.
At the reception under a tent, the couple served a family-style dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and grits. “We wanted everyone to feel like they’re sitting around our dinner table,” Ms. Ali said.
Afterward, all the guests hit the dance floor. “We had an 86-year-old woman leading the electric slide,” Ms. Ramseur said.
“Not just any woman,” Ms. Ali clarified. “A civil rights icon.” The woman was Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the first Black female president of Spelman College.
“Every generation was on the dance floor, from the young to the old,” Ms. Ali said. “It was awesome.”
On This Day
When April 29, 2023
Where The Piedmont Room and Piedmont Garden Tent, Atlanta
Solo Time At the end of the reception, after the music died down and all the guests left, Ms. Ramseur and Ms. Ali had a private slow dance to the song “Sun and Moon” by Anees. “We wanted to take a moment for ourselves and reflect on everything,” Ms. Ali said.
Hello From a Good Boy Ripley, the couple’s dog, a lab-whippet mix, was unable to attend. “She prefers small, intimate gatherings,” Ms. Ali said. So one of their friends, Alex Kazanas, drew a portrait of Ripley in a tuxedo saying “Cheers!” that the couple printed onto all the cocktail napkins.
Representation “We wanted the wedding to look and feel like us,” Ms. Ramseur said. “We were looking for Black female vendors.” They hired a Black female D.J., D.J. Lyris, and photographer, a Black woman as the wedding coordinator, and asked two Black female friends, who are a couple, to greet everyone as they came in for the ceremony.