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‘He Got on His Knee in Front of Me and I Started Crying and Said, ‘Yes’”

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CHINEKA & RONNIE PARKER

BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY • The Birmingham Times

Live: Forestdale

Married: Oct. 4, 1996

Met: Summer 1992 in the Southtown Projects on the southside of Birmingham. Both Chineka and Ronnie were residents and Chineka, then 20, said she’d often flirt with Ronnie, who was then 29 because she had a crush on him.

“I would see him walking past, and I would say ‘Hey, Ronnie, what cha’ doing?’, and he would say, ‘Girl you better leave me alone, you’re too young for me’. Over time I left him alone, but about six months later I saw him in the club at the Sports Den [downtown], and a song came on and he came up to me,” Chineka recalled. “At first I thought he was just going to [say hello] but he asked me to dance and the rest was history.”

“Make it Last Forever [by Keith Sweat] was playing and that’s what we been doing ever since,” said Ronnie, as the couple approaches nearly three decades of marriage.

First date: December 1992, the pair went for a drive around town to spend some time alone.

“I stayed with my mom at the time, and he shared his place with a roommate, and we just wanted some alone time,” Chineka said.

Ronnie said he just wanted an opportunity to learn more about her without interruptions.

“During that car ride, I just wanted to get to know her and see where her head was,” Ronnie said.

The proposal: New Year’s Eve 1995, in Indianapolis, Indiana, at Chenika’s aunt’s house after Chenika became pregnant with their second child, Ronnie wanted to make their family official.

“We had one child in our life and I was ready for more, I wanted [a son] and I knew she was the one and was going to be mine forever,” Ronnie said. “We went to her aunt’s house to bring in the new year, and the music was playing and everybody was dancing and socializing when I stopped the music and said I had an announcement to make. And I went and got Chineka by my hand and got on one knee and asked her to marry me.”

“I thought he was about to make a toast to bring in the new year because it was about a minute left until midnight, but then he got on his knee in front of me and I started crying and said ‘yes’,” Chineka said.

Ronnie said they lived in Indiana for two years. “We went up there with one child and brought another one back [to Birmingham] and came back married,” he laughed.

The wedding: On their firstborn child, Ronnika’s birthday [October 4, 1996], at a courthouse in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, officiated by a clergyman, followed by a reception at Chineka’s aunt Anna’s home in Indianapolis. The reception colors were shades of red and white.

Most memorable for the bride was a moment during their reception when she realized their life plans had come full circle. “Most of that day [I felt] gratefulness, happiness, and couldn’t believe I was married with two children. We [had had our] baby boy, Ronnie Jr., in September of 1996, and had got married on our daughter’s birthday like we always said we would,” Chineka said.

Most memorable for the groom was a myriad of emotions. “I was crying and happy, all my emotions were mixed up together. I knew it was time to step all the way up [in my manhood] because now I had a whole family to take care of,” Ronnie said.

They honeymooned for the weekend at a hotel in Indiana, but had “a real honeymoon 10 years later when we renewed our vows and had a church wedding at Good Hope Baptist Church [in Birmingham] with the children in it,” Chineka said. “That’s when we went to Las Vegas and had the time of our lives!”

Words of wisdom: “Trust each other, and every day we wake up and say ‘I love you and kiss each other’ … You gotta spread your love because you never know when it might be the last time you get to say I love you,” Ronnie said.

“Trust and communication are important. We also try not to go to bed mad at each other. Listen to one another, listen to his heart, listen to his mind, and listen to his emotions. Marriage is a job and you constantly have to work at it. You can’t leave it alone to complete itself, you have to work it and manifest it into what you want it to be,” Chineka said. “Also, try something different or be spontaneous to [keep the spark] going… we’ll go places at the spur of the moment.”

Happily ever after: The Parkers attend St. James Christian Center in Ensley, and have two children, Ronnika, 30, and Ronnie Jr., 27, and six grandchildren.
Chineka, 51, is a Southside Birmingham native who grew up in Southtown Projects. She is a Phillips High School grad and works as a therapeutic specialist for Birmingham City Schools.

Ronnie, 60, is a Southside Birmingham native, who grew up in Southtown Projects. He is a Phillips High School grad and works on the shipping dock at the Amazon Warehouse in Bessemer.

 “You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

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