Kerry-Anne and Michael Gordon were married on June 6 in Philadelphia, in front of a tiny group of family and friends. A Black Lives Matter protest was going by just before the ceremony, and the bride stepped into the street to watch, accidentally creating an image that has gone viral—picked up by dozens of publications and endlessly shared and retweeted on social media.
The photo stands on its own, the ultimate representation of the fact that—as Cornel West has said—justice is what love looks like in public. But the people behind the image are worth hearing from too. Dr. Kerry-Anne Gordon is an immigrant and a veteran working as an ob-gyn on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. And she and Michael Gordon—a first-generation American and a veteran himself—are standing up, because they have a message to share.
Dr. Kerry-Anne Gordon: None of it would have happened if I hadn’t left my bouquet in the hotel lobby.
It was before the wedding, and it was burning hot in downtown Philadelphia. We hadn’t said our vows or tasted the rum cake Mike had picked up at six in the morning from outside the city or even done our first look. As I stood in my dress, waiting for my bouquet, I heard the sounds of protesters flowing toward us, down the Parkway. We had just 21 guests, and some were peeking out of the hotel courtyard, hoping to catch a glimpse of the tens of thousands of people marching for Black lives.
I thought, Since we didn’t get to protest today since we had the wedding, I might as well have a picture so I can remember the protest that we wanted to be in. People saw me, and started cheering, yelling, “Congratulations!” and “You look beautiful,” and “Black lives matter! Black lives matter!”
I stepped into the crowd and all of a sudden everything stopped. People swarmed around me—so happy and so supportive. I called for Mike because I wanted him to feel the movement that was all around us—I didn’t want him to miss anything. He came toward me, and three things happened at once: First, I remembered America’s history, I remembered the history of racism, I remembered coming with my family from Jamaica as immigrants, I remembered all that we had been through. Second, I saw the power of the people, and it was breathtaking. And third, I saw Mike, just looking like the most handsome guy, and that broke me. In one heartbeat, I saw history, I saw our current situation, and I saw our future. And that was our first look.
I met Mike nearly seven years ago. I want to say that when he asked me out, I kindly, nicely said no…but I’m not sure that’s how he remembers it. Since I migrated to the U.S., my mind had been so focused: I served in the military (I’m currently a captain in the reserves), I worked my way through undergrad and med school, I focused on my training to become an ob-gyn. Michael just wasn’t part of that. But after almost two years of small talk at our shared gym, I finally found an opening in my residency schedule, and we went on a date. That was probably the first time that I paid attention to who he is. He’s a Navy vet—he worked on fighter jets and now works as a wireless engineer. He can complete things. There’s no one else I’ve ever met in my life that I can say, “I trust you with me.” I’m used to leading and spearheading things all day, and with him, I can come home and just be.
Mike Gordon: What took her years to see, I knew as soon as I met her. The same way you can see light shining into the room right now, you can see light coming off Kerry all the time. I just thought, I have to get to know her.
We all knew that the backdrop of the wedding was going to be the protest, but we didn’t want to focus on it, because we wanted to just keep it light and keep the positive spirit of love. But what we’ve come to realize since that day is that love is what is driving the movement. People wanting to show love for their brother.
Early that morning we had learned that the city was blocked off from river to river, and thought, That’s just gonna make it that much harder to make sure that everyone gets there. But that moment was literally just love. And that’s what that movement is. So much of these struggles are about perception—if somehow our small movement helps solidify in people's mindsets that this is about positivity and love, words can’t explain what that means to us. We’re random people. We were there for a very brief period of time as tens of thousands of protesters came down that parkway. If our image gives people a sense of love and unity to associate with this movement, we’re very lucky.
Kerry-Anne: Initially i was like, “Okay, the pandemic affected the wedding, the protest will not.” I have always wanted to be a physician, since I was a young child. When I did my ob-gyn rotation during my residency, it felt settled in my heart: I wanted to deal with women and help them feel physically, mentally, psychologically, ritually healthy. The first weeks of the pandemic were the most chaotic, the most confusing, because there was so much unknown. As an ob-gyn, you’re always dealing with two patients at a time, two lives on your hands. We’ve come a long way, but sometimes when I get suited up to go into a patient's room with COVID, I still feel as if I am going to war. It’s the hardest for the patients—people don’t want to come near them. It’s like you’re in jail but in your own space.
So here I am, planning for what would have been the greatest wedding for us and our family, taking care of charts and prepping surgeries during the day, and then coming home and planning for the wedding at night. And then COVID hit. Every day we had conversations about whether or not to postpone—I cried and cried and cried because my soul was hurting so much. But when we committed to sharing our vows on June 6, things really started to release. I was like, “We’re gonna do this, we only have two weeks to plan for this, but it’s gonna happen and then I can rest a little bit.”
And then this surprising thing happened at a protest, on the happiest day of my life. It’s really hard to put it into words, because we’re usually private, low-key people, so we still cannot really understand it, to tell you the truth. All of the love that has been shown to us—I don’t have enough space in my heart for it. It almost feels undeserved, but we’re grateful. If I can use this moment to share a message, it’s that I really encourage people in general to continue to get up. Whether it’s a woman getting up when you’re not getting things as equally as your male counterpart, or be gay or trans people facing down injustice—just keep standing up.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
Originally Appeared on Glamour