Her sensitivity touched him

Just Married

Thema Bryant and Kwesi Davis

July 14, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

From the start, Kwesi Davis was impressed by Thema Bryant's compassion and willingness to help people.

They had met briefly at a national poetry competition in Providence, R.I., in August 2000 and became friends that September after Kwesi, who lived in Providence, started participating in the arts collective Thema directed in Boston. Thema was in Boston for an internship while earning her doctorate in psychology from Duke University.

At events put on by the collective, Thema was a performer and organizer, but she still had time for people who came to her with personal problems, Kwesi says. "She is someone who knows what priorities are all about," he says. "People are priorities."

She is also "the absolute best slam poet on the face of the planet," he says.

Thema recalls how Kwesi brought her her shoes after she had been dancing at a collective event, and that he told her she looked out for everyone else, so he was looking out for her.

"It's the first time a person was so concerned about me," says Thema, 28. She found Kwesi, 26, "very engaging and also very sensitive and observant" when they went out for coffee.

That October, they went on their first date. Although Thema, who grew up in the Liberty Heights area, majored in dance at the Baltimore School for the Arts, Kwesi, from Daly City, Calif, was the one who insisted on dancing all night at a Caribbean restaurant and nightclub.

Their relationship progressed and, Thema says, "Two powerful things happened."

First, Kwesi joined her church. Faith has always been important to Thema, whose parents, John R. Bryant and Cecelia Williams Bryant, were pastors of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimore for many years.

Kwesi, whose father, Purnell Davis Jr., is a dentist and mother, Brenda Morgan-Davis, is a vice principal, did not go to church as a youth. But he was exploring various religions when he met Thema, and she helped him examine his spirituality.

Second, when Thema needed ankle surgery, Kwesi sat by her side at the hospital and then, for two months, drove her to and from work every day.

In June 2001, as they drove to Montreal for the annual jazz festival, Kwesi told Thema to look at the trees as they passed by, because next time she saw them, she would be different. Thema caught on that he was planning to propose, and that night, after a concert, he asked her to marry him.

He gave her a ring with a diamond from Russia because Thema, who had lived in Liberia for a time, had told him she was concerned about dangerous and exploitative conditions surrounding the diamond industry in many African countries.

Fortunately, their career plans worked out well, and they were able to move together to Princeton, N.J. After Thema earned her doctorate in May 2001, she accepted a job as a psychologist at Princeton University, where she coordinates a program for the sexual-harassment office.

Kwesi, who studied engineering at Brown University and worked at a computer-game company, started a three-year graduate program in film at New York University in fall 2001. He hopes to work on special effects for movies one day.

The couple's artistic and cultural interests were evident at their June 29 wedding at Bethel A.M.E. Church. A steel-drum band provided processional music and dancers performed at the beginning and end of the ceremony.

Two friends from the Boston arts collective read poetry and Thema and Kwesi read poems to one another as well. At the end of the ceremony, the couple jumped the broom in an African-American tradition.

Afterward, everyone went to the Baltimore Museum of Industry in the Inner Harbor for Caribbean food, more steel drums and lots of dancing.

"My life after meeting her has been . . . more spectacular than it was before," Kwesi says.

Thema says, "He is more than I was looking for."

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