"Black love is important, especially for us right now. Black lives matter, and black love matters," Xavier Young said on the significance of him choosing to propose at the protest.
A number of emotional images from nationwide protests calling for police accountability and justice for George Floyd have emerged online in recent days. They conveyed the centuries-long pain of a community that's been unfairly treated in all aspects of life, and shone a light on the rampant racism plaguing the country, called attention to the urgency for action, and radiated hopes for a better and just future. Amid these powerful images are photographs of Xavier Young and Marjorie Alston, a young black couple who marked a special milestone in their relationship at one such protest.
The couple gave demonstrators at a protest in Raleigh, North Carolina, a reason to cheer last weekend when Young got down on one knee and proposed to Alston. The special moment was caught on camera by Charles Crouch, co-founder of the visual media company 4C Visuals Group, who shared the heartwarming images on Twitter, writing: In the midst of the chaos, I witnessed a proposal in the middle of a protest. Love conquers all. Speaking to Insider, Alston revealed that she decided to go to the protest after seeing how the outrage against police brutality towards the black community was growing.
"I never went out to protest before, but I was like, 'This is the time,'" she said. "Seeing police brutality hits close to home because it could be anybody." Although Young initially wasn't sure he'd be able to join her due to prior commitments, he ultimately decided to go because the movement is close to his heart and also didn't want her going alone since they're expecting their first child together. "I wanted to be safe. But we made sure we got out there and our voices were heard," said Alston.
"I've known I was going to propose for a while," Young revealed. "But I knew I wanted to propose at the protest when she wanted to go. Going to the protest was entirely her idea. I felt like if she wants to go out there and get in the trenches, she's definitely the one. What better place and what better time? We're protesting something unjust and ugly, and I felt like I could bring some beauty and some light to the situation." So he packed the engagement ring he had purchased a week before the protest in his bag "just in case the moment presented itself," the 26-year-old told PEOPLE.
As they made their way over to the protests, however, he "completely forgot" he had the ring in his bag, Young told E! News. But then the moment presented itself about an hour into the protest and he asked Alston to stop on the sidewalk so he could grab his water. "We were headed back toward downtown, and I kind of just saw that as the perfect opportunity to seize the moment," he said. "It was a very lighthearted moment of the protest. At this point, everyone was just chilling. The crowd was joking with each other. It was like walking with a big crowd of friends."
"I'd been kind of just watching her protest and make her voice known and make herself known, being seen, and I was like, yeah, this is the girl I want to be with. I made it seem like I wanted to take in some water because I was hot and tired, and instead of pulling a bottle of water out of my bag, I pulled out the ring and then boom. It was a proposal," he recounted. "[A crowd] gathered pretty dang quick. I had to stop and start over again, 'cause I know she couldn't hear me. I looked around and was like, 'Whoa, there's a lot of people here.' So I gave it a second, gathered myself, let her get her composure... The funny thing is, she couldn't even hear me. She knew what I was asking, so she just shook her head yes. She probably didn't want the attention, but you know what? She deserved it."
"The great thing about it for me was that it wasn't just black folks around us celebrating," Young added. "It was white folks, it was Hispanic folks, everybody that was there. Black love is important, especially for us right now. Black lives matter, and black love matters." Although he never expected to propose in the middle of such a pivotal moment in history, Young says he wouldn't be surprised if a photo of their engagement shows up in future history textbooks as part of a chapter on 2020. "The more and more that I see people are still finding out about it or freaking out about it, the more and more epic it is," he said.
"'Cause 2020, I think it's unanimous, we're in agreement: we're like, 'This is going down in history.' And with this whole COVID, and the state of America now socially, they're going to talk about it," Young added. As they await the birth of their child—whom they've dubbed "Baby Batman"—Young and Alston have already started planning their wedding which they hope to have in September 2021. "We’ll have a baby by then," he said, "so we'll just take that baby and hit the dance floor."