Ram romances: For one VCU couple, everything started with a pencil

February 14, 2024
A couple sits together on the third floor of Cabell Library
(Tom Kojcsich, VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

As a junior studying English in 2010, Shakeema wasn’t exactly looking for love during her long hours at Virginia Commonwealth University’s James Branch Cabell Library; she was just there to work. So when Jamarr, a sophomore, approached her to borrow a pencil, she didn’t guess just how momentous that chance meeting would be.

“It was eye contact,” said Jamarr, who was a business administration major. “You know how you can feel energy and you’re looking down and maybe you look up and you’re like, ‘Is that person looking at me?’ We were catching eyes.” After some back-and-forth, Shakeema finally gave Jamarr her number, and the rest was history.

Now 14 years later and a decade since they wed, the first date that followed still sparks some debate between Shakeema and Jamarr Daniels.

“He said, ‘Wear sneakers,’” said Shakeema, recounting their initial outing. “So I was like, ‘OK, cool.’ And then he picked me up and we went to a restaurant. It was dimly lit and very romantic, and I felt very underdressed for the occasion.”

“First off,” Jamarr cut in, “I had an alternate plan. But she was running late.”

It was a somewhat inauspicious beginning. But after a few months passed, Jamarr reached out again and Shakeema agreed to a second date, which thankfully went much better than the first.

“Guards were dropped and we just hung out,” Jamarr said. “After that date, we started gravitating to each other more and more. I let her into my world and she let me into her world, and from there, we just continued to build.”

Eventually, the couple began to bond over their shared love of adventure, trying new cuisines and new activities together. More and more they realized they had a lot in common, like their taste in music and popular sneakers such as Nike Dunks.

A big turning point in their relationship came when, after around a year of dating, Shakeema got extremely sick and Jamarr stayed by her side every step of the way.

A photo of a mand and a woman standing next to each other. The man is holding a graduation cap that says \"swag swag\" in different colored letters.
The couple, pictured at Jamarr’s graduation ceremony in 2012, will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in August with a vow renewal. (Contributed)

“He took me to the hospital. He stayed with me,” she said. “If the doctors took too long to come in, he was on it. And it wasn’t a one-time occurrence – I went through this on and off.”

When Shakeema needed to go to the emergency room on Jamarr’s birthday and he still showed up for her, she said she knew it was a relationship that would last.

Now the couple, who have an 11-year-old son named Jackson, are getting ready to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in August with a vow renewal, which Jamarr said was a “vehicle for us to keep going.”

“It’s been a rough couple of years,” Shakeema said, citing the pandemic as well as several personal losses. “I think we were like, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’ We’ve grown so much and we’ve had difficult times, but that’s real life. Like, let’s get out of the valley and let’s head up toward the peak. Let’s put on our backpacks and let’s get there.”

The family still lives locally in Chesterfield, and they are immersed in VCU culture. Shakeema returned to the university for her Master of Science in Business with a concentration in real estate, which she earned in 2022. Jackson has even been to the site of his parents’ first meeting in Cabell Library, which they say has undergone a lot of changes since their days on campus.

“It’s amazing,” Shakeema said with a laugh. “It looks way better.”

In an ode to their first meeting, the couple have matching tattoos of the pencil that is now the source of important family lore. And when people ask how to mimic their organic love story, Jamarr says it’s important to stay present.

“Had we not taken a minute to pause and look around, I don’t know if we would have made a connection,” he said. “Maybe you’re not looking for your next partner, whatever, but just look up. You never know what you may see.”

By Sian Wilkerson. This article was first published in VCU News. 

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