Love is in the air in Chicago. It’s Valentine’s Day, a time when many go the extra mile to love up on their romantic partners, platonic friends and family with gifts, words of affirmation and acts of service.

This Valentine’s Day, the TRiiBE wants to uplift Black love. We interviewed three recently engaged Chicago couples to highlight their love stories. We asked about their engagement stories, and how they’ve managed to stay together during the shelter-in-place mandates, quarantines and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

MEET JACQUICE AND OLIVIA: A game of Love & Basketball

Jacquice Cooper, 29, and Olivia Overall, 29, were on opposing high school basketball teams and played against each other multiple times. But they don’t remember each other from way back then. Olivia graduated from Bloom Township High School, and Jacquice graduated from Thornton Fractional North High School. Both high schools are located in suburban Cook County. 

In the years after high school, they would orbit around one another again and again until they officially met in 2012.

“She [Jacquice] played basketball with the same girls I played basketball with in high school. So we floated around in these same areas,” Olivia told the TRiiBE in a phone interview on Feb. 10.  “Where I used to go to church, she used to live down the street from at one point in college. It’s funny that we didn’t meet until we made it three and a half hours away from anything that we both know at Monmouth.” 

Jacquice transferred from Prairie State College in Chicago Heights to Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill., where Olivia was also a student in 2012. 

They were in the same friend group and they met and became friends. Jacquice and Olivia hung out in the same social circles at the college through the women’s basketball team. Olivia managed the team and Jacquice was a player on the women’s team at Monmouth.

Photo courtesy of Jacquice Cooper and Olivia Overall.

A friendship formed between the two. Both identify as bisexual. They became a couple in 2014 and are now engaged to be married. Jacquice and Olivia live together in Glenwood, Ill. 

The couple loves to travel, and Jacquice knew entering 2022 that she wanted to propose to Olivia. So she put together a trip to Niagara Falls with matching outfits and planned to propose on New Year’s Eve, their anniversary. Olivia, however, contracted COVID-19 the week before the scheduled trip. So instead, the couple spent the holiday season quarantining in their home. 

On New Year’s Eve, they decided to have a movie night. Afterwards, they talked for hours. Talking for hours is something they do on the regular. 

Because her initial plans fell through, Jacquice said she was looking for the right moment to propose and that night she got a sign. During the commercial break, the trailer for the movie “Marry Me” circled back twice. 

“I’m freaking out, like God, is this my sign? I guess this is my sign, right? I’m like f— it. I get up, go to the room, and I get the ring from where I’m hiding it. I put it in my pocket. I’m back there, kind of like just writing down my thoughts again, waiting for another sign, like [God] didn’t give me one. I come back out the room and, girl, the same commercial was on,” Jacquice recalled. 

Jacquice added: “So I sit down [and] hide the ring in the couch. Then I’m like, I want to show you something.” 

Jacquice cued up a special video with their favorite song paired with a slideshow highlighting memorable moments from their relationship, and they slow-danced with masks in their living room. After the video ended, Jacquice proposed. Olivia said yes. 

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

What was your first impression of one another?

Olivia: Well, I thought that she was funny. I knew she was always attractive. She’s a pretty girl. But when we started our friendship at first, I didn’t like Jacquice.

Why not?

O: My darling fianceé has a strong personality.

Photo courtesy of Jacquice Cooper and Olivia Overall.

Jacquice: I’m invasive. 

O: She used to ask a lot of questions, and she asked them in a way where she figured she knew the answer. And I knew that there’s no way she could be as definite as she was. You used to get on my nerves.

J: I’m having a hard time remembering that legit first impression. But like, I always felt like there was this mystery there. Which kind of sparked my curiosity. One of my first impressions was that she also has a strong personality. So it was kind of like giving real alpha female vibes. But again, very funny, super charismatic. I thought that, at the very least, I wanted to be her friend. 

Who said “I love you” first?

O: I did. There were so many feelings. I realized that it was something that I just needed her to know.

What do you love about Jacquice?

O: Jacquice will walk into a room and just be herself. She’s funny. She’s intelligent. She has a heart that she won’t wear on her sleeve, but it’s beating out of her chest. It’s so big. I see how she cares for her family, mother, and nephew.  We always talk about how it was easy for us to fall in love. How everything just felt too comfortable, and it’s because she became my safe space.

What do you love about Olivia?

J:  I feel like she’s super genuine, and it’s hard to find friends like that period, let alone a partner. I love that she makes me feel safe in who I am. I can be myself. I can be goofy, parts of me that I didn’t even really feel comfortable showing I was able to show and then like, oh you’re not gonna react to that? Okay, cool. So I can be myself. It’s cool to be able to have that in a mate. But I think that’s why it’s like that, it is because of our friendship.

How have you all been able to maintain your relationship during this time? Have there been any challenges, and what have you learned about yourselves and each other within this time that you believe might be helpful for other couples?

O: It kind of puts up a mirror in some ways when you’re going through things in a relationship where you have to just pause and think of how you’re affecting the other person. Or why is this making me feel this way or react this way? Therapy has helped us so much with answering those questions or helping us see how we’re showing up in the relationship by helping us figure out who we are as people.

J: We both were just like in this up and down space, and really kind of leaning on each other to figure out what that was, and COVID had a lot to do with it. Seasonal depression and things like that. Stresses of work, career changes, just so much happening. But ultimately, it was just us, just being there for each other, trying to figure it out. 

Then I started going to counseling, and she started going to counseling, and we just started working on ourselves as individuals, which helped our relationship flourish more. I feel like COVID-19 kind of was a catalyst of that, because it just put us in a space where we kind of had to deal with things. We didn’t have any distractions like with work and other things because we were just in the house. Cooped up together.

Any plans for Valentine’s Day?

J: Oh, I can’t even tell you because it’s always a competition. I would like for us to get a room somewhere because we always have little getaways and things like that. She may already have this planned. So I don’t even know.

The couple plans to get married in the fall of 2023.

is a multimedia producer for The TRiiBE.