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Washington Post

THIS INTERRACIAL COUPLE GOT ENGAGED IN OBAMA’S AMERICA. THEN TRUMP TOOK OVER. David and Jessica Figari are navigating racial and political divides in their country — and in their family — that they never anticipated when they fell in love

David and Jessica Figari with daughter Liliana at their home outside of Tampa. (Eve Edelheit for The Washington Post)

On the already muggy morning of Aug. 28, 2013, David Figari and Jessica Jones held hands in the billowing crowd near the steps of the Georgetown University Law Center. The young lovers had traveled from Florida to meet each other’s relatives and attend the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

The reminiscences from 1963 march veterans had ended and the trek to the Lincoln Memorial was about to begin when David saw an organizer standing near a microphone at the top of the stairs. He walked up to the man with the mic and introduced himself.

“Hey, I’d like to say something. Can I do it?” David said.

The man gave him the once-over and immediately said “No.”

“No, no, you don’t understand. I’d like to propose to my girlfriend.”

“No,” the man said again.

“I said, ‘No, you don’t understand,’” David said. “‘That’s my girlfriend.’”

He pointed to Jessica. Something clicked — this couple, this moment — and the man gasped.

“Everyone, everyone, really quick!” he announced. “David actually has something to say.”

David signaled Jessica to join him and took the microphone: “Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Today, I have a dream, and that is that one day Jessica will be my wife.”

As Jessica looked on incredulously, David, a White guy in a polo shirt and blue plaid shorts, got down on one knee before his Black girlfriend and asked, “Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” Jessica said quietly, before David slipped a white-gold ring with a princess-cut diamond on her finger. The marchers erupted into cheers and ran over to congratulate the newly engaged couple.

They were college-educated 25-year-olds who had voted for the first Black president in the nation’s history and who viewed racism mostly as a relic of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Even as President Barack Obama and civil rights leaders warned the throngs on the Mall that day about the work that remained, a spirit of hope and racial progress pervaded the 50th anniversary of the march.

It was “perfect timing, the perfect event” to propose to Jessica, said David, now a private banker to wealthy clients. The power of love to transcend racial hatred “was exactly the whole point. It‘s why people were marching.”

But that vision of racial harmony soon dissipated like a mirage. …

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