For a state representative, the ideal candidate

Shortly after Malcolm Kenyatta started messaging Matthew Jordan Miller on Instagram in April 2016, Mr Kenyatta began to wonder if the ma...


Shortly after Malcolm Kenyatta started messaging Matthew Jordan Miller on Instagram in April 2016, Mr Kenyatta began to wonder if the man he started talking to was bad news.

Dr. Miller’s social media profile was perfect. His hair too. Convinced that this was a problem, a friend of Mr. Kenyatta told him: “Malcolm, he could be a murderer”, he recalls.

Mr. Kenyatta, 31, is a Pennsylvania state representative and Democratic candidate for the US Senate. Dr. Miller, 32, Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the University of Southern California, is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of Justice and Belonging at the university’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design.

The two connected on social media after Mr Kenyatta, who was recently appointed as a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, landed on a list of LGBTQ leaders to watch. Dr Miller, who goes by the name of Dr Matt, was then finishing his doctorate and reached out with what he called a “pretty platonic” message.

“I said, ‘Hey, I think you’re doing great things,'” Dr Miller said. “‘It would be great to get to know you.'”

Mr. Kenyatta doubted that would happen for several reasons.

First: his commitments to his native Philadelphia — where he co-chaired a political action committee and also served on the boards of the city’s Fairmount Park and the local National Organization for Women. — steadily eroded the possibility of a long-distance relationship.

And two: Mr Kenyatta’s friend Nikkita Thompson (the one who had been skeptical of Dr Miller’s Instagram account) dismissed the idea of ​​the two meeting, in a bid to stop Mr Kenyatta repeating a past romantic mistake.

“I feel like catfishing was at an all-time high then,” Ms Thompson said. “Malcolm was looking at it through the lens of social media, where so much is wrong.”

Mr Kenyatta quickly agreed that he should back down. “I was going through a list of reasons in my head why it could never work,” he said. “I was afraid that if I talked to her, and there was this big personality to go along with this beautiful person, I was going to have feelings and there was nothing I could do about it.”

But within a week, they were sending messages again.

“Why not throw a little caution to the wind?” Mr. Kenyatta remembers thinking. “If it doesn’t work, I can always block it.”

In May, they had transferred their conversations to FaceTime. At first, Mr Kenyatta said: ‘I was just very happy that he was a real person. (Ms. Thompson too: “Dr. Matt was giving the real thing,” she conceded.) By summer, Mr. Kenyatta felt something significant was taking shape.

“Matt was creative and smart,” he said, with interests spanning photography, film and culture. “In my head, I always wanted to date someone artsy-fartsy, where it was like, I don’t know what you’re saying, but it sounds wonderful.”

Born in Mountain View, California, Dr. Miller spent his childhood in several Northern California towns with his parents, Gerald and Debra Miller, and his six siblings. In addition to a Ph.D., he holds an M.A. in Urban Planning from MIT and a B.A. in Urban Studies from Stanford University.

Dr. Miller’s grandparents, Dorothy and Kenneth Martin, inspired his major league career in college. “My grandfather was a janitor at Stanford Hospital,” Dr. Miller said. “He said, ‘This place is for geniuses.’ It lit a flame in me. His grandmother’s career led him to take an interest in urban planning. “She grew up in poverty in East Palo Alto and died prematurely. From a young age, I wanted to find ways to solve the problems she was having.

Mr. Kenyatta, a third-generation North Philadelphian who still lives in the neighborhood (now with Dr. Miller), might understand. Grandson of civil rights leader Muhammad Kenyatta, died in 1992Mr. Kenyatta’s mother, Kelly Kenyatta, was a nursing aide, and his father, also named Malcolm Kenyatta, was a social worker. Mr Kenyatta was their only biological child, but his parents adopted his three siblings before divorcing in 2000.

It was shortly after their marriage ended that Mr Kenyatta, in his early teens and already familiar with the concept of public service, was nudged closer by his mother.

“We had just moved to a new block after my parents divorced, and I thought, I hate this place,” he said. “It’s dirty. I remember coming home one day and complaining about it in the kitchen. My mother was lighting a Newport cigarette on the stove. She said, ‘Boo, if you’re care so much, why don’t you do something about it?’ At 11, Mr. Kenyatta became a junior block captain, tasked with keeping the streets clean.

He then enrolled at Temple University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2012. The previous year, Mr Kenyatta’s father died of a brain haemorrhage after suffering an epileptic seizure while awaiting a Philadelphia buses. Her mother died in 2017 from a diabetes-induced stroke.

The year after his mother’s death, Mr. Kenyatta was elected to his current position representing a district that includes his hometown of North Philadelphia; he later earned a master’s degree in public communications from Drexel University.

Mr. Kenyatta and Dr. Miller originally planned to meet in person in November 2016, when Mr. Kenyatta was going on a trip to Los Angeles. But Dr. Miller eventually told him to cancel, as he was defending his dissertation proposal at the time. “I just didn’t know if I could be there for him in that state of mind,” Dr. Miller said.

As a reward, Dr. Miller flew to Philadelphia a few months later, and the two finally came face to face on February 4, 2017.

When Dr Miller arrived, Mr Kenyatta was blown away to see him at baggage claim. “I felt like I had known him for a long time,” Mr Kenyatta said. Before speaking, they kissed. “That’s when I fell in love with him,” he said.

Dr. Miller, who had never been to Philadelphia, was swept away by the time he returned to Los Angeles. Being with Mr. Kenyatta was “like food for the soul, not like candy”, said Dr Miller, who moved in with Mr. Kenyatta in 2018, after winning the primary election for representative of the state, and quickly provided support in the trenches while getting a crash course in the city and its politics.

“I was in the background, being his timekeeper and making sure he ate,” said Dr. Miller, who now serves on the Philadelphia Art Commission.

The following year, with the stress of the campaign behind him, Mr Kenyatta started thinking about proposing. “It was clear to me that this was something I wanted to do for the long haul,” he said. Dr. Miller felt that too. “In our moments of struggle, we had healed each other and healed each other. I had never had anything like this,” he said.

They got engaged during a walk in the garden of the Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center in Philadelphia on July 4, 2020, an already emotional day for Mr Kenyatta as the holiday marks the anniversary of his mother’s death. “But I mean, how can you find something positive in something that should be negative?” he said.

Dr Miller’s acceptance of the ring that Mr Kenyatta designed with friend and local jeweller, Henri David, became the antidote to his Independence Day heartbreak.

On February 5, Mr. Kenyatta and Dr. Miller were married at the Philadelphia Met, a concert hall in the neighborhood that Mr. Kenyatta represents. On her stage, rose petals and candles were strewn in front of 10 chairs occupied by friends of the couple, all of whom were vaccinated. covid and another turbulent campaign season, they said, ruled out something much bigger. But they plan to hold a bigger reception in 2023.

Before the Rev. Leslie Callahan, pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church, declared the two married, several guests rose for speeches. Although no family was present, Mr. Kenyatta’s sister, Fatima Kenyatta, wrote a blessing which Ms. Thompson read. “You know mum is there, smiling and screaming and shouting how proud she is,” Ms Thompson said, as Mr Kenyatta struggled to contain his tears.

In handwritten vows, Mr Kenyatta, who wore a midnight blue jacket and dark trousers, called Dr Miller his greatest gift. “I promise to stand you up and hold you back,” he said.

Dr Miller, dressed in a white suit jacket and dark slacks, promised to remind Mr Kenyatta of his true north, North Philadelphia. “I swear to be not only your mirror, but your prism that reflects your light in new colors,” he said.

When February 5, 2022

Or The Met Philadelphia

swept away Mr. Kenyatta and Dr. Miller jumped the broom in married life, after a kiss on stage to mark the official start of their union. A first attempt did not go as planned; Dr. Miller accidentally kicked the broom. The second try was the charm.

Local and discreet After the ceremony, the couple kept it local, of course. A photoshoot outside the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia was followed by drinks with their guests at Bob & Barbara’s Lounge, a nearby bar.

high praise After their marriage, Mr. Kenyatta and Dr. Miller received congratulations by post from the President. “Your marriage and the story of your love mean so much to so many people – in Philadelphia and across our country,” read a letter on White House stationery, signed simply “Joe.” Another letter of congratulations came from Hillary Clinton.

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