If you’re in search of a stellar example of Black marriage at its finest, look no further than the love story of Atlanta-based entrepreneurs Gregory and Juanita Baranco, who recently celebrated 44 years of marriage. They met and fell in love in Louisiana the 60s. When they tied the knot, they promised to stay committed and devoted to each other and to hold tight to their individual and shared dreams. They kept those promises.
Today, they have four beautiful children and together they own and operate the Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead in Atlanta. Mrs. Baranco, an attorney, has never lost a case in 30-plus years of practice, which included time with the Attorney General’s office. When it comes to life and love, it seems The Barancos just can’t lose. They credit their strong bond and enduring love for allowing them to get through the best and worst life has thrown their way.
In best-selling author Gil Robertson’s new anthology Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community, Mrs. Baranco opens up about the power of love, marriage and family. We sat down with the happily married couple, who renewed their vows on stage before 25,000 people at the ESSENCE Music Festival in 1999, how they’ve managed to succeed so gloriously and love and marriage – in total sync.
ESSENCE.COM: How have you been able to balance your success and your family?
Mr. Baranco: It’s about understanding that you want the best for your spouse and your love. I’ve always had an understanding: Happy wife; happy life. We’re very supportive of each other and we listen to each other. When we got married, we sat down together and we actually planned out our future; our education, our careers, all of it. We talked about our dreams, what we’d have to sacrifice to do it and our plans to get them done. It was a long-term plan, but we stuck to it.
Mrs. Baranco: We started out with just this very powerful love for each other. It was a passionate, genuine love. Then the trick was for us to grow. We’re business partners and also marriage partners. To have that love continue to grow despite the almost insurmountable odds of successfully raising four children with the ups and downs of being African Americans starting a business and trying to make it a success, was remarkable. Our foundation is the love. But, had we not had such an emphasis on the individual, we might not have made it. You can’t just be a spouse. You have to be your own individual person. That way you have something to bring to the marriage.
ESSENCE.COM: How do you stay so positive?
Mrs. Baranco: What we have now is just priceless.
Mr. Baranco: At the end of the day, we know we have each other. Whatever challenges are out there, if it’s meant to be, we’re going to make it through it.
ESSENCE.COM: What should someone look for in a lifelong partner?
Mrs. Baranco: The first thing you need to do is know what it is you really want. You have to put aside the smoking mirrors and the fluff. If you’re really looking to get married and have a sustainable partnership, you must put all of that aside. When I was a very young girl, I always said I wouldn’t marry somebody that I could talk to. I knew I was going to marry someone smart. My husband is very bright and so easy to talk to. You look for someone with potential too. Look for someone who has the potential for making a living. He may not have the greatest jobs, but the potential must be there. Also, look for those core family values that mirror the way you grew up.
Mr. Baranco: I grew up with five sisters, two brothers and a wonderful mother. We were raised as boys to desire to be men, and men are very respectful of their wives and the women in their lives.
ESSENCE.COM: You seem like a match made in heaven.
Mrs. Baranco: If you were to look at us, we would appear quite different. And so, respecting those differences – and I mean genuinely respecting them – makes all the difference.
Mr. Baranco: There was no doubt in my mind that sooner or later I was going to run into the right lady and that we were going to have a beautiful life together. Our love has grown greater with every year, every day and every moment. And, we started out with a love that was over-the-top. It really just gets better.
Mrs. Baranco: You have to bring something to the table. Everybody has to be a valuable component in the relationship. You can’t just sit there – whether you’re earning money outside the home, raising the children or whatever you’re doing. The other person has to see what you’re doing as something of value.
ESSENCE.COM: What are the moments you’ve cherished most within your marriage thus far?
Mrs. Baranco: The moments where the family is all gathered together. You can’t have too many of those. When I think about when I’m the happiest, it’s always when the whole family is together or when Greory and I get a moment to ourselves – which is so rare with our schedules and lifestyles.
Mr. Baranco: At the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, we’re there for each other. It sees us through our partnership, our love and our marriage and it keeps us grounded in the love that we share.
To read Juanita's essay and more amazing pieces from those who are single, married and divorced, pick up a copy of Gil Robertson’s new anthology Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community.