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One Call, and Many Virtual Dates Later, They Found Love

Jennifer Frances Namuli Kizza was feeling tired after work one evening in March 2021. And yet she still kept a scheduled first phone call with Donald Mayfield Brown, whom she had met through a dating app.

Ms. Kizza, 28, from Gainesville, Fla., had previously given up on finding a serious relationship. But now, as a medical student at Harvard, she wanted to make the time. “It was really challenging for me to find people where I felt like we both had the same goals for our relationship and for what romance looked like,” she said.

Mr. Brown, 31, who goes by Field, was living in Starkville, Miss., at the time, teaching in the English and African American studies department at Mississippi State University and finishing his dissertation research. He changed his location on the dating app Hinge to Boston with the hope of pursuing a relationship while finishing his doctoral degree at Harvard.

Ms. Kizza expected their first phone call to be brief, but it lasted for nearly an hour. The two bonded over a shared Southern upbringing, their families and similar poundcake recipes they were fond of. Mr. Brown’s came from his mother.

On their first virtual date in April, they watched an episode of “Waffles + Mochi,” a Netflix series about healthy food hosted by Michelle Obama.

“Growing up in the conservative Black Belt South, I didn’t want to watch a show with a lot of explicit stuff on my first date,” Mr. Brown said. “I didn’t want to lead that way with the person I wanted to be with.”

They eventually moved on to the Starz drama series “Power” over several more virtual dates.

Before matching on Hinge, the two had nearly crossed paths several years earlier.

Mr. Brown was attending Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar, working toward a master’s degree in history. He left by July 2016 to return to Harvard to start a Ph.D. program, three months before Ms. Kizza arrived at Oxford to pursue a master’s in global health science. That spring, she had graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology and global health and health policy.

In September 2017, she became a Fulbright research fellow in Uganda alongside her father, who received his grant to teach and research the impact of soil pollution. Ms. Kizza, who began medical school at Harvard in 2018, will be doing her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital this summer.

Mr. Brown graduated from Mississippi State University in 2014 with a bachelor’s in philosophy and English. He earned a doctoral degree in English literature at Harvard last year and is currently a post-doctorate fellow at Brown.

Their first in-person date, at a Thai restaurant, wasn’t until July 2021, when Mr. Brown returned to Boston. He recalled their laughter and cheerful banter from that first meeting. “I never really had a date like that,” he said, adding that he was so wrapped up in their conversation that he left his credit card at the restaurant.

Mr. Brown would find more reasons to see Ms. Kizza again. When she needed to get to work for her medical rotations at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he would wake up at 5 a.m. to drive her so she wouldn’t have to ride her bike.

Ms. Kizza invited him to attend her cousin’s wedding in Orlando, Fla., in February 2022. It was the first time he met Ms. Kizza’s family. Her mother is from Malawi and her father from Uganda; they live in Gainesville. It was a big step, and she knew her family would take it as a sign that the relationship was serious.

In the summer of 2022, Ms. Kizza met Mr. Brown’s parents in Vicksburg, Miss. At the time, she was dealing with her father’s cancer diagnosis and felt even more appreciative of the warm welcome she received.

“It was just the hardest times for my family and for me,” she said. “It just felt like a miracle to just have this beautiful extension of people to support me.”

Mr. Brown proposed last August. He planned a surprise outing to distract Ms. Kizza as he awaited the arrival of a photographer, her friends and her cousin at the Public Garden in Boston. First, they stopped at the cafe L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates to pick up her favorite pastry, and then they strolled around the Newbury Street shopping district. When they arrived at the garden, Mr. Brown got down on one knee.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

The couple celebrated their upcoming nuptials with a kwanjula, a Ugandan engagement ceremony, in November in Gainesville. During an evening of costume changes, dancing and gifts presented to Ms. Kizza’s family, Mr. Brown asked to marry her, again, in front of 150 guests.

They wed on April 29 at the Chapel of Memories on Mississippi State University’s campus, a nod to Mr. Brown’s Southern roots and time as an undergraduate. The wedding was officiated by Reginald L. Walker, a pastor at the Word of Faith Christian Center in Vicksburg. The couple asked that the 100 guests be vaccinated to attend.

In her vows, Ms. Kizza recalled their first phone call. “I knew that day, romantic or not, Field was going to be in my life for the rest of my life,” she said.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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