A Sunday March, This One Down the Aisle

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Dominique Sharpton, a 30-year-old civil rights activist and aspiring actress, marched slowly past three police officers on her way into the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens.

Holding a large bouquet of white orchids, Ms. Sharpton locked arms with her father, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and they marched together to a booming rendition of “Searching for Love,” the soulful words echoing high among the arches of one of the nation’s largest black churches, nearly a thousand seats filled with family and friends, reporters, television executives and political figures seated on both sides of the aisle, this one strewn with daisy and rose petals.

For Ms. Sharpton, dressed in a white, two-piece hand-embroidered lace wedding gown, this particular march ended at the altar, the beginning of a new life for her and Marcus Bright, a 33-year-old academic from Tennessee, clad in a dark blue tuxedo, who had stolen her heart.

“He’s smart, handsome, faith-based and family-oriented,” Ms. Sharpton said of Dr. Bright, whom she met five years ago outside a Harlem restaurant.

“Sometimes I say to my mother, ‘Mom, I have to pinch myself, is this really happening? I really get to marry this guy?’” she said. “He’s a living, breathing testament that God is real, because this is what I prayed for.”

Mr. Sharpton, who read a scripture during the ceremony on Oct. 15, said that he too had his prayers answered on his daughter’s wedding day.

“There were times, especially when Dominique was a little girl, when I wondered if I would ever get to walk her down the aisle,” he said. “I’ve been stabbed, and I’ve been jailed for civil rights causes and had death threats against me, so to be able to be here today, just as a father and nothing else, and to know it’s just about my daughter and not about a cause or a controversy or someone wanting to harm me, well, that means the world to me.”

Mr. Sharpton’s profile and influence, especially in the black community, soared through years of racial conflict, fiery rhetoric, banner headlines and bold marches that came with every case he litigated in the court of public opinion, from Tawana Brawley to Yusef Hawkins to Bernard Goetz to Amadou Diallo to Sean Bell to Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. All the while, he said, “I tried my best to make an abnormal life as normal as I could for Dominique and her sister.”

“I certainly did not live a perfect life, I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” he said. “But I accomplished more in this lifetime than anyone, including me, ever thought I could accomplish, and I expect no less from Dominique and Marcus.”

Just after walking his daughter down the aisle, Mr. Sharpton kissed the bride once on each cheek and whispered in her ear before turning to shake hands with the groom. He left them in the company of the Rev. Dr. Margaret Elaine Flake, a co-pastor of the cathedral who performed the ceremony.

“We are excited that Dominique and Marcus are coming together into this holy state of matrimony,” Ms. Flake said, “and if anyone has a reason they should not be united, just be quiet.”

Everyone laughed, including Mr. Sharpton and his girlfriend Aisha McShaw, who sat to the left of Kathy Elaine Jordan-Sharpton, who is a production coordinator at the Apollo Theater and operates her own catering company; she and Mr. Sharpton separated in 2004. Next to Ms. Jordan-Sharpton were the groom’s parents: Vanessa Bright, a speech therapist, and James Bright, the director of human resources for the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Silence fell over the old church on Merrick Boulevard as Ms. Sharpton and Dr. Bright exchanged vows and wedding rings, and lighted a unity candle before those who had come to bear witness, including the former Congressman Charles Rangel, the New York City public advocate Letitia James, Councilman Jumaane Williams, Assemblywoman Inez Dickens and Councilman Michael Blake.

Also in attendance were Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, and his wife, Kory Apton; Teresa Weatherspoon of W.N.B.A. fame; George Faison, the Tony Award-winning choreographer; and Jacqueline Jackson, the wife of Jesse Jackson Sr.

Ms. Flake soon pronounced Ms. Sharpton and Dr. Bright to be spouses, and the newlyweds took turns jumping the broom, an African-American tradition that signifies sweeping away of the old and jumping into the new. Later at the reception, at Terrace on the Park in nearby Flushing, Queens, where 250 guests with spine-tingling views of the Manhattan skyline dined on steak, shrimp, salmon and baked chicken, Ms. Sharpton sounded as if she was not about to part with precious memories any time soon.

“It seems like yesterday when my sister and I would go with our parents to listen to my dad preach at different churches around New York, then go out to dinner afterward,” she said. “And when Dad was out working, we would wait for him to come home and play games with us, we would put our Barbie dolls away and take out our Uno cards as soon as he walked through the door, or we would all play Monopoly for hours and Dad wouldn’t quit until he owned most of the properties and had all the money in the bank. Those were some of the best days.”

Ashley Sharpton, the bride’s younger sister who served as maid of honor — she and the rest of the wedding party waited patiently as the ceremony began an hour later than scheduled — said that much better days await her big sister.

“Dominique and Marcus are very lucky to have found each other,” she said after the ceremony, as she straightened the train of the bride’s gown, designed by Paulette Cleghorn for Yumi Katsura Couture. “I’ve never seen my sister this happy, and that’s because she has a great guy who fits in perfectly with our family.”

Dr. Bright, an administrator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and a frequent contributor to HuffPost, is also the executive director of education for A Better America. He received a bachelor’s degree in government and world affairs from the University of Tampa, a master’s in public administration from Florida International University and a Ph.D. in public administration from Florida Atlantic University.

Dr. Bright’s father, James, said that while his family was not high profile, like the Sharptons, he and his wife raised their children “well, as they did theirs.” He described Dominique as “a wonderful girl and like a daughter to us.”

“Like any other family,” he added, “we hope that our newly married children can make it through the difficult hurdles that exist in every relationship and get to enjoy each other’s company for the rest of their lives.”

Ms. Sharpton, who studied at Temple in Philadelphia before completing her education at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, is now the national director of membership at her father’s National Action Network, which serves more than 100 chapters across the United States. She is also a musical theater actress and has appeared in several local stage productions in the past few years, “hoping to make it as an actress on my own,” she said, “without the help of my dad.”

(Ms. Sharpton has reeled in a different kind of audience in recent years, however, as she has been embroiled in a lawsuit against the City of New York. She said she sprained an ankle when falling on an unpaved street in Lower Manhattan in October 2014. The lawsuit is scheduled to return to the courts next month.)

“She’s fully grown now and independent, she’s self-directed and capable,” Mr. Sharpton said. “And she’s taking on a partner in Marcus who is simply a brilliant young man.”

Their worlds collided on June 1, 2012, outside Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem. Dr. Bright was visiting New York and arrived late to the restaurant, where he was to meet a group of friends, several of whom knew Ms. Sharpton.

By the time he arrived, however, the group was leaving, and a mutual friend introduced him to Ms. Sharpton as she was hailing a taxicab to go home.

“She was absolutely beautiful,” Dr. Bright said.

They spoke briefly, but long enough for Ms. Sharpton to “want to get to know him better,” as she put it.

“He was striking, I was physically attracted to him from the moment I met him,” she said. “I was completely intrigued.”

When Dr. Bright asked Ms. Sharpton why she was in such a hurry, she explained that she needed to be at a rally the next morning, in the company of her father, at the National Action Network’s House of Justice in Harlem, where she produces a two-hour program that airs on radio each Saturday morning on the New York radio station WLIB-AM (1190) and on Impact Television.

Dr. Bright, who was pursuing his Ph.D at the time, told her he had to take an early flight back to Miami the next morning, and they parted ways without exchanging contact information.

The next morning, Ms. Sharpton looked up from her work station during the rally and saw him standing there.

“He stuck out like a sore thumb, this gorgeous, strapping guy in a beautiful suit,” she sad. “I was thrilled to see him.”

Dr. Bright explained his unexpected arrival.

“I have a real interest in civil rights and social justice,” he said. “But I was really interested in Dominique as well.”

As it turned out, Ms. Sharpton was extremely busy at the rally, so she walked over to him and “without speaking a word, flipped him my business card,” she said.

He called her later that day from an airport, and a long-distance relationship soon took flight.

Within two months, they were dating steadily.

“Dominique brings a level of substance, compassion and friendship to my life that I had not known in previous relationships,” he said. “We have a lot of common interests and she understands me, which is why I knew we were going to be together for the long term.”

Though Dr. Bright does not work for his father-in-law’s Action Network, Mr. Sharpton said “he has what it takes to be an activist.”

“I said to him, ‘Do you want to be a part of this?’ Mr. Sharpton recalled. “I told him if he’s going to to be a storm trooper, he has to be ready for any kind of storm.”

Asked what was the best wedding gift he could give to his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. Sharpton pointed to his own legacy.

“I think what I’ve taught both of my daughters, and now Marcus, who I consider a son, is that you can start life in one place and end up in a better place if you work hard enough and believe in yourself.”

“I didn’t have a father,” he said. “I grew up on welfare, and yet I’ve been able to do things I never thought I could do. I have my own radio and television show. I ran for New York City mayor and president of the United States, and I remember addressing the Democratic convention and seeing Dominique sitting up in those box seats — she knew right then and there that anyone can become anything they want to become in this life.”