Love is in the air! Black couples around the nation celebrated a sacred union of love, peace, and unity last month on National Black Marriage Day. Growing in popularity, the day of celebration, activities and renewing of vows is keeping African American couples together.
Wedded Bliss Foundation (WBF), a community based organization established in the Washington, D.C. area, was created by a woman who saw the need to keep the Black family together. Nisa Muhammad, the organization’s founder and executive director, said she grew tired of hearing the negative statistics about Black marriages. After attending one of the largest marriage conferences in 2001, she decided to do something.
“It was an incredible conference. Two thousand people; the largest marriage conference in America. But there was only about 20 Black people. I started thinking, ‘There’s something going on here,’” Muhammad said. She took the information back with her to D.C. and started a Black marriage conference with a decent attendance of 200 people.
WBF helps teens and adults build a rock solid foundation for lasting, healthy relationships and marriages through relationship courses, professional training, and Black Marriage Day. On the big day and throughout the month, groups around the country conduct workshops, training and other marriage-related empowerment and celebration activities. The last day often is topped with vow renewal and other powerful ceremonies.
“This is an opportunity for communities to do something to celebrate marriage,” Muhammad explained. “Black people have the lowest marriage rates in the country. We want to help the people at the bottom.”
Joint Center DataBank reveals that since the 1950s, the average rate of married African American women declined from 62 percent to 36.1 percent in 2000, while White women rates only dropped slightly from 66 percent to 57.4 percent.
Muhammad theorizes that the decline of marriage among Blacks has a lot to do with the “hype” of being single, free, and sexually liberated. She says Black people bought into the propaganda that marriage does not matter and ties a person down.
The cycle began some time in the 60s, according to the foundation leader. Along with the idea of being free came also economic hardships. When public assistance became a growing need in the African American community, mothers stayed single for fear of losing government aid checks.
She also blames the decline to the sexual revolution, suggesting it promoted sexual irresponsibility and promiscuity.
Now, in an effort to unveil the truth about marriage in the Black home and its benefits to the community and the individual, Muhammad wants to strengthen the Black home starting with marriage.
“Married people live longer, have better health, make more money, have a greater accumulation of wealth and the children of married couples do better in life,” she said. “They are less likely to abuse drugs and likely to delay sexual activity longer. Where married people live, there is better housing, better schooling and lower crime.”
She also added that 90 percent of college students come from two-parent homes while 90 percent of young people in prison come from single parent homes.
“(There are) women who have done the best they could but their best is not good enough to keep their sons out of jail. Yeah you could do it, but it’s an unnatural circumstance. Children are supposed to be raised by two parents,” Muhammad expressed. “Black women unfortunately are faced with unnatural circumstance of having to rear children by themselves. The difficulties of those choices have been made attractive so that people can be like, ‘Oh, I can do it.’”
The sanction of marriage also enables couples to generate a legacy of wealth. She says because the homosexual community understands the value of marriage and benefits the institution provides, marriage rights are vigorously fought for in that particular community.
Just when convincing Black folks that marriage is beneficial, keeping Black couples together is almost another issue entirely. Divorce rates across the board have increased over the years, but African American marriages suffer the most.
According to a study called “The Topography of the Divorce Plateau,” 70 percent of Black women’s first marriages will end in divorce compared to 47 percent of White women’s. In another study conducted in 2003 by Demographic Research, 32 percent of Black married couples divorce compared to 21 percent of White couples.
Muhammad says in order to keep Black couples together, marriage needs to appear exciting, sexy, and new. Through WBF, couples across the country are refreshing their love lives through strategic courses, seminars, and training.
The organization also features programs for unmarried couples and young couples about responsible behavior to establish the building blocks for successful marriage. She says young people are interested in marriage. Talking about love and marriage at an early age helps young people recognize the value of a life long partnership in love and struggle. They begin to recognize marriage is not only for White people and rich people. She also says media, unfortunately, does not depict successful Black marriages in an appealing way, scaring single folks away from the institution.
“We have to begin to talk about it. We have to begin to make marriage and finding the right person as important as going to college. “
Setting the foundation for the success of the Black community starts in the home. With the building blocks of marriage, love and unity, African American couples can be prosperous. For more information about the WBF, check out the website at www.weddedblissinc.com.