Young Blacks Absorb a Wariness of Marriage - 8/06
smartmarriages at lists101.his.com
Wed Aug 9 14:48:35 EDT 2006
Before I share this depressing Boston Globe article, I want to strongly -
STRONGLY - encourage you to order and LISTEN to the recordings of the
tell-it-like-it-is, practical, optimistic sessions on Black marriage at the
Smart Marriages Conference. All were VERY highly rated. In fact, the Rozario
Slack keynote was in the top session of the entire conference - he hit it
out of the park and everyone should hear this one. Rozario would agree with
me that it is important to describe the problem as the Boston Globe does,
but it's even more important to say what we're going to do about it. Order
at 800-241-7785 or at http://www.iplaybacksmartmarriages.com
> Keynote #756-P2: Message to Our Sons - on DVD, CD, MP3
> Rozario Slack, DMin
> Today's young men need their fathers and their elders to step up to the plate
> and tell them the truth. They need their fathers and elders to stop standing
> silently by and letting them continue to make critical mistakes. Men must
> tell their sons, nephews, friends, and brothers that it takes a real man to
> create > a high-quality, life-long marriage and family. That there is no
> greater or more manly accomplishment. Old men must teach young men that
> marriage is the glue, the crucial factor if we are to save the village. This
> is what men must do.
> 756-216 - Friday, June 23
> Strengthening Marriage in the Black Community Nisa Muhammad, Rozario Slack,
> DMin, Curtis Watkins, Carlis Williams, MA Black Marriage Day, Marriage
> Development Accounts, getting denominations on board, special curricula come
> brainstorm ideas for revitalizing marriage in the Black community.
> 756-406 - Saturday, June 24
> The Black Marriage Curriculum - MINI Training
> Nisa Muhammad, Rozario Slack, DMin
> Black Americans are the most unmarried group in the world. Learn to teach the
> skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will reverse this trend and maintain the
> 756-701 - Sunday, June 25, Master Session - on DVD, CD, MP3
> African American Marriage Enrichment - MINI
> Lorraine Blackman, PhD
> Learn tips for teaching this program that addresses the specific issues facing
> African American couples. Perfect for church, school, community, and private
> practice settings.
> 756-811 - Sunday, June 25
> Celebrating Black Marriages: Arusi Style
> Andrew and Terri Lyke
> Experience rituals and symbols of the African American Christian community to
> make your marriage all that it can be - define your marriage mission and path.
> Married, engaged, dating or singles.
We also had two training Institutes that were not recorded which are highly
recommended by their very strong evaluations. Attendees were filled with
hope and said they couldn't wait to get back home to start teaching these
programs. Plan to take these trainings next year in Denver. - diane
> 110 Two Days - Wednesday & Thursday: June 21, 22
> The 10 Rites of Passage
> Charles Lee-Johnson, MSW, Rozario Slack, DMin
> This abstinence, parenthood and marriage education program teaches at-risk
> youth responsibility to self, family and community with a focus on long-term
> life goals.
> Qualifies you to teach the program and includes support in setting-up your
> program in
> community and faith-based settings.
> Click for more information: http://www.smartmarriages.com/lee.johnson.html
> 904 Two Days - Monday & Tuesday, June 26 & 27
> Exploring Relationships and Marriage with Fragile Families
> Joe Jones, Julia Hayman-Hamilton, MSW, MPH, Andrew and Terri Lyke
> Learn to teach a program that connects African tradition with hip-hop culture
> and helps
> fragile couples examine their relationship, learn skills and understand the
> benefits of marriage.
> Click for more information:
- YOUNGER BLACKS ABSORB A WARINESS OF MARRIAGE
Vanessa E. Jones
August 9, 2006
As African-American teenagers in a Mission Hill conference room talk about
their opinions of marriage , their comments reveal a dreary view of the
``I'm not looking forward to marriage," says Nakeeda Burns , a 17-year-old
resident of Revere and daughter of a single mother, ``and I don't think we
[people in general] should be married, because I see how other marriages
ended up in my family and on television. It's always a disaster."
Even the married couples these teens know don't seem particularly happy.
``All of my friends who are married, they tell me not to get married," says
Anderson Felix , 17, of Dorchester. `` `Wifey is going to keep you on lock.'
`Everywhere you go, she'll call you every five minutes.' I won't be able to
deal with that."
Anita Marshall blurts out, ``I want a big wedding if I get married," but she
doesn't think she'll make it to the altar. Her mother, grandmother, and
great-grandmother were married; now they're all divorced.
``I don't know anyone who's married, or anybody who is married and stayed
married," says Marshall, a 15-year-old from Dorchester. She and the other 10
teens in the room are participants in the organization YPACT (Youth for
Prevention, Action and Change Through Thought ), which aims to develop
community leaders by teaching teens about social, racial, and health
disparities in their neighborhoods.
``When I think of `married,' " Marshall adds, ``[I think] `divorce' -- first
Their disillusionment mirrors a growing resistance to marriage among
African-Americans. In the post-Civil War era, when African-Americans had the
option to marry legally for the first time, many did. The 1890 Census showed
that 80 percent of African-American families were headed by two parents,
according to Andrew Billingsley 's 1992 book, ``Climbing Jacob's Ladder: The
Enduring Legacies of African-American Families ."
But in 1970, census figures show ed that only 57 percent of black men and 54
percent of black women were married. By last year those numbers had slipped
to 42 percent for men and 35 percent for women. In comparison, 68 percent of
white men and 63 percent of white women were married in 1970, vs. 59 percent
of men and 57 percent of women in 2005 .
As the local teens's comments indicate, views about marriage are formed by
what people see in their lives -- and in pop culture. Shows such as
``Divorce Court " and the media's focus on the latest celebrity break-up do
not paint glowing pictures of relationships. These factors may help explain
why the US divorce rate approaches 40 percent.
``Today . . . not just in the African-American community but in the larger
community, divorce is rampant, there's a proliferation of single- mother
households, and there's a generation of kids coming up who are very
skeptical of marriage," says Dr. William July , a psychologist who has
written several books about relationships, including ``Understanding the Tin
Man: Why So Many Men Avoid Intimacy ."
But while whites tend to remarry, blacks are less likely to do so. A 2002
report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the
probability of remarriage was highest among divorced white women and lowest
among divorced black women.
Orlando Patterson , a professor of sociology at Harvard University, believes
that African-Americans' views of marriage reflect the lingering effects of
slavery. The system emasculated black men, who had no real power over
themselves, the women they loved, or their children, who could be sold,
raped, or violently beaten. It upended the traditional male and female roles
in a family unit. The idea that this history could result in a stable,
two-parent lifestyle for African-Americans today ``is utterly absurd," says
Patterson, who explored the subject in his 1998 book, ``Rituals of Blood:
Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries ."
Patterson says this history lingers in the way black men and women interact.
Once slavery ended, a tussle for power developed between the sexes, creating
a tension that exists to this day, he says. And as some women became
economically independent in the 1960s, they happily chucked those harried
In the decades that followed, single people retained interest in marriage
until they reached middle age, according to Patterson. Now, he says that
fear of -- or lack of interest in -- commitment is trickling down to a
``Women in the black community would take a shine to marriage, and if they
didn't find someone appropriate by the time they were in their early 30s,
they're down on marriage," Patterson says. ``What's happening is the
skepticism is starting earlier."
Grappling with roles
That skepticism can be heard in the voices of the YPACT teens. As they talk,
they reveal some of the stereotypical ideas about male and female roles they
hear from the adults who surround them: Women take care of the home, cook
and clean; men go out with friends and provide monetary support.
Marshall blames a male desire to dominate women after marriage on the vows
exchanged during the wedding ceremony. ``It's the language," she says.
``It's like, `OK, I'm yours, and you're mine. So you have to do this. You
have to do that.' It's like ownership. They feel like they own you."
William Glass , 16, who lives in Mattapan, thinks a re-evaluation of power
takes place after the wedding ceremony. ``When you get married there's a
part where it says, `honor and obey ' -- that's the part where everybody
gets big-headed at. `Honor and obey, huh? Obey me! Fix my plate.' "
The problems often develop as men and women grapple over their roles in the
marriage -- an issue that is exacerbated in the Africa-American community
because of slavery's legacy, says Patterson. ``There's some profound
differences in what the appropriate sex roles should be . . .
African-American women have a modern independent view about women's roles.
African-American men -- it's a mix. In some respects, they have a modern
view of what women should be: that women should work. But there's still some
male-dominance views that they have that irk black women tremendously and
create real friction in the relationships."
These teens seem to have responded to those tensions by developing an early
fear of commitment.
Burns says, ``I get tired of people very quickly, so I don't think I'll end
up getting married."
Kemar Henry sounds as if he has already written marriage off, and he's only
14. He fears that getting married would cause him to lose his independence.
``When you have made a commitment," says Henry, who lives in Mattapan, ``and
then there's money [involved] and you want to [leave], they have something
to hold you."
And what kind of hold do they have?
``The ring," says Kemar, holding up his ring finger, then beginning to whine
as if in an argument: ``` You made this promise.' A lot of drama. But when
you're not married, you can say, `I'm sick of this' and walk out."
Henry and Burns admit they've come to some of their conclusions about
marriage from watching television. Both spent the previous Saturday
afternoon watching ``Divorce Court."
``They're fighting for the littlest reasons," Burns says of the people on
The way TV shows, hip-hop songs, and movies depict relationships influences
how young viewers develop their first opinions about marriage .
``The way we figure out what we're going to do is by observational
learning," July says. `` ` If I pick up a hot pot, I'm going to burn.' They
look at marriage as a hot pot, too."
The unending media coverage of the divorces of Nick Lachey and Jessica
Simpson, Halle Berry and Eric Benet, or Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston
doesn't help .
``You see the celebrities," says Burns. ``Three years and then they've broke
up. You might as well not go that route."
July, who is 40 and has been married for eight years, remembers what
happened when he announced his engagement to his friends. One was
indifferent; another said, ``What the hell are you doing that for? You're
making a mistake."
July, who is African-American, thinks that if he didn't have the example of
his parents, who have been married for 50 years, he might have been
influenced by those comments. Many African- Americans lack the successful
model his parents provided, he says.
Not all messages teens receive about relationships are bleak. Glass has an
uncle who's lived with his partner for 25 years; the only married people
Glass says he knows are a gay couple who live across the street . But Glass
has gotten good advice from his aunt on how to make a relationship work.
``She said you and your partner . . . pretty much have to have life
straightened out first," he says . ``Don't plan it out after you get
married. Plan out your life first and then you can go and get married."
While Patterson suspects a social or moral shift will have to occur to
change current marriage trends, July wonders whether the declining marriage
rates will lead to a new form of relationships. July doesn't know what those
relationships will look like, but he wants to do research on how
economically independent middle class women choose mates.
The answers may help show the form of future relationships.
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