Making Marriage Last - Cincinnati focus on strengthening African American Marriages - 1/29/07
smartmarriages at lists101.his.com
Mon Jan 29 10:04:33 EST 2007
What a great start for Monday morning. This wonderful article quotes Diann
Dawson, founding director of the African American Healthy Marriage
Initiative who will lead a panel in Denver: Strengthening Marriage in the
Black Community. It also highlights two programs: the Covey program: "8
Habits of Successful Marriages" and Jim Sheridan's "Sex and Romance in the
Biblical Marriage" BOTH of which will be presented as TRAINING INSTITUTES at
the Denver Smart Marriages conference. Leave the conference ready to teach
these in your community.
> 109 Two Days - Wednesday & Thursday, June 27, 28
> 8 Habits of Successful Marriages
> Jane & John Covey, EdD, MBA
> This powerful new marriage strengthening curriculum equips couples not only
> to implement these life-changing habits, but teach their children through
> fun, simple, self-discovery activities. Marriage training has never been
> easier, more fun or more effective! Replace boring, lecture-oriented
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> discount. For license details, click:
> 913 One Day - Monday, July 2
> Marriage Done Right
> Jim Sheridan, JD, MBA
> This video-based program teaches Biblical concepts of marriage, sex, romance,
> equality, forgiveness, and domestic violence and is suited for work with
> premarital, married or struggling couples. For anyone that works with
> Christian couples - counselors, clergy, lay educators - in any setting
> including private practice, community, prison, retreat, or military settings.
> $50 spouse discount. Click for more information:
- MAKING MARRIAGE LAST
The Enquirer, Cincinnati, OH
January 29, 2007
Making marriage last
Strong bonds the goal of local and national movement
BY JOHN JOHNSTON
About 70 percent of African-American women do not live with a spouse, the
Census Bureau says. That's the direction in which Monica Blackwell-Harper
once saw herself headed.
Although she wanted children, "I didn't want to get married," the
35-year-old from Forest Park says. "I didn't understand why people would
(marry). It seemed like a bad idea, because in my circle, it seemed like
everybody broke up." That included her parents, who divorced before she
entered grade school.
She married despite those misgivings, and today both Blackwell-Harper and
her husband, Tramell Harper, also 35, admit they're surprised their 11-year
union survived its rocky start. They're thrilled it did, and the
middle-class parents of three young children say their success is due, at
least in part, to their ongoing efforts to learn how to be a good spouse.
A movement now under way hopes to multiply such successful marriages.
Locally and nationally, programs are being offered - many funded by federal
or state grants - with the goal of strengthening relationships and promoting
the benefits of marriage, particularly among African-Americans.
The movement has gained momentum since 2002, when President Bush, citing
research that shows children do best when raised in healthy, stable,
two-parent households, launched his Healthy Marriage Initiative.
Critics have questioned the effectiveness of marriage-skills programs, which
often are aimed at low-income couples, and say such programs could increase
domestic violence by encouraging women to remain in dangerous relationships.
Proponents claim just the opposite: The voluntary programs improve marital
happiness and help reduce domestic violence.
Regardless, the effort faces big challenges. Statistics compiled by the
federal Administration for Children and Families show that while all races
are affected by divorce, single-parent homes and declines in marriage rates,
the impact has been greater in the African-American community:
Blacks are more likely to be divorced (9.4 percent of males; 13.3 percent of
females) than whites (9.1 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively) or
Hispanics (5.9 percent and 9.3 percent).
Single female-headed families are far more likely in black homes (45
percent) than in white (13.7 percent) or Hispanic (22 percent) homes.
68 percent of African-American births are to unmarried women. For whites,
it's 29 percent; Hispanics, 44 percent.
"We're in a crisis," says Jimmie Lee Walker, a retired Cincinnati Public
Schools teacher and co-founder of Saving African American Families, a local
nonprofit group that works to inform and empower blacks on health and family
"For so long, (disintegration of the black family) was a hush-hush subject.
The first goal is to get it out in the open, and to get people talking about
... marriage," she says.
Groups join forces
Anderson Township-based Beech Acres Parenting Center last year was awarded a
$338,000 grant from the Ohio Strengthening Families Initiative to conduct a
marriage awareness and education campaign aimed primarily at
African-Americans. More than a dozen other groups have joined forces with
Beech Acres to offer classes, workshops, marriage retreats and other
training, through a coalition called Building Strong Marriages and Families.
The coalition includes S.O.A.R. Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit
agency established by Word of Deliverance Ministries for the World, a
nondenominational, primarily African-American ministry in Forest Park.
That's where Craig and Donita Jackson lead an eight-week class for couples,
"Franklin Covey's Eight Habits of a Successful Marriage."
Craig, 37, is an assistant vice president for Fifth Third Bank. Donita, 35,
is a middle school guidance counselor. Both were children of divorce, raised
in single-parent homes. The experience "shaped our thoughts on marriage, in
that we wanted to make sure when we did it, we were only going to be married
one time," Craig says.
They married 13 years ago and have two children.
Most people "learn more about how to drive a car than how to live in a
lifelong relationship with one person," Donita Jackson says. So when a
marriage hits rough spots, "What are you supposed to do? You just don't
know, especially when it hasn't been modeled for you in a healthy manner."
Donita says of the "Eight Habits" curriculum: "It's not cookie-cutter. She
gets a book. He gets a book. You write in your own book and then
collaborate: What do you want your relationship to look like? It's not
someone preaching at you saying you should do A, B and C and then you'll be
at D. It's about what works for you."
In a recent class, the Jacksons led a lively discussion with 10 couples,
including Monica Blackwell-Harper, a stay-at-home mom, and Tramell Harper, a
Procter & Gamble manager.
Their story is hardly a fairy tale of finding true love and living happily
ever after. Both say they naively entered marriage, not knowing how to make
it work. Early on, they came close to divorcing "a bunch of times," Harper
It doesn't come easily
A combination of factors turned things around for them, they say. While
living in North Carolina, they began regularly attending a church that
offered Bible studies focused on family issues. There, they met other
married couples who were good role models. They committed themselves to
making their marriage successful and came to understand that would happen
only if they actively worked at it.
For the past 10 years, they've attended as many marriage programs and
retreats as possible.
"We wanted to try to be married the way God intended marriage to be," Harper
Many of the marriage programs aimed at African-Americans are run by
A church is "a logical place where you might impart this kind of information
to couples. Also the African-American population is largely a very
faith-oriented community," says Diann Dawson. As director of the Office of
Regional Operations for the Administration for Children and Families, she
helped create the federal African American Healthy Marriage Initiative.
It was in a church where the Rev. Eric White and his wife, the Rev. Angelia
White, who've been married 17 years, say they found the role models who
helped put their shaky marriage on track years ago. The Sycamore Township
residents are pastors at Bread of Life Christian Center in Kennedy Heights.
"The best marriage ministry I believe a church can have is the pastor loving
his wife," says Eric White. "It has to be modeled not only by the pastors,
but by every married couple in the church."
One popular program
Some people feel that churches aren't doing enough to address marriage in
the African-American community.
"So many pastors have problems with their marriages; some of them are
ashamed of talking about marriage," says Charlie Winburn, senior pastor of
the Encampment in College Hill.
Winburn and his wife of 26 years, Colleen, last year led a program they
called Real Life Marriage Encounter that drew at least 300 couples, about 85
percent of them African-American. It was scheduled to run nine weeks, but
expanded to 18 "by popular demand," Winburn says.
Winburn, a Cincinnati city councilman from 1993 to 2001, offered the program
"because so many African-American marriages are falling apart, even those
that have been married 10, 15, 20 years." The Encampment put up $50,000 to
fund the program.
The range of topics included intimacy, infidelity, finances, blended
families and the importance of communication.
"We found that 90 percent of the people who attended had a major problem
with communication," he says.
John Garner agrees communication is a key, and it's addressed in Healthy
Relationships classes he leads at Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community
Action Agency in Bond Hill, one of the agencies in partnership with Beech
But relationships can be derailed by many other obstacles, he says. That's
why he might refer low-income participants to the agency's job readiness,
ex-offender, fatherhood, emergency rental assistance and financial planning
programs, among others.
Attendance was sparse at a recent Healthy Relationships class, in part
because of illness.
Tarus Adams and Kellie Harris of Colerain Township were one of just two
"We're not married yet, and we have two children, but we're trying to move
to the next level," Adams says afterward, buckling his 8-week-old daughter
into a child seat.
"I think (the class) is going to help us understand each other a little bit
better," Harris adds.
If they come to understand each other the way Trammel Harper and Monica
Blackwell-Harper do, they'll be fine. The couple say it takes commitment and
"We are brutally honest with each other, and we're really there for each
other. We have a lot of fun," Blackwell-Harper says.
Then the woman who once swore she'd never marry adds, "I can't believe I
like it this much."
Visit the Enquirer website for photos and the sidebar of courses and
programs being offered: (remember to paste in the entire url - even the
dangling tail) - diane
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