Marriage and Black America

A crisis of commitment

According to Rev. Howell, the historical separation of Black men from their families during the time of slavery was a deliberate attack on the Black family that has resulted in the loss of a sense of the spiritual order of the family in Black America with the man being the head. “We have become endowed with self-destruction. Marriage (in the bible) preceded everything because it is a reflection of divine order” said Rev. Howell. The remedy for the situation involves responsible male involvement in churches, outreach centers, and sports activities to act as mentors for younger, misguided males. It also involves educating one another to value ourselves, to value our holy vessels. “Nothing has ever been changed by a spectator. We must become proactive!”

In 2004, Bill Cosby expressed a similar sentiment concerning our community: “I’m telling you Christians, what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you hit the streets? Why can’t you clean it out yourselves? It’s our time now, ladies and gentlemen. It is our time. And I’ve got good news for you. It’s not about money. It’s about you doing something ordinarily that we do –get in somebody else’s business.” Cosby’s comments ignited a heated debate both within the Black community and outsiders.

Who’s Minding the Store?

Lyke believes the Catholic Church could also be doing more on the issue. “Considering the frightening degeneration of marriage among African Americans, one would think that marriage ministry with African Americans would be on the front burner of an evangelizing [Catholic] Church” he said. “It is generally true in the Church in America that Offices for Black Catholic Ministry and their equivalents don’t do marriage ministry…So when it comes to this segment of our population, which is on the front line of the war that is waged on marriage and family life, no one is minding the store in the Catholic Church.”

The fact of the matter is that raising a family outside of marriage, not only takes a spiritual toll, but a financial one as well. Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics at Warwick University published an article entitled The Extraordinary Effects of Marriage in which he discusses the financial effects of having a single-parent household. Oswald came to the following conclusion: “The first finding is that marriage makes you richer. In virtually every country ever studied, workers who are married earn between 10% and 20% more than those who are single.” Clearly, not only would marriage help to foster a stronger spiritual climate in the Black community, but would also assist in lessening the rate of poverty.

Marry Your Baby Daddy Day

“Nothing has ever been changed by a spectator. We must become proactive!”

The situation is dire enough to have spawned equally desperate counter measures in the Black community. Two years ago in New York city, the popular author Maryann Reid initiated the Marry Your Baby Daddy Day campaign that offers all-expense paid weddings for Black parents who are passionate about strengthening their family unit. Though an unorthodox idea, Ms. Reid’s attempt at helping Black Americans create and solidify their families has resulted in 12 couples uniting their children and their finances.

Though it may be well-intentioned, efforts like Reid’s can’t begin to address the vast socio-economic and spiritual damage being wrought by the high rate of children being born out of wedlock. How is it possible to unite families on such a large scale when many men are unwilling to take on the responsibility of another man’s children? Though it may seem to be an insurmountable problem Black Americans are not without hope. “God took on a people that were not His own… the Jews” said Reverend Howell. “He also adopted others into His fold that would worship Him.” According to Howell, Black America must toss aside individualistic views and embrace the character of God. But this can only take place with willingness on the part of the person teaching and the one receiving guidance. We need to raise our voices and become living examples to the young women in our neighborhoods and cities that have not yet become “baby mamas.” “We reach the community one person at a time” he said.