gua: Black marriage campaign is growing


Joan Griffith-Lee, left, and her husband, Don Lee, share a moment as they have dinner at a restaurant in New York. The couple, who live in the Staten Island borough of New York, have been married for 20 years.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 3:36 p.m.

New York

For Kenny and Lynette Seymour, the recent black marriage gala was about celebrating their seven-year marriage. They got to meet other black couples while spending a romantic evening together.

"Every time you meet another couple, you learn something new about yourself and relationships in general," said Kenny Seymour, a 39-year-old Broadway music director who lives in Queens. "It was beautiful to be around a bunch of married people in love."

Other black couples marked the eighth annual Black Marriage Day last weekend, by attending workshops, black-tie dinners and other activities. Some groups held events throughout the month of March, although Black Marriage Day, which celebrates matrimony in the black community, falls on the fourth Sunday in March.

The founder estimates more than 300 celebrations were held. The aim is to try to stabilize, if not reverse, the trend of non-commitment within the black community. Studies show blacks are less likely to marry than other ethnic groups and more likely to divorce and bear children out of wedlock.

Experts blame the disparities in part on high black male unemployment, high black male imprisonment and the moderate performance of black men in college compared with black women.

They also note the lack of positive images of black marriage in the media and several misperceptions about matrimony - that it's for white people, that it's a ball and chain, that fatherhood and marriage are not linked.

"They have either seen really bad examples of what marriage looks like or no examples at all," said Yolanda "Yanni" Brown, 42, a divorced mother of two in Chicago, who hosted black marriage events. "They are saying, 'Why bother? This works for us,' not knowing there are so many other benefits of being married."

Brown says she wishes she had fought for her marriage.

Gerard Abdul, 45, a who lives in East Orange, N.J., and runs an entertainment company, has never seen himself as the marrying type. He has nine children by five women. He said he cared about them all, and each wanted to marry him. But he wasn't interested.

"Because I'm so independent and on my own, I really didn't see the science of marrying them when I really didn't have to," Abdul said.

Black Marriage Day founder Nisa Islam Muhammad is encouraging couples to renew their vows in front of friends and family in honor of Tyler Perry's movie, "Why Did I Get Married Too?" which opens Friday. It will be showing locally at Butler Plaza.

"We're going to focus on the positives," said Muhammad, executive director of Wedded Bliss Foundation, which helps people develop healthy relationships and marriages. "We're going to show ourselves and our community that marriage does matter and we have some fabulous marriages in our community worth celebrating."

Those include the marriage of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, said Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative in Germantown, Md. He credits the couple with setting a positive example and creating more discussion about the issue. In a way, their marriage is evidence of the importance of marriage in the African-American community, he said.

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