‘There is a need; there is a hunger in our community for positive images, for real images of Black folks who are in love and committed to each other and committed to building family.’ —Aiyana Ma’at
Where Is The Love: By Starla Muhammad (The Final Call Oct. 4th 2011 Volume 30 # 52)
Though marriages as a whole are on the decline in the United States, successful and thriving marriages between Black men and women do exist and must be uplifted, say Black marriage advocates.
Just ask Ayize and Aiyana Ma’at of Washington, D.C. The former high school sweethearts have been together 15 years, married for eight and are the proud parents of four children. Mr. and Mrs. Ma’at coach and counsel couples and singles by offering life and relationship guidance and advice as well as pre and post-marital counseling through their organization blackloveandmarriage.com. The couple has conducted numerous workshops and classes and say Black marriage today must be rooted in what it actually means to be married.
“Yes, there are some statistics out here that reflect the fact that marriage doesn’t necessarily appear to be in the best shape in the Black community but the reality is that you have a whole bunch of people like ourselves who are out here working trying to restore that image, restore the faith,” Mr. Ma’at told The Final Call.
“You know you have a lot of married couples out here who are actually doing the thing, you know making marriage work and making marriage look good,” he adds. While there may be a large number of Black women and men that are single, there are answers within the Black community to address the issue of marriage, says Mr. Ma’at, a marriage and relationship educator and graduate of Bowie State University.
Part of the problem says, Mrs. Ma’at is that many in the Black community have “bought into this sense of individualism” instead of learning how to persevere and “be part of something that is bigger than ourselves.”
Have Black men and women bought into a manufactured “media-hype” about one another that has helped initiate fin- ger pointing and cause friction with one another? Has this distrust contributed to the fact that over 70 percent of Black children are being raised in single parent households and that marriage among Blacks has declined in recent years?
“Educated Black people are more likely to marry Whites,” “Only 3 ‘Good’ Black men for every 100 Black women,” “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” “Why can’t professional Black women find a man?”, “Our men need to step up to the plate” and “The top 10 reasons why it’s hard to date a Black woman,” are just a few out of thousands of articles, online blogs and books that appear aimed at turning Black men and women against one another.
This is by design explains, Ava Muhammad, attorney and a national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. “If we can agree that Black marriage is a target, then we can begin to look objectively at how do you go about destroying it. Well, one of the primary things you want to do is make the male and female unattractive to one another,” says Atty. Muhammad.
“By nature we are all born with a genetic preference for our own kind. It’s in your genes to prefer to mate with your own kind and so to go other than that you’d have to actually be made to act in opposition to the nature in which you are created. And so that’s not going to happen unless there is something proactive to make that happen,” she adds.
Atty. Muhammad, a student minister in the Nation of Islam, wife and mother, says with the Black man and women being made “other than themselves,” the natural inclination toward one another has been altered and overcome “by constant artificial barriers between us.”
“You have the Black man with media images and concepts which continually inflict on his brain this idea that his own woman is undesirable. On the side the woman, you have her now being bombarded with this idea that the (Black) man is incapable,” says Atty. Muhammad.
“When it comes to this whole representation in the media that sisters might look outside of the community in order to find love because there’s not a good representation of Black men that are available and willing to step up to the plate, I definitely want to challenge that,” says Mr. Ma’at.
Black men are out here making moves and there are a lot of successful Black men Mr. Ma’at argues. He also challenges the notion that all successful Black men are looking to White women to be in relationships with, saying that 80 percent of Black men that are married, are married to Black women.
The ramifications of this negative propaganda have trickled down into the mindset of Black children and teens and their outlook on marriage; a reflection of what is happening with the older generation points out Mrs. Ma’at, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and who like her husband is a certified marriage and relationship educator.
In her work with young people, Mrs. Ma’at says they do not have a high regard for marriage because they do not see good examples in their families or communities, something that must change.
“Time and time again when I’ve asked these young people … I’m talking hundreds of young people, most of them, the majority of them say, ‘I don’t have anyone that I can look to that I think has a good marriage, has a good relationship so no, why should I get married? I can just have a baby or we can just go together.’ They are literally saying they’re not seeing it (marriage) around them,” Mrs. Ma’at told The Final Call.
“So we’ve definitely got to focus on our children and being able to give them something to reference in their everyday, real and practical lives,” she adds.
Wedded Bliss Foundation, a community-based organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., is also dedicated to educating the Black community on the purpose and value of marriage. Under the direction of the group’s executive director and founder, Nisa Islam Muhammad, who is also a Final Call staff writer, Wedded Bliss helps teens, singles and couples create healthy relationships and healthy marriages so more children grow up with the benefits of a two-parent family.
Under the direction of Nisa Islam Muhammad, Black Marriage Day was created in 2002 as a way for Black communities around the country to honor, celebrate and promote marriage and family. Observed and celebrated the fourth Sunday of March, Black Marriage Day organizers encourage communities to come up with fun and creative ways to educate the community on “why marriage matters.”
Hosting events like, “First Comes Love” film festivals, inducting couples into a marriage “Hall of Fame” and other activities are a few suggestions offered by Wedded Bliss Foundation to promote marriage in the Black community.
“I try my best to really make marriage look good,” says Mr. Ma’at. “I try to be a representation not just via our social media platform but publicly … I’m proud to wear my ring; I’m proud to hold my wife’s hand; I’m proud to be out and about with my family and I have no problem at all saying that,” he adds.
On the couple’s website and on Youtube are posted over 200 videos where they discuss a variety of relationship issues that help individuals and couples navigate the joys and challenges of marriage. Response to the Ma’at’s online marriage videos has been tremendous they say.
“There is a need; there is a hunger in our community for positive images, for real images of Black folks who are in love and committed to each other and com- mitted to building family and if more people would do it, if more people would just figure out how they can contribute … it could be going and having a conversation with some little girls about marriage and that kind of thing,” says Mrs. Ma’at.
“I think that this is a thing that people want; I know that they want it but it’s just not out here enough. We’re not talk- ing about it enough,” says Mrs. Ma’at.
(This is the second in a two-part series examining Black marriage. Part one appeared in the previous edition of The Final Call.)