State Group Promoting Marriage Among African Americans

Saturday, March 24th 2007, 2:23 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Concerned about a steep decline in marriage rates among blacks, The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative is encouraging churches to observe Sunday as ``Black Marriage Day.''

The initiative, a state-funded program that hopes to reduce divorce rates, will host a celebration of the event Sunday at Langston University's Oklahoma City campus. Bob Davis, who works with the initiative program, hopes that at least 200 couples will attend and participate in a commitment ceremony.

The idea for ``Black Marriage Day'' was developed four years ago by the Wedded Bliss Foundation, which is a national initiative to promote marriage in the black community.

``We're encouraging (churches) to participate at whatever level they feel comfortable with,'' Davis said. ``They can hang a flier, make an announcement about it or even preach a rousing sermon about the virtue of marriage.

``The greatest indicator of success for children is if that child grows up in a home with a mother and a father,'' he said.

More than two-thirds of all births among blacks are to unwed mothers. The marriage rate in the U.S. fell 17 percent between 1970 and 2001, but among blacks, it dropped at twice that level. U.S. Census figures show that 43 percent of black men and 42 percent of black women have never been married.

Davis said the marriage initiative hopes to make marriage as important as it once was to African slaves, who used to defy a ban on marriage and solidify their relationships by jumping over a broom.

``It meant a lot to our community to be connected,'' he said. ``We've gotten away from the great value of that connection.''

Steve Davis of GMO Urban Ministries in Oklahoma City, said that young blacks often lack role models when it comes to successful marriages or parenthood.

``I never grew up knowing how to be a father and a husband,'' Steve Davis said. ``I had to learn. I'm a work in progress.''

Bob Davis said he hopes programs such as the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative can help in that area.