Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Don't we focus our marriage ideologies on Young Black Men?
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw
From the time I turned 28 the pressure was on for me to find a husband.  People would ask me if I had a boyfriend, and when I would say yes, they would get on me to get that ring.  When I turned 30 and was still single it was a state of emergency for my family and friends.  Many would tell me “get on it soon while you’re still desirable.”  All of these statements started to get to me and it made bitter, anxious and quite frankly depressed at times.  I come from a Guyanese-West African household where marriage was important, even a dysfunctional one. 

I understood how important the institution of marriage is. I always knew that I wanted to be married. I proclaimed that I would be some man’s wife. I got that marriage is important and productive for family structure and wealth building.
The pressure made me aggressively pursue marriage and I realized that I made “being married” to fit in line with people’s opinions more important than who I was looking for to marry.

But there was another aspect to my situation.  I could not force or pay a man to marry me- well maybe, pay, but why should an attractive, independent, good-natured woman have to do so.  I was holding my breath waiting for my future husband and I was able to exhale 3 years ago when I met my husband, the love of my life, my best friend.   I remember a church member telling me “I was lucky to find a husband”; another told me “I beat the statistic.”  These weren’t personal slights against me but it is just the reality of so many women, professional or not, especially in the African American community.

I often wonder why the focus society places on women to marry are not directed towards men.  Women can’t marry if their male counterparts are not willing.  A man can enjoy his single life well into his late thirties and be viewed as a catch.  The community has to place more emphasis on socializing young boys to desire to be husbands and family men.  Music and television often glorifies a man’s singledom.  It’s perpetuated as being cool.  It is not cool to say I desire to be a “husband.”

As parents we have to raise our boys to prepare for marriage. We have to change our mindset to reflect a gender balanced belief on when individuals should be married if we consensually adopt this as a community.  We have to make them understand that women do have a biological clock and work on a different time schedule.  If we focus on commitment with our boys they won’t fear it.  In our households we have to display happy marriages to leave a good impression on our boys.  If we can do this our boys and girls will be on the same page and women won’t be the only ones answering the dreaded questions about getting married.

Monday, May 5, 2014

ON MY OWN Film Premiere Shows a Passion for Repairing the Black Family
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw
The Black family in America has become a matriarchal structure, and is doomed to stay that way.  So warns Wikipedia, and while not everything Wikipedia says is true, there is more than a modicum of truth in this declaration.  A large proportion of Black mothers and expectant mothers simply accept as fact that they will raise their children alone.  And many Black fathers have sadly been conditioned to believe they are not needed in the home because Black women are strong enough to raise their families by themselves.

During the past decade it has become increasingly clear within the Black community that many of its problems – everything from crime, to substance abuse, to teen pregnancies – stem from fractured families.  The family is the bedrock upon which every society is built, and our family structures need a lot of shoring up.

The premiere of the highly anticipated documentary ON MY OWN, which took place at ALOFT Harlem on Saturday, April 26, was well-attended, and included film participants, community leaders, media, and special guests.   ON MY OWN opens a refreshing dialogue that helps offset the onslaught of negative discourse about Black families in this country (for example, constant reminders from conservatives about family instability within the African American community). 

The panel discussion that followed the screening was filled with passionate comments and suggested solutions.  It was clear that everyone in attendance deeply cared about the Black family.  Veteran filmmaker Nicole Franklin said, “Rachel has such a sensitive touch with the subject matter.  The film presented multiple sides of this critical issue in a brave new light.  I suspect this film will be referenced for many years to come.”  

ON MY OWN is a sincere effort to get people in the Black community engaged in the fight to put our families back together again.  It underscores that major pro-fatherhood, pro-marriage, and co-parenting movements are ongoing, and need more community support and involvement.  Everyone – from legislators, fatherhood organizations, and black churches, to the general public must get involved and instill healthy family values in young African Americans.  If we all do our part and work diligently to fix our broken families, the positive results will be reflected in our children, our communities, future Census reports and eventually, perhaps even in Wikipedia.