On March 27, more than 300 communities across the nation celebrated the promising future of Black families during the ninth annual Black Marriage Day. From Detroit to Dallas and Atlanta to New York, Black marriage festivities demonstrated the collective efforts of community partnerships and unity.

In the District, thousands of couples celebrated Black Marriage Day with an array of healthy forums, recommitment ceremonies, movie screenings, couples mentoring, training and merriments to newlywed couples. To promote the significance and sacredness of marriage in the Black community, Nisa Muhammad, executive director of the Wedded Bliss Foundation, birthed Black Marriage Day in March 2003.

“This is about community wellness. Marriage is a divine concern,” said Diane Sims-Moore, executive director of the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative. “To the ‘brothas’ in prison, we say to you we need you to come home…your children and family need you. When other people find out that children don’t have fathers they know that those children are vulnerable. Know that marriage saves.”

In the spirit of “Married and Proud of It,” village partners included the Anacostia Community Outreach Center, Wedded Bliss Foundation, Marriage First, Family First DC and DC Children & Youth Investment Trust, who hosted a Black Marriage Day program at Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church. The event honored married couples with children, offered tips on how to sustain a healthy marriage, presented a recommitment ceremony and debut the screening of Men Ain’t Boys by indie filmmakers Lamar and Ronnie Tyler.

“One thing that I have learned is why do we as Black women have to talk about how strong we are? Just think of how strong we can be when we come together with a strong brother,” said Ayanna Ma’at, co-host of the program. “It is OK to lean on someone.”

Demonstrating a loving union, Ayize and Aiyana Ma’at, founders of relationship coaching and counseling firm B-Intentional LLC, hosted the event. The energetic young couple have been married for nine years and have four children. They both offered holistic and realistic advice to the crowd of couples.

“Why marriage to the men? We (men) need the support, encouragement and we need to be inspired. We need that partner…that cheerleader in our corner,” said Ayize Ma’at.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, two out of three African-American children will be raised without biological fathers in the home. During the program ,The Marriage First Project (MFP) announced that these statistics have stagnated because nearly 9,000 African- American couples have obtained marriage licenses within the last two years.

Rallying support for newlywed couples with children, young couples the Ledbetter and Johnson families were presented checks for $1,000 from the Marriage First Project. MFP provides D.C. couples married after Oct. 1, 2008, or engaged to be married by June 1, 2011, who have children living in their home with marriage education, financial literacy and support for participation in their program.

While D.C. is faced with a 9.5 percent unemployment rate, 25 percent high school dropout rate, marriage is more than meaningful, as studies show marriage has a positive impact on communities.

“We are in the community teaching marriage education and how it positively changes the community, “ said Marjorie Grays, founder of Family Matters Empowerment Center in Northeast D.C. “Married couples are the gatekeeper to the village —specially dads. When the man stands up the village prospers. You know that women are going to do it anyways.

For more information on healthy Black marriages or marriage counseling visit: www.familymattersec.com.

Brandi Forte

Special to the AFRO