WASHINGTON, September 27, 2011‑Last year, dozens of writers, journalists, bloggers and advocates participated in the united No Wedding, No Womb campaign. This group wrote essays and prose dedicated to the celebration of marriage in black families, and encouraging young children to forgo having babies outside marriage.
The effort was met with praise and accolades but also lots of criticism, disdain and condemnation by those who were under the mistaken impression that the sole purpose of the message was disparaging single motherhood, those who grew up in single family households or those who are currently raising children they conceived outside of marriage.
I participated in that effort and sadly lost some friends over it who felt that I was judging the way they grew up. The criticisms, from friends and readers, were varied:
“My mother did her best and raised all of us with what she had and did not need a husband,” one person wrote. Another said, “Raising a child on your own is best because it shows that child self-reliance and besides so many times a husband may not even help anyway, so what is the point?”
An astounding 70% of black children are raised in single family-female-headed households in the United States, and thus the core of the messaging started by writer, blogger and marriage advocate Christelyn Karzin, was in direct response to those numbers and an effort to mobilize others towards changing that statistic.
Inside the Blogsphere and among the Twitterverse, an anti-No Wedding No Womb campaign (called OOW or Own Or Own) surfaced among those who felt that the focus was solely on black women and absolved black men of their responsibility in the plight of single parenthood in America.
Still, others pointed out to the high divorce rate and declared that the institution of marriage is a broken system that shouldn’t necessarily be upheld as the ideal standard.
Those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community complained that legal limitations impede their ability to get married anyway and that they were unwilling victims of unwarranted disapproval by marriage advocates.
Several wanted to supress the message because they felt it was another example of “airing out the dirty laundry” of the black community for general audiences to see.
All the commentary, negative, positive and in between, was valuable and useful in raising the debate and engaging in dialog among those people who had before refused to acknowledge, let alone openly discuss, the concept of “No Wedding, No Womb” in various forums.
Of all the adversarial responses I could address, the one point would be to those who say that it is no better to conceive a child and raise it within the confines of a healthy and working marriage than through single parenthood.
I have seen and have in my circle of friends plenty of married couples with children where the husband works and provides income and with those two incomes, they are able to better afford what they might want or need.
In these families, and many others like theirs, the couples are providing a stable model of a healthy relationship where the man and wife do not cheat on one another or verbally or physically abuse each other.
They provide their children with two different sources for help on homework and they complement each other’s weaknesses and strengths in child rearing. The boys learn models of manhood and the girls learn how they should be treated and how they should expect a man to treat them when they start dating.
The couples also support each other’s academic, work, spiritual or extracurricular dreams, hopes and aspirations.
This is not to say that those who get divorced, accidentally get pregnant in their youth, are widows and in other situations cannot provide safe, nurturing and healthy environments for the children they are raising alone. In fact, many are capable and do and exemplary job of it. Nonetheless, few can deny that the former scenario, if attainable, is ideal.
The point of NWNW to me was and is just that: to encourage young girls and boys that there is an alternative to the “baby mama” or “baby daddy” scenario. That it should not be accepted as a first choice, particularly for very young people.
If one doesn’t reach that model for some reason or another, is one thing. Each new baby brought into the world is a miracle to be celebrated.
However, to know that the model exists and to strive for it is an entirely different thing. To show youth, through parents and adult influence and through media and popular culture, that to achieve a two-parent family is a good option. It raises the youth’s expectations on what being a parent, and raising family can be.
No wedding No womb is not a judgment. It’s an option. There is a difference. More should know it and respect it and collectively, we all may go further, faster.
Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at Jeneba Speaksand Politic365. She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.
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