Thursday, July 31, 2008

Marry Your Baby Daddy Day: Racist Or Laudable?!?

Lost in the shuffle of CNN's cluster, Black In America last week was a quick vignette about a New Yorker who is trying to singlehandedly reverse the sad state of Black marriage.

Maryann Reid, 31 and single, dreams of wedding bells. But not just for herself. She wishes they jangled more for her peers in the African-American community, where the marriage rate is 36 percent and 70 percent of children are born out of wedlock.

Statistics like these are what convinced Reid to take matters into her own hands: She has christened Sept. 27 "Marry Your Baby Daddy Day." An act of grass-roots social engineering, her effort to wed unmarried black couples who have children echoes efforts – by government, churches, and social welfare groups – to strengthen the institution of marriage.

The first Marry Your Baby Daddy Day, in 2005, was marked by an all-expenses-paid wedding at the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn for 10 black couples with children. Ten more walked down the aisle at Manhattan's Riverside Church last September .

For each ceremony, Reid convinced dozens of local businesses to donate goods and services – such as designer dresses, bouquets, wedding cakes – $90,000 worth for the first mass wedding, and $125,000 for the second.

Reid and a volunteer wedding planner chose 10 couples from the New York area, following an interview process that included home visits in which they looked for evidence of a strong family life: orderly homes with personal space for the children, family photos on the wall, warm interactions between family members.

Reid has an unusual set of criteria for choosing her couples: They must have a proven track record of stability (some relationships go back 15 years) and they must already have children and live together. In short, they must have all the attributes of a good marriage, sans vows.
Some will undoubtedly look at this whole thing and say WTH? I don't personally like the terms BabyDaddy and BabyMama either, so I find that a wee bit tacky.

But on the other hand, isn't this a great idea? Here is a single black woman, who rather than wallow in the sorrow of not being married and chock full of babies by age 30, decides to channel that into some positive energy to try and help out others.

Besides, I've never understood how people can have babies together, co-habitate, and for some odd reason not get married. You've already bought the cow, so to speak. Why not complete the deal? Likewise, people who get engaged, and stay engaged for 5-6 years are equally puzzling. Piss or get off the pot!

Newflash Ladies!!!: If you've been engaged for more than 12 months and there's no wedding date set, guess what? He ain't tryin' to marry you! Cut it off, chalk up your losses and keep it movin'.

Perhaps more than anything else, I like that the program forces the couples to undergo extensive premarital counseling, as opposed to plunging them right into tasting cakes and heading straight to After Hours. As one who has both undergone premarital counseling, and taught premarital awareness classes, I think this initial step is sooo underrated. It doesn't guarantee success, but when properly done, at least it puts some topics on the table the couple might not have otherwise considered, much less discussed. You know, fail to prepare/prepare to fail, and all that good stuff.

Here's Reid discussing her program on Our World With Black Enterprise.

A healthy marriage is the closest thing to heaven on Earth. A bad one is the polar opposite. I applaud Maryann Reid for selflessly attacking this problem head-on and trying to provide healthy solutions for others, as opposed to wallowing in self-pity about what she doesn't have yet.

Question: What do you think of Marry Your Baby Daddy Day? Is this completely unnecessary or do you think it's a good thing?

Marry Your Baby Daddy [Official Website]

Activist Marries Unwed Parents [Christian Science Monitor]

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