Multiple question marks on paper[/caption]It is Black History Month where America, and more specifically, those Americans of African descent celebrate culture and achievements. My nieces asked me to attend their Black History Month event last night. It was held at a local church where they go for an after school program sometimes. They waited the day before the event to ask me to go, and they asked me several times. I submitted and committed to going to the event. You can tell from my writing that I was very much enthused…not. I love my nieces and nephews, but this part of being an auntie, is not my favorite and I avoid it as much as possible.
Misery loves company, so I asked my mother if she wanted to go. She genuinely did. At 6:45 PM the next day, my mother and I were driving up to the parking lot of the church. I dropped my mom at the door so that she would not have to walk in the newly fallen snow and the ice that it covered. After I had parked, I went to the church and was met with the chaos of children of all ages running around getting ready for their performance. I smiled remembering me being in their place.
My mom already found a seat in the sanctuary. I sat next to her like I use to in church when I was a kid. She asked me about the time. I told her it was 7 o'clock. She seemed surprised that the show had not started and began to look around, noticing she and I were the only ones in the audience. Around 7:15 others began to pour in; grandmothers, mothers, aunts and the people who financially supported the program. A few minutes later drums played on the sound system and dancing, speeches and singing began.
In the back of the church sat several young boys. Another young man was standing at the door of the sanctuary making sure no one interrupted the program by coming in and out of the door. Outside of that, there was no male presence. None of the boys performed in the program, and there were no fathers, uncles or grandfathers in the audience. That struck me. A few days before this, I was interviewing people in my neighborhood for a project, discussing the 1967 riot that occurred in Detroit. One subject that continued to come up in those discussions was the broken black family dynamic and how males are frequently missing in the households. This program was a blaring outcome of that. Not only were there not males in the audience to enjoy the work of the children. There were not males to help in running the program, and the outcome is no activities in the program that were more male-friendly and supportive.
The reason male presence is small or sometimes non-existent in the black community is very layered. Here are just a few that feed into this phenomena:
- Slavery: Many families were broken up in the buying and selling of slaves, creating a different dynamic in black households than in other American households
- War/Military: A vast proportion of men who were drafted and took part in wars and military are men of color. Again, removing them from homes and at times bringing them back in emotionally broken mindsets.
- Drugs: Drugs began to pour into the neighborhoods and streets of lower and middle-class neighborhoods, causing havoc in families and communities
- Sexual freedom: Sexual freedom hit its peak in the 60s with additional access to contraceptives, giving more freedom to have sex without the worries of pregnancy
- Women's Movement: The women's movement empowered women to take more control over their bodies and unplanned pregnancies. Women had more options than getting married and having kids, and more women were opting not to get married. Men felt less responsible for unplanned pregnancies and their outcomes, leaving more women taking on a larger parental responsibility
- Prison: More men, especially men of color were imprisoned because of drugs, removing them from their families and creating more economic hardships and more single-family homes.
This list can go on and on, but why no longer matters. What matters is finding a solution. Here are some.
- Black men and women do not really talk to one another about these pains and challenges. Not as couples. We just expect better and too many times degrade when we do not do better. More discussion, listening, and understanding needs to occur in our relationships and our communities.
- Therapy and counseling is a must. We are a traumatized people who are told every day to get over it. Talking helps get over it. Building helps get over it. We must make therapy and counseling a regular part of our relationships and community.
- Partnerships, not dictatorships – I have seen relationships where black women tear down their male partners with their mouths and actions. I have also seen the same with men, fighting for dominance instead of working together and loving together. Let's build partnerships. Know your strengths and weaknesses in relationships and build and enjoy accordingly
- Plans – economically, educational, trips, families, everything. The world is hard and does not help when you are working to plan for your future, create budgets, create families, but we must. If we want certain things in life with a partner, planning those things are a must
- Autonomy – We are individuals, and we all need space and time to be us. I have seen relationship
- Commitment – What families look like today is different from the 1950s and 60s. And that is what it is, but when you have children, you must take care of them, and that is more than money. That is time, that is knowledge and enjoyment. If your partnership as mates does not work, your partnership as parents must.
- More community and together-ness. Integration and individualism have caused many of us to disconnect from community and our cultural foundation. It has caused us to invest less in our neighborhoods, our people and businesses and in our educational institutions; things that we need when it is difficult to access them in other communities. Segregation demanded that we did this before. Now, let's do it out of the benefits and necessity. This doesn't mean isolate from the America culture. It just means build the black culture and foundation as you continue your American journey. Other groups do it. We should too.