In interview with Black Marriage Day creator Nisa Islam Muhammad.
Q: How did the idea for BMD evolve?
A: Black Marriage Day is a continuation of my work with the Wedded Bliss Foundation, a national initiative to promote marriage in the Black community. While speaking last summer at the Smart Marriages Conference I wanted to give participants something to work towards when they returned home. Essence magazine was in the audience and wrote two articles about the plans for Black Marriage Day. I wanted it to be something people worked on in their own communities. The idea grew; Black Enterprise magazine became a sponsor and put an ad in their March 2003 issue.
I started a website, BlackMarriageDay.com, and things just took off. The next thing I knew I was getting calls, emails and letters from people all around the country who wanted to celebrate Black Marriage Day in their community.
Q: What occurred during the first national observance that pleased you most? Were there any disappointments?
A: The overwhelming response that the event received pleased me. There were newspaper articles about the event, including a write-up in USA Today. I was also pleased by the creativity the different cities showed in their activities for the weekend. I was slightly disappointed that more groups and organizations did not participate. We don’t see the need to emphasize it or do something to help create more happy and successful marriages. The disappointment was only fuel to make me work harder. As Minister Farrakhan has said, “Every knock is a boost.”
Q: What’s the future goal of BMD?
A: I want to create a cultural shift in our community about marriage. I want to create a revolution for love that changes the hearts and minds of Black people to reconsider marriage. It provides numerous benefits for men and women and is the best environment to raise children. Black Marriage Day next year is March 28, 2004. Couples have already told me they want to get married that day. Cities are planning events bigger and better than this year and cities that didn’t plan anything are already gearing up for it. Wedded Bliss Foundation will also be co-sponsoring marriage seminars, retreats and conferences in the future.
Q: Why has society gotten away from marriage, or has it?
A: We have lost the real understanding and meaning of what marriage is all about. Strong marriages build strong families, which build strong communities. We want what’s easy and convenient. We don’t want to take the time to work and build something to last the test of time. Many moons ago we had the highest marriage rate in the country, right after slavery, at 80 percent. Today we have the lowest at 40 percent. We bought into the hype that marriage doesn’t matter and is just a piece of paper. The government aided and abetted that notion with the welfare reform program that gave families help if the man wasn’t there. We fail to understand that marriage is the most important relationship in our lives after God. That’s why as Muslims marriage is half of our faith.
Q: What do you tell young people today, who are more promiscuous than before, about marriage?
A: I tell young people that marriage matters like never before. I encourage them to give their children the gift of a two-parent family. I tell them that a happy successful marriage will make them better people. I tell them that something better awaits them if they decide to do something better with their lives. Wedded Bliss is more than just the name of our organization. It can be the way of life for many, and we want to help make that possible.