By Todd A. Smith
There was a time when the family was the backbone of the Black community. The single parent household was unheard of, and Black men cherished their women as if she was a queen. However, in recent years, the traditional Black family has become a distant memory, because of fathers who are missing in action, and a generation that does not value the family dynamic.
On July 2, the Essence Festival empowerment seminars presented a program entitled, “Reawakening the Spirit,” dedicated to uplifting African Americans and strengthening relationships and marriages in the Black community.
Hosted by Reverend Marcia L. Dyson, the seminar began with an inspirational Sunday worship service, which included performances by the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church Choir and an inspiring message by Reverend Dr. Renita Weems.
Weems’ message began by addressing the issue of sexism in the Black church. She said, “Women can fry fish and prepare Sunday dinners but they cannot serve in the pulpit at many churches.”
Despite the fact that contributions made by women often go overlooked in many Black churches, she said wisdom is an attribute of a goddess and the wisdom that the grandmothers of the community possessed is missing in today’s society.
“Women don’t want to be old enough to be mothers and grandmothers, and the lessons that were taught to us at an early age are not being taught to the next generation,” Weems said.
She said that 70 percent of Black children are born to unwed mothers, and 60 percent of Black marriages end in divorce. Women must stand in the tradition of Sojourner Truth and other icons of Black history, and protect the children, Weems urged.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California said she was once that statistic, as a single mother on welfare while attending Mills College in Oakland. However, she was so inspired by Shirley Chisholm’s bid for the United States presidency in 1972, that she decided the only way to contribute to the community is to become involved in the decision-making process.
The highlight of the empowerment seminar was Mo’Nique’s list of 20 things that people should not do in relationships.
Mo’Nique’s journey to a happy marriage included an abusive first marriage and infidelity on her part in her second marriage.
“Lying in a relationship leads to cheating and manipulating,” Mo’Nique said. In order for one to have a happy marriage, couples need to be honest about their feelings toward other people, that way you will know your mate much better, and not worry about what the other is thinking or doing because being honest leads to an open marriage.
The comedian said it is unrealistic to think your spouse will never commit adultery, but if one does, it is imperative that they protect themselves and not bring deadly diseases back into our homes.
Mo’Nique next addressed the issue of marriage in the Black community. She said that far too many women only focus on a man’s bank account when considering marriage, instead of focusing on love.
She said, “A garbage man might treat their woman right, and a millionaire might be abusive.”
According to her, women need strong men, who tell their women they have their back throughout all of life’s difficulties. The comedian informed the crowd that men need to be treated like kings and women their queens.
Iyanla Vanzant warned women that they keep getting into relationships with people who take, but never give anything back. Vanzant informed Black men that they should surrender their life to God and realize that women have their back. She also warned women to stop complaining about their men, because when you complain you give birth to even more problems.
Vanzant said, “Far too many times, we look to others to solve our relationship problems when in actuality when we are in trouble all we need to do is lift our eyes to the heavens with the expectation that help is going to come.”
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.