With all the talk about gay marriage and seeing an increase in some black folks becoming more outspoken against gay marriage, a Los Angeles couple is seeking to increase marriages amongst African Americans. La Grande and Sonja Mason teach marriage education courses through their nonprofit group Helping Angelinos Live Optimistic (H.A.L.O.).
BY NADRA KAREEM
The right to marry is the talk of California, if not the nation, right now. But as the gay community fights for marriage access, African Americans have routinely been singled out for not marrying as frequently as other ethnic groups do.
About 42 percent of black men and 41 percent of black women are unmarried, compared to 27.5 percent of white men and 21 percent of white women, according to the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative, a campaign of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To boot, African Americans divorce at higher rates, live in more single-headed family households, and have more out-of-wedlock births than their white, Hispanic and Asian counterparts, the marriage initiative found.
The Masons have also hosted the annual Black Marriage Day celebration in Los Angeles. They’re now involved in a new campaign called “Divorce is Unacceptable,” which aims to keep black families intact. The Masons feel that we need to go back to the days when divorce isn’t an option and talk about the numerous benefits to marriage. Though I agree that marriage has its benefits I wouldn’t want to go back to the days of divorce not being an option. If you’re married to someone who’s abusing you or your children why should you stay in that marriage?
“I really want people to understand we have to get back to those days when (divorce) wasn’t really an option,” Sonja Mason said. “People simply worked things out. The system has made divorce so easy. They even advertise quickie divorces.”
She said marriage is vital because it’s the foundation of the family. She and her husband say the benefits of marriage are numerous.
La Grande Mason, a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, says that children raised in two-parent families are less likely to get involved with gangs or drugs and are more likely to go to college and have successful marriages themselves. His wife added that life expectancy is longer for married people and financial situations are better. A school administrator in her day job, Sonja Mason said that she’s seen firsthand how divorce damages children.
The Masons don’t believe in cohabitation due to the level of commitment that marriage has over cohabitation. The Mason also believe that even though some black folks might prefer to stay single, some singles come to regret being alone.
Of course, some people simply don’t want to marry. They appreciate the single life. Sonja Mason said that, while she and her husband aren’t imposing marriage on everyone, they believe that many singles come to regret a life alone. They ask themselves, “Is this really how I want the rest of my life to go?” she said.
Others shy away from marriage because they didn’t have proper role models and, thus, fear repeating their parents’ mistakes, the Masons say.
But Sonja Mason admitted that marriage isn’t for everyone. However, part of being a marriage advocate is to show those who would benefit from marriage that they, too, can have a thriving union.
“Marriage doesn’t (mean) you lose your individuality,” La Grande Mason said.
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