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A Celebration of Marriage

Catherine Carney | 3/31/2010, 1:15 p.m.

Couples who have been hitched for years decided to tie the knot all over again at a Southeast church during a ceremony designed to promote the institution of marriage among African Americans.

Wedding bells chimed at least in the hearts of 75 couples who renewed their vows at Union Temple Church, Sun., March 28 in observance of Black Marriage Day.
€I see so many people breaking up these days, we€re very grateful to be among the ones who have stayed together,€ said Charles Matthews, Sr., of Waldorf, Md., who renewed his vows with Valerie, his wife of 31 years.

Black Marriage Day was founded eight years ago by Nisa Muhammad, executive director of Wedded Bliss, Inc., a nonprofit organization in Northeast that helps teens, singles and couples to develop and maintain healthy relationships and marriages.

Black Marriage Day is celebrated nationwide with marriage workshops, movie screenings and the renewal of vows.

Muhammad, 52, who attended the nuptials at Union Temple, said that Blacks are less likely than any other group in America to marry.

According to statistics compiled by Chicagoland Marriage Resource Center in Chicago, Ill., married couples head 76 percent of American families. The figure for African Americans families is 47.9 percent.

€Today, we live in what I call €unnatural circumstances.€ It is not natural for a woman to have to rear children by herself. As a result of these unnatural circumstances we find ourselves in, we as a society have social ills that never existed before. Our children are filling up the jails, because one parent, who has done the best she can, was not enough,€ Muhammad said.

Muhammad, who lives in Silver Spring, Md., emphasized the positives that come from a strong marriage.

€Rosa Parks was able to sit down on the bus because she had a husband at home. If she was a single mom who had to go to work and get the kids, she would have gotten up and moved to the back of the bus. She was able to do what she did and a lot of other people who were important to the progressive movement of our people were able to do what they did, because they had strong marriages,€ she said.

Inherited wealth and marriage go together.

€Marriage is the one institution by which wealth is passed from one generation to the next,€ Muhammad said.

€Unfortunately many times we don€t see ourselves as having wealth, or having a legacy. We have to get young people to understand and consider marriage.€
After a scriptural reading from Corinthians on the attributes of love, couples approached the altar, holding hands, to renew their vows.
€It€s a lot easier to talk about faith, hope and love than to live them,€ said the Rev. Willie Wilson, who officiated over the ceremony.
€It sounds like hard work. It is. But it€s worth it,€ the minister said.

After the ceremony the couples enjoyed a reception, compliments of Lionsgate Entertainment. Couples also received a €Renewal of Vows€ certificate, prizes and cupcakes. The Canadian entertainment company partnered with Muhummad for the event and to promote their new movie, €Why Did I Get Married Too?€
Sean Powell, 32, of Northwest and his wife of two years, Donalyn, were among those who renewed their vows.

€We already know that we love each other,€ he said. €But sometimes you need to rejuvenate the bond, to bring the focus back and remind yourselves why you got married and why it€s important,€ Powell said.

Those who renewed their vows walked away having learned an important lesson: Continued commitment pays off.

€Everyone here, we are just working, everyday people, generally happy with life and with our marriages,€ said Pam Hillsman-Johnson, 46.

The Accokeek, Md., resident has been married for six years.

€I see myself and my life duplicated in all of the people here, over and over.€ WI