Who ever thought of this is a complete and utter man and/or woman devoid of any understanding in my opinion but it does have interesting statistics. Effort aims to unite blacks, marriage Organizers hope events strengthen relationships By TOM HEINEN [email protected] Posted: March 17, 2006 With African-Americans in the United States having high divorce rates and far-lower-than-average marriage rates, organizers of Milwaukee's third-annual National Black Marriage Day have expanded their efforts as the movement continues to gain momentum across the country. Advertisement "What we have seen is a dramatic increase," said Nisa Islam Muhammad, executive director of the Wedded Bliss Foundation Inc. in Washington, which started the observances. "People are catching on to the idea that it's OK to say 'marriage' and 'black people' in the same sentence. . . . An elementary school teacher in Atlantic City had a mock wedding for her fourth-grade class because none of the children had ever been to a wedding, and she wanted them to be thinking about marriage at a very early age." On or near the fourth Sunday in March, groups hold activities ranging from dinner dances, outdoor festivals and radio-thons to school activities and conferences with workshops for adolescents, single adults, engaged couples, couples whose marriages are in trouble and couples who simply want to strengthen their marriages, she said. On the first National Black Marriage Day in 2003, events were held in about 30 cities. That grew to about 100 cities and urban communities by last year and is expected to rise to nearly 150 this year, she added. The main Milwaukee celebration is set for March 25, and it won't just be for adults. For the first time, it will include activities and programming for children and youths, said the Rev. LeHavre Buck, chairman of the event and pastor of Triumph the Church and Kingdom of God in Christ. Planners expect to have storytellers, science projects for children and other activities. There is to be a panel discussion featuring couples who have been happily married for years, as well as workshops on topics such as the benefits of abstaining from sex before marriage and how to be in a healthy marriage. "It's an uphill battle," said Mark Lawrence, who is to speak at the event. He tries to reduce sexual activity and teen pregnancy in Milwaukee by teaching abstinence to middle school and high school students in a program run by OIC of America. "Teachers, family members, the community . . . everybody has to play a role in helping these children make healthy choices," he said. In another change, organizers have added a conference day for counselors, pastors and other professionals to discuss what Buck described as a marriage crisis in the black community. Among the scheduled speakers are Buck; Stormy Mercadel, executive vice president of the Milwaukee Women's Center; LaTrice Buck Briggs, the center's director of behavioral health services; and Mark Fossie, chief executive officer of M&S Clinical Services. The conference is to run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, and Family Day activities are set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 25, both at Hillside Terrace Resource Center, 1452 N. 7th St. The Milwaukee African American Healthy Marriage Initiative, a collaboration of churches, community organizations, businesses and individuals, is organizing the events. Buck said the organizers had taken another different step this year. Letters have been sent and contacts are being made with about 20 African-American churches in the area, asking them to bring their members or encourage them to attend, and to preach about the value of marriage on March 26, the official national day of observance. The reasons for doing so are compelling, Buck and Muhammad said. National census figures show that nearly 54% of African-Americans ages 24 to 34 have never been married, whereas the rate for other Americans is 35%. Two out of three black couples divorce, whereas the national rate is 50% for others. For more information about the Milwaukee activities, call (414) 228-1011.