Sundog Black

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Many would agree there is a need for Black men and women to come together and work towards healing our relationships. Black people have the lowest marriage rates and the highest divorce rates. Where approximately 60% of white adults marry, only 40% of Black adults marry. And only one-third of Black children grow up in two parent homes. Passing blame and point fingers only hinders our progress. We need to come together and communicate openly and honestly to figure out ways to bridge the communication gap that destroys our relationships.

For the past three years, I have been involved with forming roundtable discussion groups titled, ‘Withholding the Ring' that addresses the low marriage rate among African Americans. I have met several Black women in their late thirties and even early forties that are worried about their prospects of ever getting married. Some of these women have completely given up on their marriage ideals and opted to have children outside of marriage. The prevailing message suggests that it is more likely for Black women to become mothers than wives.

The roundtable discussions I facilitate provide safe environments for men and women to honesty discuss the issues that affect how we relate to one another. The men have reported to me that the events leave them truly affected by how their non-committal behavior affects women. And some of the women have come back to me and confessed that they did not realize how much they truly needed their men until we all came together and truthfully communicated.

I would like to share some of the events that take place during these roundtable discussions in hopes of inspiring others to take up the cause. These are not dating events but rather bonding events that bring Black men and women together as friends first. The focus is never on ‘hooking up' but rather on how we can build stronger, trusting, lasting relationships.

The event begins with a series of icebreakers. One of my favorite icebreakers is when everyone has to exchange a friendly hug after introducing themselves. The participants are also asked to state what they hope to take away from the discussions.

We go over brief rules of conduct prior to the discussions. There are also handouts provided, that remind the participants to be respectful in their comments and responses.

In the beginning, some folks may be on edge, not really knowing what to expect, so I try to make the discussion fun and interactive. A fun opener is when the men are asked to place questions in a container addressed to the women and the women place their questions in a separate container addressed to the men. The questions are passed around the table, which affords everyone the opportunity to participate in the conversation and it serves as a good way to get everyone warmed up.

I plan several exercises during the roundtable discussions but a favorite is what I call "Love Affirmations". I ask the men and women to pick names from separate containers. The women will choose men and the men will choose women. The men are asked to get down on bended knee and profess their love for Black women and the women in exchange profess their love for Black men.

They must each begin their statement with "I love you Black men because…" and they are left to fill in the blank. This has nothing to do with romance. I designed this exercise to encourage an atmosphere of unity and to drive home the message that this is not a women vs. men forum. "Love Affirmations" is always a hit and never fails to draw a few tears. But, they are good tears. Healing tears that bring us closer to understanding how Black men and women can improve their relationships.

About the Author

I am mohanchen read mathematics at Stanford and remained there for his MS. From 1998-1999 on researched in Evolution and in Animal Behavior in Camrbidge, UK. I was was then a professor in the departments of Anthropology and Biology, New Jersy College, USA. Now teaches at the department of Zoology. Carried out research in several areas of evolutionary biology, particularly in sexual selection and the comparative method.

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