Why Will & Jada’s Union Matters

August 25, 2011  |  

I admit it, I wanted to know whether Will & Jada were on their way to a divorce. And their subsequent press release aside, we still don’t know. The statement wasn’t a testament to the present strength of their marriage, just a verification of its current status.

Now the following is just one man’s opinion, but I suspect Mo’Kelly is not alone in it.

Beyond the obvious motivations of a celebrity-driven news media, the marriage (or divorce) of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith matters, especially to African-Americans. But don’t get ahead of Mo’Kelly. There are serious underlying issues here that most news media have been loathe to discuss. Don’t assume you know where this is going.

For whatever many and unfortunate reasons, marriage within the African-American community is the exception, not the rule. You bet, I’m rooting for Will and Jada. The husband is best known for a music and acting career in no way connected to misogyny, drugs and buffoonery. His millions aren’t tainted with the stain of calling women B****s and men N****s, year after year after year. It is what separates him from the likes of a Jay-Z, who at 41 is still as lyrically irresponsible as he was at 21, disrespecting the whole of Black people for a buck. Mind you, this is after his previous career as a drug dealer.

It’s not about the money amassed, it’s about the responsibility accepted (or refused) along the way. Integrity matters. Her name is best known for co-starring in a TV shows about African-Americans in college (of all things) and running a nursing staff and a host of movies in between the two.

These facts speak to the importance of Will and Jada and their substantive contributions.

(Lord, what I wouldn’t give for another show about Black people getting their education in the 21st century.)

But I digress.

Individually and collectively the pair has done nothing to embarrasses us as African-Americans and have raised child-stars who so far seem to have their heads on straight too. I would even be willing to bet that these truths aren’t lost on the couple and adds to the tremendous burdens associated with their high-profile relationship.

I can’t speak for the millions of others who have speculated and postulated “why” their marriage is either strong or on the rocks, or what led to the rumors in the first place. For many, it was exactly that and little more; the next and latest story concerning a celebrity couple. But this couple’s significance is far greater than Bey and Jay, Brad and Angelina or Marc and Jennifer. The cultural relevance of Will and Jada far exceeds any of the aforementioned.

Will and Jada are the closest thing my generation will have to an Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Yes sir, I said it and I meant it. No, they aren’t there yet and no disrespect to anyone else…but there really isn’t anyone else on the list, truth be told.

You damn right I’m interested in whether Will and Jada are in the midst of picking out divorce lawyers and divvying up assets. Sure, there are Black power couples in Hollywood, but none boasts the visibility, respectability and dependability of these two.

None. Nope, nobody. And it’s not even close.

That’s the symbolic importance of Will and Jada…and their marriage.

This is not about unduly idolizing them, as I know neither of them personally. I’m sure that they’re just as flawed and flagrantly human as the rest of us. No amount of fame and fortune will change that. But who else has taken as much care to guard how “we” are viewed and portrayed in media, given their life and business choices? In my own selfishness, I want their marriage to remain on their résumés as one of their enduring accomplishments. In the end, it says more to African-American children than any award or acclaim the world of celebrity could give them.


Morris W. O’Kelly (Mo’Kelly) is author of the syndicated entertainment and socio-political column The Mo’Kelly Report. For more Mo’Kelly, http://mrmokelly.com. Mo’Kelly can be reached at mrmokelly@gmail.com and he welcomes all commentary. Follow Morris W. O’Kelly on Twitter:@mrmokelly

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