All Articles Tagged "black family"

Don’t Marry A Man Unless…

August 14th, 2012 - By Herina Ayot
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"father and son"

Don’t marry a man unless you would be proud to have a son exactly like him. I read this phrase and thought it was important to remember. So often, women create a list of things they want in a man, be it long or short, and fail to include this very stipulation. Some say they want a man who is accomplished, good looking, religious, smart, but fail to assess character.

I’m in my late twenties and single. I don’t rush into relationships because I’m keen on what I want in a man, but still, I tire of a question that I’m sure many women in my position can relate to.  “Why aren’t you married yet?”

I’ve met many men from different walks of life, but I’ve been slow to label my relationships.  I’m interested much more in who a man is when the date is over and he returns to his corner of the world, than I am in his resume.  Who is he in those moments when no one is watching? Who is he when his character is tested? I’m interested more in what is driving him than his destination. Years ago, my older sister told me that women are given a power over their children’s lives that we sometimes forget to exercise. We get to choose the father for our children. We get to decide who will be a part of their life, who will influence them, who will essentially raise them. We have the option to choose, and considering the staggering divorce rate, the percentage of single mothers, incarcerated fathers, and number of cases in child support litigation nationwide,  it’s sad that so many don’t choose wisely.

No, I’m not saying that we, as women, should be seeking absolute perfection, but I am saying that we need to remember to place priority on the things that matter to us, because ultimately those things cannot be ignored.  Many women I have talked to want to get married. They’re eager to start the life they have planned for themselves with a husband, two and a half children, and a beautiful home. When it doesn’t happen fast enough, they fear they may end up alone and unhappy. The truth is, we can be married and more alone than we were as single women. In all of that planning, we focus on a new last name instead of a life. It is important to ask the right questions.

In the unfortunate chance that a marriage is broken, will he uphold his responsibility as a role model for his children, or is his willingness to be a father contingent on the success of the marriage? I want my son to grow up loving and respecting women.  I want him to value hard work, and be persistent in those things he desires. I want him to be confident and humble. I want him to love God. I want him to grow up to be a good husband and father, accountable for his family.

These traits are learned over time and so if I have all the power to decide who will be the one to teach him, I want to choose carefully. I’ve heard it said that children learn more by a parent’s actions than by their words. Just imagine the little boy on the stepstool pretending to shave like his father. Or drawing a picture for his grade school crush.  What better way for a father to teach his son than to be the man that he wants him to be. So if we settle for the husband who is not everything we cherish but will do just fine, we’re potentially setting ourselves up for disappointment in our children and, needless to say, a miserable life for ourselves, always wondering if we should have done better.

Herina Ayot is currently working on a novel based loosely on her own life, “The Content of Things Undone.”  She tweets @ReeExperience.

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Can We Ever Get The Black Family Sitcom Back?

April 30th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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Today Bounce TV announced the launch of a new original series, “Family Time,” on what is ironically the 20-year anniversary broadcast of the last episode of The Cosby’s—the show considered by many to be the greatest black family sitcom that ever lived.

Hopes aren’t very high for the show which centers around the experiences of The Stallworths, a working class two-parent, two-children African American family who scratches off a lottery ticket and jumps to middle class overnight. That’s likely because of the network (Bounce) and the actors who are lesser known (Omar Gooding, Angell Conwell, Jayla Calhoun, and Bentley Kyle Evans, Jr.), but I think there’s another element at play when it comes to apprehension about black family sitcoms. For as much complaining as we do about our current depictions on TV and our pleas for a quality family sitcom, the shows just don’t get our support and I think it’s partly because they aren’t reflections of our reality.

Most people said they wanted to give “Reed Between the Lines” a chance, and though poor writing made it understandably hard to do so, outside of that there was a sense that the Reed’s weren’t a “real” family, that they weren’t handling or dealing with issues the way a real black family would, particularly Malcolm-Jamal Warner’s character as a black father. Some of that can be summed up as pure ignorance about the non-monolithic reality of black life but that conundrum begs the question of whether we want black family sitcoms so that life imitates art or whether we’re missing the mark by not having art truly imitate life?

I understand and support the plea for black family shows. Black life is overly represented as a sea of baby mamas and daddy’s lacking any family unit at all, which unfortunately reflects a lot of the reality of society. Somehow when we put together these rosy depictions of the small percentage of black families that consist of two professional parents raising respectable children it’s almost too picture perfect for viewers to get into and without viewers the shows don’t last and we’re stuck back in the same cycle trying to get clearance for another show destined to last one season.

When I think about the success of “Modern Family,” I think, there’s a model black sitcoms could learn from. Aside from being hilariously funny, the families reflect family units that have become the majority in society today. People love the show because one of the families on the show likely is their family. In many ways, rather than being innovative, many black sitcoms attempt to come along and reinvent The Cosby’s and while that format worked great during the 80s, 20+ years later it’s just not totally representative of black life today.

By no means should we give up on putting together strong representations of black families in sitcoms today, but they need to be contemporary and they need to come out from under the shadow of “The Cosby Show,” “The Jeffersons,” “What’s Happening,” and “Good Times.” Those shows were genius because they spoke to their era, we need to do the same in 2012. We can prove that two parent homes exist, we can show that blended families don’t have to mean mess custody battles and unpaid child support, we can show that black families adopt. There are a lot of modern positive examples of black life, what we need are innovative writers and producers who can paint that picture in a way that’s relatable and inspirational.

Do you think there’s a chance for the return of popular black sitcoms on major networks?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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The Single Mother Economy

December 11th, 2011 - By whodges
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By Wayne Hodges

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody. I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat…we must find each other.” – Mother Theresa

The passage above, quoted by one of nature’s finest, Mother Theresa, basically summarizes our nation’s rising epidemic of single-parent homes; more specifically young mothers. And boy, the statistics don’t lie. According to the Single Parent Center, there are roughly 14 million single parents in the U.S. today; responsible for raising approximately 21.6 million of our nation’s children.

And the correlation between one-parent homes and financial despair is even more dire with 27.7% of custodial single mothers living in poverty.

Before I proceed, the intent of this column is not to cast a vote of judgment against anyone. Instead, I’d just prefer to relay the following message to the parents of our community: OUR CHILDREN NEED YOU!


Yes, this statement is probably a tad bit redundant. But, who cares? When it comes to the topic of child development, anything is worth repeating twice. And the young fathers and mothers of our community, quite frankly, must come to understand its importance.

There’s no question the morality of today’s youth is significantly different than the “Brady Bunch” days of 40 years ago. For this futility, I point the exclusive finger of blame at parents, corporate America, MTV, BET and VH1 for their careless and irresponsible contributions.

First, let’s start with latter.

In an effort to boost television ratings, the aforementioned networks have made a sick hobby of portraying our men and women as a bunch of money-grabbing, violent, unethical malcontents. See “Basketball Wives.” Even worse, too many boys have bought into the “Get Rich or Die Trying” mentality that permeates urban communities. Speaking from personal experience, like many, I too shouldered the ponderous burden of growing up in a fatherless environment. My mother raised yours truly, my brother and sister on one income; while pursuing a college degree part-time. Even though mama did one hell of a parenting job, the atmosphere at home was far from stress free.

After all, the daunting task of trying to ‘make ends meet’ with moderate income and three mouths to feed is bound to wear a person down sooner or later, right?

But, here’s where the trouble begins; particularly in the case of young black men. To break confinement from the ghetto, too many boys feel obligated to become the “man” their father never was; thus causing them to resort to a series of “quick money” tactics as a means to financially support the home.

Of course, quick money is usually dirty money; which often leads to residency inside a 6′ X 8′ concrete block cell laced by iron bars with a stinking toilet embedded to the floor. Not convinced? Let peek at some more statistics. The Separated Parenting Access & Resource Center (SPARC) reports 85% of youths in prison grew up in fatherless homes. Other studies have shown fatherless children to be customary victims of poor mental health, unsatisfactory educational performance and substance abuse.

Although today’s feature is single mothers, I’d like to shift some attention to dead-beat daddies for just a moment. Guys, the madness has to stop. Children don’t ask to be here. As fathers, it’s absolutely critical we maintain some form of regular contact with our children, regardless how vulgar the socioeconomic conditions. This includes stressed relationships with the biological mother, inadequate finances and substandard education.

Apologies, to be candid, are not good enough. Neither are excuses. Gentlemen, as a byproduct of our laziness, too many children have gone without. To enact positive change, it’s imperative we abstain from leaving these women alone to raise our kids.

Now, back to ladies. In an effort to discourage young women from making poor economic decisions, organizations such as the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Kansas City have set up a variety of educational workshops in the areas of home-ownership, child development, finance, building self-esteem, budgeting and college prep. Charlzetta Hall, the Director of the WRC, believes it’s time for women to take control of their lives. And it starts with confidence.

“Too many women are desperate to have a man, and it impedes their progress,” said Hall. “The primary goal of the WRC is to help these ladies understand their inner-beauty first, then everything else will fall into place.”

Wayne Hodges is the editor of

Are You Ready For T.I. & Tiny’s Reality Show!?

November 9th, 2011 - By madamenoire
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"T.I. & Tiny"

Even if you’re not ready, it’s on its way folks.

Looking to show off his family life a lot more than his troubles with the law, the rapper and his former Xscape-singing wife, Tiny, are both starring in T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle. I dare you to guess what big TV channel known for their ratchet reality shows is planning to broadcast this one? If you said VH1, then you’re right! T.I. says the show will display how hard it is to have a large family and be in the rap game at the same time, and his big homecoming from his last publicized stint in jail. If you ever watched Tiny and Toya on BET, you might be interested in knowing that the OMG Girlz will be back (which features Tiny’s daughter Zonnique), which is the young girl group Tiny manages. Plus, Tiny will once again reveal (as she did on Tiny and Toya) how she held things down while T.I. was gone.

It will be nice, to see these two really doing what they have to for their family on a daily basis, and it will also be nice to see them interacting with their kids. Lord knows they need to be in the house more than they need to be riding around in Maybachs doing things they know they shouldn’t be doing…if you know what I’m saying. Doesn’t sound like too much drama comes with the reality show (probably just a small share of tears for fears) so who knows how long people will latch on. But as always, support positivity when you can!

The show will premiere on December 9 at 9 p.m. on VH1. The question is, will you actually bother to check it out?

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Tips on Finding Your Surrogate Family

October 15th, 2011 - By Grace N. Edwards
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Sometimes your biological family either cannot or will not be there for you. Maybe, like me, you live far away from home or your biological family is abusive, emotionally distant, or reclusive. Whatever the reason, being alone can be tough. Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold and a cheerleader in their corner. Spouses and significant others can help fill the void, but they may come and go.

The good news is, if your real family is absent, you can create a group of close friends who act as your surrogate family. As an adult, forming deep friendships can be difficult with jobs, kids, and spouses. However, with some patience and effort, you can find your surrogate family. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

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Things We Miss: The Cosby Show Fashion

September 14th, 2011 - By madamenoire
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By Victoria Uwumarogie & Veronica Wells

When “The Cosby Show” hit the airwaves few could have imagined that it would eventually come to represent a cultural phenomenon. For the first time ever, America was introduced to a successful, two parent black household. It was clear that Bill had a message to send. Black families could be well-off, dignified and funny all at the same time. Of course when you’re trying to paint a certain type of picture of “the black family” you can’t neglect your attire. While the Cosby cast ensembles never distracted us from the plot or the humor of the show, we definitely noticed. Take a look.

How Beyonce’s Pregnancy Is Being Used To Look Down Upon Single Mothers

August 30th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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by Charing Ball

There is an interesting theory behind what caused the most recent East Coast earthquake, which is that when people, mostly black, first heard the rumor that Will and Jada Smith had separated, the energy and vibration from the collective groaning caused the earth’s fault planes to shift. Of course, this is only a joke but judging by the near apocalyptic reaction some folks were having to the rumored split, I am willing to give this joke some attention.

As a society we have this weird thing of relating to celebrities and their triumphs, mistakes and pain more easily than to our own friends and neighbors. I took notice of this occurrence again on Sunday night when Beyonce announced her pregnancy live on the VMA’s red carpet. I wasn’t watching the program; I was doing dishes and mopping up water, which leaked from the ceiling during Hurricane Irene. However, my Facebook page lit up with stories about the announcement, along with congratulatory well-wishes, questions about the due date and long threads about what they should name the baby. One person in my network even reported that she had shed tears upon hearing the news. My own reaction to the news was much more simplistic, “Oh that’s nice. I hope her baby is healthy.”  Then I went back to mopping the floor.

Immediately after Beyonce and Jigga Man tied the knot, there was constant speculation about when we might expect a bun in the oven. “When?! When?! When are they going to have a baby??!” Seriously, people were asking the question before Beyonce and Jay even had a chance to consummate their marriage. And when Beyonce finally addressed the speculation in an interview that a baby wouldn’t be in her cards – not in the near future anyway – folks responded with outrage and made charges that she was being selfish for denying herself, and more importantly, the world an off-spring.  Like, why else would anyone get married if it’s not to procreate, right?

The tide has obviously turned for them. Many of the same folks, who once chastised Beyonce for waiting for motherhood, are rushing to sing the praises of how the couple, but more specifically Beyonce, “did it the right way.”  You know, the correct order of things: dating, marriage and then the kid. Never mind that her better half is a 41 year old man, who still grabs his crotch out in public and wears his hat turned backwards. But more to the point, this whole “look at the positive role Bey is setting for young women” conversation, which is now happening around the blogosphere, reeks of Slore-shaming.

Beneath the celebratory “she did it the right way” discussion is an underlining message, which seeks to shame and stigmatize women, who for whatever reason, go in on motherhood alone. Some bloggers see Beyonce’s pregnancy as some sort of triumph over single women, who have gotten pregnant before or outside of marriage. And as such, Beyonce’s baby bump and wedding ring have now become kindling to further flame the existence of these unwed women, who by virtue of their singledom, are obviously failures at motherhood and are incapable of rearing a child with morals and values worthy of society.

Woman To Woman: Having A Grown Up Relationship With Your Mother

August 25th, 2011 - By SisterToldja
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Whether you had a harmonious childhood or a long term contentious relationship with the woman who created you, chances are you’ll find that relating to her as an adult may come with a new set of challenges. It should be no surprise the woman who carried you in her womb for nine months, changed your pee-soaked diapers and may have even fed you from her breast may have a hard time seeing you as an adult and you may also find it hard to break your ‘mommy’s little girl’ habits as well. Here are a few tips for having a grown-up relationship with the woman who made you.

Getting Through Your Family Gathering

August 23rd, 2011 - By Veronica Wells
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Anytime you put several people in the same room together for any extended period of time, drama is bound to ensue. While you might think coming from the same blood line would alleviate some of the drama it can actually enhance it. No one knows how to push your buttons like your family members. But at the end of the day, they’re your family and for better or worse you love them. If you have a reunion or gathering of some type coming up in the near future here are some coping mechanisms so your reunion doesn’t end up looking like a boxing match.

Conservative Group Takes Slavery Reference Out of Marriage Pledge

July 11th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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By Charlotte Young

In the latest conservative fumble, Politico reports that an Iowa based group is now retracting a line in its marriage vow which suggested that black children born into slavery had a better family life than black children born today.

The marriage vow, created by Family Leader, came out last week and was signed by Michelle Bachmann.  The original preamble read “slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”

The group’s officials said that “after careful consideration and wise insight and input from valued colleagues,” they decided to remove the offensive language from their preamble. They still maintain that all must work to strengthen marriages between one man and one woman.

Bachmann’s spokeswoman said that she signed the candidate vow, which made no reference to slavery, and relayed the congresswoman’s belief that “slavery was horrible.” It’s unclear whether or not Bachmann actually read the preamble.

Of course, as with any other outrageously offensive comment, the group claims it wasn’t meant to be racist, “just a fact that back in the days of slavery there was usually a husband and a wife.”